Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Central Corridor Rail Line

A week ago, I went to a meeting for a really cool project, called the Central Corridor Rail Line. It's a somewhat ambitious plan to extend passenger service from New London, Connecticut to Brattleboro, Vermont.

Currently, the vast majority of the route is owned by the New England Central Railroad. About half the route is currently used by Amtrak's Vermonter service, but that will change as it shifts to a westward alignment. The new alignment will shave 30 minutes off that trip by eliminating section of track that requires the train to back up, but will abandon the station at Amherst.

The plan is to upgrade the tracks along the entire route to allow medium-speed passenger service, with speeds up to 80 mph being an eventual goal. NECR is highly supportive of this upgrades; it is currently engaged in a $70 million upgrade of its Vermont tracks and bridges - which includes part of the planned route - to allow them to carry 286,000 lb boxcars, a significant upgrade over their current 263,000 lb cars.

The line would serve over a dozen colleges, with something like 60,000 students, including part of the Knowledge Corridor. Planned stops include:

New London (Conn College, UConn Avery Point, Coast Guard Academy, Mitchell College)
Norwich (Three Rivers)
Willimantic (Eastern Connecticut State University)
Storrs / Mansfield (Uconn)
Stafford Springs
Palmer [intersection with Boston / Springfield corridor]
Amherst (UMass Amherst, Amherst, Hampshire)
Miller Falls

And the really cool part? It's not going to take a lot of expensive trainsets to run. They have a viable plan to purchase 34 refurbished Rail Diesel Cars. Vintage stainless-steel cars, with all-new interiors, controls, and propulsion. They can run as fast as the line will allow, stop on a dime to serve local stations, and be joined into multiple-unit trains to serve larger demands.

I'll have more on the project soon, and there will hopefully soon be an official website. There's already been quite a lot of press. These aren't a bunch of wackos, but people who can get stuff done: directors from NECR; local, state, and university officials, and other important persons from all over New England.

(Edited 11/5/10 to fix a few small factual errors)

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