Visions of New England Trains
But the subject of Jim Shaughnessy’s book couldn’t be timelier or more relevant. Last summer, the governors of the six New England states announced a sweeping vision for an improved and expanded regional high-speed and intercity rail network. From linking North and South stations in Boston to expanding the Downeaster line to Brunswick, Maine, and from restoring double track and replacing bridges in New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield to creating a western Vermont corridor connecting Burlington and Rutland with New York City, this broad plan sets a goal of doubling the region’s train ridership by the year 2030. The governors have carefully crafted the plan’s scope and language to qualify for a chunk of the $8 billion designated for high-speed rail in the Obama stimulus package. And their application has been tailored to appeal to the increased emphasis on rail in the anticipated re-authorization of the federal transportation act known as SAFETEA-LU.
Public supporters of the plan ranged from Massachusetts senators John Kerry and (before his death in August) Ted Kennedy down to state lawmakers and some 40 organizations in the New England Rail Coalition. As David McCluskey, a state representative from Connecticut, put it, “With climate change, and with the high cost of gas, and with the fact that we can no longer build ourselves out of congestion, I think people are starting to realize that rail can be a solution.”
The talk is all about the economic boost the plan would give the region, along with reduced travel time between cities and lower greenhouse emissions. If the vision becomes real, though, something more personal will also return as a common part of the New England landscape: something shiny and modern and hopeful, yes, but also something terrifying and irresistible to a young boy, something lonely and forlorn in the dark of a cold night.