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Reviving the railway

Published November 02. 2011 4:00AM

Like a racing locomotive, a proposal to upgrade the 110-mile railway between New London and Brattleboro, Vt. for enhanced freight and passenger service is a good idea picking up steam.

After more than two years of discussion, representatives of nine municipalities and five regional planning agencies from three states will meet Thursday for the anticipated signing of a memorandum of understanding supporting the so-called Central Corridor Line.

This project is well worth pursuing; an estimated $100 million investment to create a "knowledge web" railway, one that would make stops in communities proximate to more than 70,000 college students.

The initiative began as a grassroots effort but has won the support of the cities of Norwich, New London, Mansfield, Windham, Stafford, Palmer, Mass., Amherst, Mass., and Brattleboro, Vt., as well as five regional planning agencies representing communities in all three states.

At the invitation of Norwich, the group will formalize its

intent at a meeting Thursday at the office of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments, where representatives plan to sign the agreement.

The various parties want to collectively pursue funding, prepare a feasibility study of the proposed passenger service, create a business plan and seek federal and state permits required to make the corridor a passenger rail line.

Increasing highway congestion and escalating gas prices make train travel an attractive option.

This rail line, owned by New England Central Railroad, terminates at New London's deep-water port. The state is in the early stages of studying its three ports, including New London. Its link to the rail line is a vital asset that enhances the port's value. In addition to the potential for improved freight service, a renovated line could move passengers north from ferries, cruise ships and east-west trains.

There is much work ahead for the Central Corridor Line, but this level of cooperation bodes well for the project.

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