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Old Lyme residents, businesses hope to derail proposed high speed train

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OLD LYME -- The prospect of adding high speed rail lines to Connecticut may be speeding toward a conclusion, and residents of Old Lyme are hoping to derail a plan that would have the service pass through their coastal community.

"I'm all for high-speed rail and improving our transportation," said Davn Stevens, owner of Nightingale's Acoustic Cafe, on Lyme St. "However, running it right through this community, I'm not so sure it's a great idea."

The plan includes adding Amtrak rail lines through Old Lyme's historic district to meet the increasing passenger needs in the Northeast.

Even though it's still in the proposal stages, and construction would be years away, "We're already seeing that our property values are being impacted, including lagging house sales," said Gregory Stroud, an Old Lyme resident, who's also the head of Secoast, a non-profit focused on historic preservation.

"We made the decision that we were going to write a letter to the (Federal Railroad Administration), reiterating our opposition to the plan to go through the center of Old Lyme," said Bonnie Reemsnyder, the third-term first selectwoman of Old Lyme, who adds that her biggest concern is that the new railway would tunnel under the Connecticut River, disturbing a unique estuary.

"It is one of the few, if not the only, major rivers where the mouth is not industrialized and made into a port," she said.

Stroud said that the Connecticut Audubon Society deemed the town's marshes, near where the tracks would be, to be "one of the five most important birding areas" in Connecticut.

Residents are also concerned about how any tunneling would impact their wells.

Reemsnyder says she was told by state DOT Commissioner James Redeker that even if the tunnel was eliminated, in favor of completely above ground tracks, the cost would be over $60 billion, most of which would be paid by Connecticut taxpayers.