Hundreds in Old Lyme protest proposed location for high-speed rail line

OLD LYME--On Wednesday night, more than 500 people packed the auditorium of Lyme-Old Lyme High School to full capacity for a meeting with local politicians and representatives from the Federal Railroad Administration.

The FRA has proposed a high-speed Amtrak bypass line connecting Old Saybrook and Rhode Island, which would run straight through historic Old Lyme. The agency is considering the rail line as one way to better connect Boston, New York City and Washington D.C.

Residents are seemingly unanimous in their opposition to the proposal. Many claim the line would ruin the charm and character of the town. "There is no other place like this in America," said Jeff Andersen, director of the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme.

Andersen has been working in Old Lyme for 40 years. "It's an American treasure, and it needs to be protected and preserved," said Andersen.

Politicians representing several shoreline towns, including New London and Old Saybrook, spoke at the meeting, saying the rail line would negatively affect their communities as well.

"This is a high-speed rail line that's just moving people through," said Andersen. "It's not serving our residents or the region."

"It would be destructive to the community, all the communities around," said Old Lyme resident Guy Deutermann. "Yeah, it's not a good idea. Not feasible."

Senator Richard Blumenthal has been one of the most outspoken critics of the line. "The line as proposed is half-baked and hair-brained and really is unworthy of any sort of taxpayer dollars," said Blumenthal.

Blumenthal says he will be formally submitting many residents' questions to the FRA, determined to take down the project.

At Wednesday's meeting, the FRA said it ultimately wants to make a smart long-term decision, factoring in concerns about cost, the environment and local community.

Residents also seemed unanimous about what they feel is the better solution.

"I think improving what we have is the only way to go," said Deutermann.

"Invest in what we have," said Andersen. "Improve what we have."

The FRA said this will be a multi-decade process, and that a decision will not be made just yet.