Recap: A possible extension of Connecticut’s Shore Line East Commuter Rail to Westerly would have positive impacts for Rhode Island businesses and residents alike, said Rhode Island State Sens. Victoria Gu and Leonidas P. Raptakis and Westerly Town Manager Shawn Lacey at a town hall meeting Nov. 8 to discuss a Connecticut Department of Transportation feasibility study of the proposal.
The recently released final draft of the Connecticut Department of Transportation Eastern Connecticut Rail & Transit Feasibility Study describes Shore Line East commuter trains running from New London to Westerly in available time slots between Amtrak runs, using the existing track and the existing Westerly Train Station.
The study estimated that the infrastructure improvements that are necessary to bring commuter rail trains to Westerly — a pair of high-level platforms and an electrified storage track — could cost as little as $19.2 million. This is a low cost compared to the expense of building all new stations with the required high-level platforms if Connecticut were to extend commuter rail to Groton or Mystic, Connecticut.
These infrastructure improvements at Westerly Train Station would have the added benefit of reducing boarding times for Amtrak and Acela service and making Westerly more attractive for Amtrak service.
Among the key takeaways from the town hall is the recognition that extending Shore Line East to Westerly could serve as the catalyst for the development of a true statewide commuter rail service for Rhode Island.
“Connecting workers via commuter rail to booming job centers will be key to reducing traffic congestion, cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and improving air quality,” said Senator Gu (D-Dist. 38, Charlestown, Westerly, South Kingstown).
Electric Boat in North Kingstown, R.I., and Groton, Conn., is expected to hire 5,750 more workers in 2023, and an estimated 21,600 commuters already enter Groton to work each day.
Notably, the town hall coincided with President Biden’s recent announcement of $16.4 billion in funding allocated for 25 passenger rail projects on the Northeast Corridor. These funds are specifically earmarked to address aging infrastructure, ultimately reducing delays, and improving reliability and speed.
With support from Rhode Island’s congressional delegation to obtain federal funding, Rhode Island opened a new Pawtucket/Central Falls commuter rail station in January 2023, with ridership quickly surpassing expectations.
The town hall, held at the Westerly Education Center, was organized by the Rhode Island Association of Railroad Passengers and Senator Gu. In addition to Senator Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, West Greenwich) and Lacey, attendees included Michael Schefers (Warden of Stonington Borough), R.I. State Rep. Tina L. Spears (D-Dist. 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly) and members of the Westerly Town Council.