With the Biden administration pushing a $2 trillion national infrastructure plan, what once seemed like a fantasy — high-speed rail for the Northeast — is slowly, steadily becoming a distinct possibility, and Long Island could play a central role in the proposed project.
The Long Island Association last week hosted an hour-long Zoom panel discussion of plans for a high-speed rail line that would run from New York City to Ronkonkoma, across the Long Island Sound to Hartford, Conn., and then to Boston. Total trip time: 1 hour, 40 minutes, compared with the 3½ hours that it now takes by car — if you hit no traffic along the way. If driving conditions are poor, getting to Boston from New York can take four to five hours.
The $100 billion rail line, a public-private partnership, would take an estimated 20 years to complete. Trains on the line would travel 150 to 225 mph.
Slower-speed spur lines from Oyster Bay and Riverhead would connect with the main high-speed branch, which would run down the middle of Nassau County and part of Suffolk County.
The rail line and its spurs, officials said, would connect Nassau’s major research institutions, like Hofstra University, with its counterparts in Suffolk, like Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory, in Upton. Through the main line, such centers would be connected with other major research institutes in New York City and Boston.
The Northeast is one of America’s most important research corridors, with many of the nation’s great universities and institutes here, but they are now hopelessly disconnected by sclerotic traffic arteries. High-speed rail could very well lead to a renaissance of scientific — and economic — progress in the region.
At the same time, an injection of $100 billion, 90 to 100 percent of which the federal government would provide under the proposed infrastructure bill, would be a massive economic stimulus to the region, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Local residents, officials noted, would not, for the most part, have to worry about their properties being taken by right of eminent domain to build the rail line, because most of it would be constructed on current underused or abandoned rights of way. And environmentalists needn’t worry about disturbing the Long Island Sound’s ecosystem, because a 16-mile-long tunnel would be constructed well below the bottom of the sound.
Clearly, this project would be a win-win for the Northeast — Long Island, in particular. To ensure that it happens, though, the public needs to apply pressure to Congress to pass Biden’s infrastructure plan and include the North Atlantic Rail Initiative in it.