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Monday, March 21, 2022

Charlestown Choo-choo Hoax, Chapter LXVIII

A letter, a letter, OMG we have a letter!

By Will Collette 

For reasons only they can understand, the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) is taking another stab at keeping the Charlestown Choo-choo Hoax alive through Election Day.

The hoax is that the Federal Railway Administration (FRA) intends to revive a portion of its Northeast Corridor (NEC) modernization plan by building a new AMTRAK rail line through northern Charlestown north of the existing track. It was called the Old Saybrook-Kenyon Bypass.

In 2016, this Bypass terrified residents in its path even though the plan had no funding, no support from the then Republican-controlled Congress and definitely no support from the new Trump Administration. Plus there was plenty of opposition in Connecticut and Rhode Island.

As I had predicted, the plan died within a few months and its death certificate was embodied in a 2017 formal, legally-binding “Record of Decision.”

Last July, Charlestown Planning Commissar Ruth Platner wrote a piece entitled “THEY’RE BACK” [emphasis hers] claiming that somehow the Old Saybrook-Kenyon Bypass had risen from the dead. 

She presented no evidence to support this claim other than a blog article from a Connecticut website – and even that article didn’t make that claim though it did insinuate, without evidence, that there was some sort of danger.

The CCA and its Council majority went into full panic mode, pledging to spend whatever it took to fight this zombie issue and gave Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz dictatorial powers to do whatever it took to protect the town from zombies. I’m not making this up.

Remember, at no time since July of last year has the CCA produced one scintilla of evidence. The CCA has been banking on saving the town through a strongly worded letter sent to the FRA, with copies sent to every public official north of the Mason-Dixon Line. It was a strange letter that was almost entirely focused on the dead 2017 Bypass.

In the meantime, Council President Deb Carney took a more constructive approach by talking directly to the CEO of AMTRAK who told her the Bypass was dead. Then she arranged to meet with state Transportation Director Peter Alviti. Alviti represents Rhode Island on the federal rail board.

The meeting with Alviti included Deb plus CCA Councilor Cody Clarkin, affected citizens and even Rep. Blake “Flip” Filippi and Sen. Elaine Morgan. Alviti was clear: there is NO plan to revive the Bypass, which he labelled a “BAD plan.” He agreed to keep Charlestown informed and he has.

That should have been the end of the Choo-choo Hoax, but the CCA was unhappy that its strongly worded letter to the FRA had not been answered.

But HUZZAH! they got a response last week from Amit Bose, Administrator of the FRA. The CCA published their “detailed” analysis of that letter to search for clues of danger.

While you can read the letter in full HERE, the main takeaway from Bose’s letter is that there is NO PLAN to revive the Bypass. This is the key passage:

As this passage describes, the process of figuring what to do will be long and will involve extensive talks involving the feds, Connecticut and Rhode Island, and affected local communities.

Bose recommended Charlestown contact AMTRAK and the RI Department of Transportation – two steps that Council President Carney has already done.

The CCA seems to be OK with that, although in their re-telling, they do not credit Deb’s efforts but only their own.

However, the CCA seems highly peeved that Bose did not give them any of the technical information they wanted, such as data, times, dates, exact locations, etc.

Well, duh. How is Bose supposed to give the CCA details about a non-existent plan? They haven’t done the capacity study nor any other work that would yield the data the CCA complains was omitted.

If Ruth and the other CCA zombiephobics had really wanted data, they could have read the 2015 draft Environmental Impact Statement. It was sent to Charlestown in 2015 but was never read. As former Council President Tom Gentz put it, “who’s got time to read all this?” Well, (a) it’s your job, Tom and (b) you should have passed it on to staff.

Luckily for all of us, your nonfeasance was mitigated when that draft EIS pretty much died when the Bypass died in 2017.

I’m going to say it again: to quote Carl Sagan, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” If the CCA actually has ANY evidence that the Bypass has come back to life, they should produce it. Now. 

If not, then stop terrorizing people.