Gov. Baker announces expanded Western Mass north-south rail service, money for east-west rail study

Tuesday afternoon at Union Station in Springfield, Gov. Charlie Baker announced a pilot program beginning in 2019 for north to south passenger rail service that would run twice a day from Greenfield and make stops in Northampton, Holyoke, and Springfield and connecting with Connecticut rail services to go to New York City in a single day.

“We’ve reached a deal with Connecticut to expand the passenger rail service on a pilot basis starting next year,” Baker said.  “We’ve got a lot of work to do that has to do with the basic infrastructure in the meantime to restore the tracks and the signals … We are thrilled to be involved in the Connecticut Rail Hartford line rail service, which this line [at Union Station in Springfield] will eventually connect to along the knowledge corridor line, which will make it possible to go from Greenfield to New York and back in one day.”

Amtrak’s Vermonter Train  already makes a stop in Greenfield, where passengers have the ability to connect to New York and beyond, but the new expanded passenger rail service would give local area residents three opportunities to utilize train travel. The pilot train, which would run until 2021 and continue beyond that time if successful, aims at a ridership of 20,000 people during its approximately 4 hour and 15 minute journey.

The new Hartford Line begins operation on June 16 and would run trains every 45 minutes between Springfield and communities in Connecticut, including Windsor Locks, Windsor, Hartford, Berlin, Meriden, Wallingford, and New Haven, according to a press release from Baker’s Office.

Baker’s administration also announced that an east-to-west rail study would likely be put out to bid after which the multi-million dollar study would be completed in 12 to 18 months, Baker said.

“That study will look at the potential for passenger rail, not just to Springfield, but we’ll also be looking at potentially origins in Pittsfield and the Berkshires and we’ll also be looking at Palmer as a potential station stop,” Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack said.

One main issue that will be examined in the study would be creating east to west rail despite the state not owning the railways. CSX owns the railway lines in the central part of the state.

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Chris Goudreau can be reached at cgoudreau@valleyadvocate.com.

Author: Chris Goudreau

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