MassDOT to Purchase Berkshire Line for Passenger Rail
|The Joseph Scelsi Intermodal Transportation Center is being considered as a rail station once passenger service between Pittsfield and New York resumes.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The state has finalized an agreement to purchase 37 miles of rail line between Pittsfield and the Connecticut border to advance passenger rail between the Berkshires and New York City.
The agreement includes $12.13 million to acquire the line and an estimated $35 million for initial track improvements, funded by the 2014 Transportation Bond Bill approved by the Legislature. The Berkshire Line runs through Sheffield, Great Barrington, Stockbridge, Lee and Lenox to Pittsfield, where it joins the CSXT Railroad main line.
The purchase was authorized on Wednesday by the board of directors of the state Department of Transportation.
"Studies have shown that a Berkshire County rail connection to New York City would be a winner, with more than one million rides annually," said Richard A. Davey, MassDOT secretary and CEO. "This purchase and the initial upgrades in the line represent historic steps toward improved access to the Berkshires for tourists and residents alike."
The Patrick administration announced the plans last year to restore passenger service after nearly 40 years. Connecticut would be responsible for nine miles of track on its side of the border through Litchfield County but no action has been taken to date.
"I think the potential economic impact is considerable," said Gov. Deval Patrick after stepping off a Housatonic Railroad train in Pittsfield last year. "I think the opportunity of job creation and quality of life is considerable."
The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission has been reviewing recommendations for possible rail stations along the way, including Pittsfield's Intermodel Transportation Center. A report was expected to be issued Wednesday with public hearings scheduled for Wednesday, July 23, at the Great Barrington Fire Department and Wednesday, Aug. 6, at the Pittsfield Intermodal Center. Both hearings will be from 6 to 8 p.m.
According to a press release from MassDOT, track improvements will permit the operation of passenger trains but serve freight trains until the Connecticut portion of the project is completed. A final round of track improvements will be required along with improvements on the Connecticut portion of the line prior to the start of passenger rail service. The Transportation Bond Bill included $113 million for the purchase and Massachusetts portion of the track improvements.
A date for the beginning of passenger service is dependent upon completion of the upgrades in both states.
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