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The Stockbridge Station would be one stop on a rail line from Pittsfield to New York City.
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A map of the proposed rail line.

Patrick Pitches Transportation Plan At Stockbridge Station

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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Gov. Deval Patrick called for an increase in the income tax to pay for his proposed investments in infrastructure.

STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. — Gov. Deval Patrick called for an "investment in the future" on Friday as he stood in the historic Stockbridge Station.

Patrick traveled across the state to the historic Stockbridge Station on Friday to rally support for his proposed transportation plan, which calls for $113.8 million to rehabilitate rail tracks from Pittsfield to New York City.

The rail is eyed to be a major boon to the Berkshires' tourist economy by providing  2 million passengers a year, enabling many New Yorkers to vacation here. His plan also calls for increased funding for roads, bridges and regional transportation funding.

But, in order to support all of his plans, the governor says the income tax will have to be raised.

"The days of promising things without a way to pay for them are over. We have proposed a way to pay for it and it's going to require new revenue in terms of higher income taxes and lower sales taxes," Patrick said.

Berkshire Visitors Bureau President Lauri Klefos said a study from two years ago has shown that one in four potential visitors from New York claimed they would take the train to get here, which would answer the "No. 1 question" she is asked by out-of-state residents. The study showed that more than 2 million people would take the train here each year.

"The economy not only flows east to west but it flows north to south," said Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey, calling investment in rail as going "back to the future."

Davey said the rail plan is a "down payment" on infrastructure; the state would have to work with Connecticut and find an operator before the project would come to fruition.

"Step one is upgrading this track," he said.

The Berkshire Regional Transportation Authority could also see an increase of $3.2 million in funding with the plan, which would allow it to expand services.

The plan has a multipage list of bridges and roads that would be repaired if the bill passes.

"I can't wait until they come off the train and my buses can pick them up," said BRTA Administrator Gary Shepard.

Shepard said increased services would allow more people to get to work whereas right now, he can't get people to work on Sundays, for the third shift or home after a second shift. While rail would provide more jobs, increased BRTA funding will allow people to get to them.

"We know public transportation is economic development," said state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, who has taken transportation funding as her primary push in the Legislature. "If we want a future, we have to invest in it."

Beyond rail and public transportation, the plan identifies a number of bridges and roads in the county which would be improved.

"It's a very specific plan. It is not a long wish list of pie-in-the-sky things. It is a very specific plan about meeting some long unmet needs and making some targeted expansion plans," Patrick said.

North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright and Pittsfield Mayor Daniel Bianchi both spoke about how much the various projects — from increased Chapter 90 funding to rail to roads and bridges — would mean to the county's two largest municipalities.

"We can continue to make mediocre investments or we can make major investments," Bianchi said, adding that the bill would "put thousands of people to work."

While local officials are behind the project, taxpayers will still have to pay for it. Patrick called for a statewide conversation among citizens on how to "build the future." He believes investment in infrastructure now is the state's hope for a stronger economic future.

"Instead of doing what we always do in American politics, which is to retreat to our usual rhetorical corner and not have a conversation based on fact about how we build our own future, instead of doing what we usually do, let's turn to each other and engage on the facts that we are proposing to choose growth. Leaving things as they are is a choice, too, and I believe that is a choice of no growth or low growth," Patrick said.

Tags: Berkshire Regional Transportation Authority,   Deval Patrick,   infrastructure improvements,   passenger rail,   rail,   rail station,   railroad,   transportation,   

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Chesterwood Grounds to Open on July 2

STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. — Chesterwood will open its 51st season on July 2, through online, pre-paid, timed parking passes, Thursday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Two-hour passes can be reserved online for 10 a.m., noon or 2 p.m. The entry fee is $20 per car and visitors can download maps and self-guided tours of the formal gardens, landscape, hiking trails and woodland walk, which currently features the contemporary sculpture of Rick and Laura Brown. All current Friends of Chesterwood can reserve their free parking passes through the online booking system as well.

Picnics on the grounds are encouraged with a carry in, carry out policy. Chesterwood will follow all the safety and health guidelines as mandated by the state of Massachusetts and all visitors are required to maintain social distancing outside their family group and to wear masks when appropriate. At this time the historic studio, residence and barn gallery will not be open for touring. Visitors arriving without a pre-paid pass may book one online when they arrive, pending availability for each time slot.  When reserving a parking pass online, the booking confirmation will contain a property map, a guide to the landscape and a map of the outdoor sculpture show, all of which can be downloaded to print or to view on a phone. There is also a scavenger hunt available on site for families.

Chesterwood, a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation since 1969, was the former summer home, studio and gardens of Daniel Chester French (1850-1931), one of America’s foremost 20th century public sculptors. Although French is best known for his statues of the Minute Man in Concord, Mass., and the seated figure of Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., he also had a passion and talent for garden and landscape design. While living at Chesterwood from May through October for more than 30 years, French invited family and friends to spend time in his gardens and forest for inspiration and relaxation. He situated his home and studio to face the magnificent view of the north side of Monument Mountain, framing different aspects of the view from the studio piazza, the garden pergola and the porches of the main house. French also spent hours designing and working on his formal studio garden, with its lauded peony and hydrangea-tree allée, and created woodland trails that culminated in a cleared ledge with a view looking northeast to the October Mountain range.  

This season Chesterwood also celebrates the restoration of the original stucco pillars and decorative wrought iron Studio Garden Arch, which was underwritten by the town of Stockbridge per recommendation from the Stockbridge Community Preservation Committee and the Stockbridge Historical Commission as well as a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The arch is a key architectural element in French’s landscape design, acting as both an end point to the hydrangea allée and an entry point to a clearing in the forest called the "Woodland Circle," marked by a classical marble exedra upon which to rest. 

The annual contemporary sculpture show from the 2019 season remains on view through October. "One Impulse from a Vernal Wood" consists of several large-scale sculptural installations along the woodland paths in the forest at Chesterwood.  The site-specific work was inspired by scientific inquiries into the life of trees and how they are connected below the surface through their extensive root systems. Conceived and created at Chesterwood by artists Rick and Laura Brown, each sculpture is made from storm damaged or fallen trees, revered and reimagined as expressions of their wonderment.

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