State Sen. Adam Hinds rode the Flyer's inaugural trip from New York City to Pittsfield.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Flyer arrived at the Joseph Scelsi Intermodal Transportation Center with the first New York City passengers to Pittsfield in 51 years.
On board was state Sen. Adam Hinds who has been instrumental in getting the weekend tourist train on track over the past several years.
"It is so enjoyable. The ride along the Hudson is just amazing," he said. "And so smooth, sitting in air conditioning with leather seats and space, with wi-fi."
This inaugural trip on Amtrak was sold out despite what Hinds described as "a great start with very little media outreach" during a Facebook check-in during his trip north.
Officials gathered to greet passengers in downtown Pittsfield hope this weekend's trip foreshadows an expansive future. There's a goal of making passenger rail available more frequently and year-round based on how successful this two-year summer pilot is.
"I'll be filing an amendment in the transmission bond bill next week, to also set up the infrastructure for a stop in West Stockbridge as well. So we're really hoping to expand," Hinds said.
This pilot program has been five years in the making as part of four projects including Western Mass passenger rail, Vermont to Connecticut, and east/west rail. It took coordination among local and state officials in two states, the federal Amtrak Railway service and private rail companies.
Numerous state and local officials were at each end of the line to see the train off and to arrive including state Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler and Rail and Transit Administrator Meredith Slesinger in Pittsfield, along with another advocate for Western Mass passenger rail state Sen. Eric Lesser. In New York, Amtrak CEO Stephen J. Gardner was among those seeing the train off.
"This is a true partnership, we could not do this without your advocacy, your leadership, your commitment, your challenging times to us, we all need this," said Tesler. "It requires persistence and requires passion, and these things get done because we all get there together, even when we find challenges. So this is the beginning. And I think that's what's really important. We are here to do hard things and challenging things. Building service back after 51 years is complicated. It was challenging."
That sentiment was shared by Pittsfield's state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier.
"I just want to say that in a big way, sometimes we do this in small ways, but in a big way. This is an example of our very best work," she said. "When local, state, federal, and private entities come together, and work without ego, work on solving problems, and work towards a common goal, we get it done."
Downtown Pittsfield Inc. provided the disembarking passengers with a kit that included a flyer with weekend events, a map of the Berkshires and a pamphlet with a list of local attractions, restaurants, and organizations.
Multiple speakers talked of how this was a momentous moment that will help both the Berkshires and New York City economically by linking the two regions. Hinds said this relationship will expand the options for both New Yorkers and Berkshire County residents
"It's critical for our third-largest sector, which is tourism and cultural development. It's critical at a time when we're trying to make the case to folks that they can live here and work anywhere," the senator said. "So having a link with an economic center is key. And it's just, we're exposing more and more people to the Berkshires. It's great."
Tourism has brought an extensive amount of revenue to the Berkshires and is projected to grow because of this initiative.
"I want to talk a little bit about the economic benefits of tourism, as Adam said, is one of our key main sectors. It's $870 million a year, before the pandemic, that tourism brought in," Thomas Matuszko, executive director of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission said.
"This train is really going to support that it's one of the tools that we're bringing in to bring in more of the tourism to New York City visitors. We have a long history of tourism in connection with New York City, the Berkshire cottages from the mid-1800s. New York residents have been coming up to the Berkshires. This is just a continuation of that."
Farley-Bouvier noted that this inaugural moment is bittersweet in that it is the beginning of a farewell tour for Hinds as he is ending his term this year as senator of the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden district.
"We need to pick up this baton that the senator is handing off and we need to make sure we keep this going because this is not about the people that are here today," Farley-Bouvier said.
"It's about the people that are going to be here tomorrow, next week, next year, and for generations to come because as our grandparents used to take the train back and forth to New York City, we want our grandchildren to be doing the same thing."
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Lanesborough Bridge Closed for Next Year
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The state has closed a second Berkshire County bridge because of structural issues.
The 20-foot span on Bridge Street was ordered closed by the Department of Transportation at 9 a.m. on Friday, based on an inspection conducted Thursday that identified further structural issues and holes.
On Tuesday, the state ordered the Brown Street bridge in North Adams closed because of structural deficiencies.
The steel girder bridge over Town Brook was built in 1945 and had most recently a deck rating of 3 and a superstructure rating of 5 and 6.
Users will be welcomed by a plaza area that has a bike rack, a trash can, and possibly a bulletin board kiosk. It will be fully accessible from the 23-space parking lot with three handicapped-accessible spots.
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