BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker joined Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, members of the Massachusetts Legislature, and local leaders at Union Station in Springfield yesterday to announce a request for proposals for a consultant team to study the feasibility of east-west passenger rail service, the launch of a pilot for passenger rail service between Greenfield and Springfield, and one-seat service through Springfield to Hartford and New Haven, Conn.
“Through strong partnerships with federal, state, and local officials, we are investing in our existing rail infrastructure, increasing capacity where it is needed, and strengthening the Commonwealth’s transportation system,” Baker said. “We look forward to reviewing the results of this comprehensive study and continuing to support projects in all regions of the Commonwealth that provide improved travel options to residents and commuters.”
Added Neal, “I have always believed that improved and enhanced rail service between Springfield and Boston has the potential to be a game changer for our region. That’s why I thank Governor Baker for coming to Union Station today to announce that he is authorizing a comprehensive study on the feasibility of east-west rail. It will build on the study of local rail service funded by the Federal Railroad Administration that former Congressman John Olver and I requested in 2006. With the debut of expanded passenger rail service between New Haven and Springfield later this week, these two significant projects will help grow our economy and greatly improve the quality of life in the region. Investing in our transportation infrastructure will benefit people across the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
The RFP will enable the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to carry out an extensive study over approximately 18 months, analyzing many aspects and options for potential east-west passenger rail service. In addition to studying potential passenger service from Springfield to Boston, the study will look at potential origins farther west such as Pittsfield and Palmer. This will include engaging with stakeholders and evaluating the potential costs, speed, infrastructure needs, and ridership of potential passenger rail service throughout this corridor.
The administration also announced that a term sheet has been finalized with the Connecticut Department of Transportation which will enable the start of passenger rail service between Springfield and Greenfield beginning on a pilot basis in spring 2019. Under the agreement, MassDOT will fund the cost and management of the pilot service, which will be operated by Amtrak and conclude in fall 2021. The pilot will provide two round-trips each day and make stops at stations in Greenfield, Northampton, Holyoke, and Springfield. Southbound service will be provided in the morning hours, and northbound in the evenings. This pilot service will leverage the MassDOT-owned Knowledge Corridor, which is currently used by Amtrak’s Vermonter service, and the recently renovated Springfield Union Station.
Meanwhile, the new 62-mile Hartford Line begins operating on Saturday, June 16, with trains running approximately every 45 minutes between Springfield and several cities and towns in Connecticut, including Windsor Locks, Windsor, Hartford, Berlin, Meriden, Wallingford, and New Haven. This expanded service is in addition to the existing Amtrak service throughout this corridor. The Hartford Line will offer free service on June 16 and June 17.
“Carrying out a comprehensive study on east-west passenger rail will allow us to have a rigorous, fact-based discussion regarding options for potential service,” Pollack said. “Many legislators, local and regional officials, and business leaders called for such a study, and we are pleased to take a step in advancing this planning for future service.”
Added Sarno, “I deeply appreciate Governor Baker’s continued efforts to not only better connect us through the North-South corridor, but also his efforts to explore better overall ways to connect us to a feasible and sustainable east-west corridor mechanism. He’s been a great friend and partner to me and to Springfield’s needs.”