Union Station Work Officially Underway
SPRINGFIELD — The long-awaited transformation of Springfield’s historic Union Station into the region’s main transportation hub officially got underway Nov. 20 at a ceremonial demolition held at the Frank B. Murray Street site. Mayor Domenic Sarno, along with U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, Gov. Deval Patrick, and other officials wielding sledgehammers, participated in the event. It signaled the start of demolition of the former baggage-handling building and will pave the way for construction of a 24-bay bus terminal with structured parking above it — the first steps toward reactivating the long-vacant downtown station. “Today represents the start of an important project that will benefit virtually everyone in Western Mass. It’s an exciting day for the Pioneer Valley,” said Sarno. Added Neal, “the successful renovation of Union Station has been a priority of mine for more than 30 years. I have always believed the restoration of this iconic Springfield landmark had the ability to transform the north blocks of downtown. And it will bring a world-class transportation center to the region in the process.” Other specific work to be completed as part of a $48.7 million Phase 1 project, designed by HDR Architecture Inc., includes the restoration of the main terminal building as a passenger center. The first floor will include operations, ticketing, and waiting space for the transit-service providers, as well as transit-related retail. Also, the passenger tunnel will be reopened and restored, linking the terminal building to rail-boarding platforms and pedestrian access to the downtown. When completed, this initial phase will provide connections for the continuation and expansion of services, including local, regional, and intercity buses; Amtrak, commuter, and high-speed passenger rail; and other ground-transportation services. The second phase of the project will emphasize the remaining development of additional transit-related restaurant and retail uses on the first floor and transit-related commercial space primarily on the terminal building’s upper floors, and will expand the new transit center’s parking capabilities. Sarno thanked Neal for his steadfast support of this regionally significant transportation project and for helping the city bring it to this point. “Recognizing that the station’s redevelopment is crucial to the continued revitalization of the city of Springfield, our goal is to transform this property into a sustainable transportation facility, positioning us to better meet the travel needs of the Pioneer Valley in the short and long term,” added Sarno. He also thanked Patrick “for making Union Station a top priority of his administration,” and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation for working in partnership with the city. “Through this cooperation and with funding support from the state, we have achieved tremendous progress as we’ve worked with the Federal Transit Administration to advance this vital project,” Sarno said. Funding for the Union Station project has been assembled from a number of federal, state, and local sources. In July, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was in Springfield to announce the award of a $17.6 million federal Bus Livability grant for the project. The project is scheduled to be completed and operational by 2015.
Officials Laud Completion of High Performance Computing Center
HOLYOKE — Gov. Deval Patrick headed a list of academic, political, and business leaders who gathered in Holyoke on Nov. 16 to officially mark the completion of the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center built in the center of this historic industrial city. More than 200 people gathered for the event, which capped more than three years of planning and construction of the facility, which was hailed by several of the day’s speakers as a unique and highly effective collaboration involving higher education, private business, and government. The facility, which carried a price tag approaching $90 million, is a data center dedicated to supporting the growing research computing needs of five of the most research-intensive universities in Massachusetts: Boston University, Harvard University, MIT, Northeastern University, and UMass. The project was funded by those five schools, as well as additional partners Cisco and EMC, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the federal New Markets Tax Credit program. In addition to Patrick, other officials to speak at the program and ribbon-cutting included Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse; Susan Hockfield, president emerita at MIT; Jeff Nick, senior vice president and chief technology officer at EMC Corp.; Larry Payne, vice president, Public Sector, Cisco Systems; Lt. Gov. Tim Murray; and Robert Caret, president of UMass.
Nominations Sought for Difference Makers
SPRINGFIELD — BusinessWest magazine will accept nominations for its Difference Makers Class of 2013 until Dec. 30. Difference Makers is a recognition program, started in 2008, that honors individuals and groups that are making an impact in the community and improving overall quality of life in the region. The Difference Makers Class of 2012 consisted of: Charlie and Donald D’Amour, president/COO and chairman/CEO, respectively, of Big Y Foods; William Messner, president of Holyoke Community College; Majors Tom and Linda Jo Perks, officers with the Springfield Corps of the Salvation Army; Bob Schwarz, executive vice president of Peter Pan Bus Lines; and the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts. A nomination form is available online at www.businesswest.com/difference-makers-nomination-form.
Baystate Working to Reduce Pre-term Births
SPRINGFIELD — The report card is in on premature births, and the grades are far from glowing. The March of Dimes released its 2012 Premature Birth Report Card in November, and while the U.S. pre-term birth rate dropped for the fifth consecutive year in 2011 to 11.7% — the lowest in a decade — the country still earned a disappointing ‘C’ grade. The March of Dimes grades states by comparing their rate of premature births to their 2020 goal of 9.6%. Three states and Puerto Rico earned an ‘F,’ and only four states — Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Vermont — were graded an ‘A.’ Twenty-two states, including Massachusetts, received a ‘B’ grade and are one step away from achieving the goal. Still, “we still have a long way to go,” said Dr. Glenn Markenson, chief of Maternal Fetal Medicine at Baystate Medical Center. More than 500,000 infants are born prematurely in the U.S. each year, and about 10% of all deliveries are scheduled before 39 weeks, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Furthermore, a recent study by the Leapfrog Group, a hospital-quality watchdog, shows that U.S. hospitals vary widely in their rates of elective pre-term deliveries, ranging from less than 5% to more than 40%. “Early deliveries should only be an option for medical reasons, when the life or health of mother or baby is in jeopardy,” said Markenson. Under his leadership, Baystate Medical Center has been working to establish strong guidelines to prevent unnecessary pre-term deliveries by induction or cesarean section, and last year the hospital instituted a ‘hard stop’ for any non-medically required elective delivery prior to 39 weeks, and all elective inductions in first-time mothers. Markenson said the practice of elective pre-term birth finally caught many healthcare-quality officials’ attention when more and more studies began to be published showing its potential harm, including a recent March of Dimes report showing that babies born in the 37th or 38th week have a higher risk of dying in their first year than a baby born after 39 weeks. In addition to working with other Massachusetts hospitals to help the state achieve an ‘A’ grade in the March of Dimes rankings, Baystate is helping lead a statewide initiative called the Massachusetts Perinatal Quality Collaborative.