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More options coming for area rail passengers

Trains running between Greenfield and Springfield, Mass., set to begin by June 2019

For more information on the rail situation in the Connecticut Valley, go to trainsinthevalley.org. For information about the Hartford Line and train schedules, visit www.hartfordline.com.

BRATTLEBORO—After years of waiting, a new commuter rail line linking Springfield, Mass., and New Haven, Conn., began service on June 16, with trains between the two cities running about every 45 minutes.

By next year, two of the 17 daily trains traveling on that 62-mile rail corridor will be traveling north to Greenfield, Mass., bringing more travel options to Brattleboro-area residents.

Speaking at a news conference at Springfield’s newly-renovated Union Station on June 12, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said the state of Massachusetts has an agreement with Amtrak and the state of Connecticut to run a morning and an evening train between Springfield and Greenfield, with stops in Holyoke and Northampton, starting in June 2019.

Right now, the only train service between Springfield and Greenfield is Amtrak’s Vermonter, which runs once a day in each direction with a stop in Brattleboro.

For now, this is a pilot project expected to cost the state of Massachusetts $1 million per year to operate and is expected to draw 24,000 passengers a year, according to Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollock.

According to a news release, Pollock said the Massachusetts Department of Transportation will fund the cost and manage the service between Springfield and Greenfield, while Amtrak will provide the trains. After a 30- to 36-month trial period, MassDOT will evaluate usage and decide whether to continue the service.

MassDOT owns the rail corridor between Springfield and Greenfield, which was recently rebuilt with $73 million in federal stimulus money to improve service for Amtrak’s Vermonter.

The expanded service offers Brattleboro-area train riders additional options for travel to New York City, especially once a new $7.5 million parking garage in Greenfield is completed later this year near the Olver Transportation Center.

Catching a train to Boston from Greenfield may also happen soon. At the June 12 news conference, Baker said that Massachusetts is moving forward with a study to expand east-west rail service between Boston and Springfield. The study is expected to take 18 months to complete.

Work on the Hartford line began more a decade ago, as a combination of a state and federal funding helped cover the $765 million cost of rebuilding the line. Work included 21 miles of new track, 21 new bridges, and 105,000 new railroad ties, plus renovations to train stations along the route.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation is operating the trains on the Hartford line, which has been part of the main rail corridor from New York City and southern New England to Vermont since the mid-19th century.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #465 (Wednesday, June 27, 2018). This story appeared on page A5.

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