Jul 30, 2013
04:16 AMConnecticut Today
Massachusetts Governor Keys in on Rail Service to Manhattan Via Western Connecticut
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick believes that his state can absorb the cost of restoring passenger rail service through Berkshire County on the Housatonic Railroad, but said the state of Connecticut’s participation is necessary to link all the way to New York City.
Accompanied by three Housatonic Railroad Co. officials, Patrick and state Transportation Secretary Richard A. Davey rode the Berkshire County section of the railway Monday morning from the state line in Sheffield to Pittsfield’s wastewater treatment plant on Utility Drive.
First proposed in 2010, the project would restore passenger rail service on the Housatonic Railroad along the 90-mile corridor between Pittsfield and Danbury, Conn. At Danbury, the trains would connect with MetroNorth trains that lead into New York City.
“I think we can afford the Massachusetts end,” Patrick said after stepping from the train. “But I want to be clear. In order for us to warrant this investment on the Massachusetts side we have to get Connecticut to participate as well. Because I think the maximum potential is to go all the way to New York not just the Connecticut line.”
Patrick said the trip gave him a chance to see “the real potential” in re-establishing passenger rail service through Berkshire County, which was discontinued in April 1971.
“I think the potential economic impact is considerable, and the opportunity for job creation and quality of life is considerable,” he said.
In January, Patrick announced that his administration would support $113.8 million toward upgrading the rail line to passenger service as part of his proposed $13 million transportation bond bill. The entire cost of upgrading the rail line is estimated to be $200 million.
A economic study conducted by Williams College economics professor Stephen Sheppard in 2011 found that passenger trains running from Pittsfield to Manhattan could increase economic output by $344 million in the Berkshires during the first 10 years of construction and service. The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission is currently conducting a study of the project that has included two public hearings this summer.
Patrick said on Monday that it would take roughly three years to restore passenger service along the 90-mile corridor.