Local passenger rail project rolls forward

 

Greenfield Recorder 07/02/2011, Page A05

Recorder Staff

A multi-million dollar project to reroute Amtrak trains through Greenfield is another step closer, federal officials said Friday.

The Department of Transportation has signed a $72.8 million grant agreement for the final design and construction of the rail lines along the Connecticut River in western Massachusetts.

The funding, announced last year as part of the antirecession stimulus program, will rehabilitate the existing Connecticut River rail line between Springfield and Northfield, allowing Amtrak’s Vermonter to travel directly northward from New York City to St. Albans, Vt., with stops in Greenfield, Northampton and Springfield.

The Vermonter will make stops at the former Amtrak station at Northampton an d the new transportation center under construction at Bank Rowe and Olive Street in Greenfield. The project will create an estimated 626 jobs during construction and 155permanent jobs by the fifth full year of operation, according to Rep. John Olver’s office. Amtrak has agreed to having the once-daily trains stop in Greenfield and Northampton once the track is repaired and passenger platforms are constructed.

Congressman John Olver, a ranking member of the Transportation and Housing Appropriations Subcommittee said, “This project represents a significant investment in the region and I am pleased to see it moving ahead. High-speed rail … will not only spur job creation, but also provide an alternative transit option for commuters along the densely populated I-91 corridor.”

Using the direct northsouth route between Springfield and Northfield would shave an estimated 50 minutes off the trip, compared to the detour through Palmer, Amherst and Millers Falls put in place in 1989 because of poor track conditions.