Friday, January 29, 2010

A Boston Connection for the Knowledge Corridor

Today the Federal Government announced an "award of $70 million for final design and construction of the “Knowledge Corridor” along the Connecticut River rail line in western Massachusetts," as reported in the Commonwealth Conversations Transportation blog. (The "Knowledge Corridor" is highlighted in yellow at the right.) The blog goes on to note: "The competitive grant award is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail program."

The "Knowledge Corridor" refers to the Sprinfield-Northampton-Greenfield corridor which is Connecticut River line of the former Boston and Maine Railroad, now known as Pam Am Railways. Conditions on the line deteriorated to the point that the only passenger train, Amtrak's Vermonter, was rerouted by Palmer onto the New England Central Railroad. The reroute added a stop at Amherst, replacing the original stop at Northampton. (See Amtrak's map at left.)

The current Amtrak service is a single round-trip between St. Albans, VT and Washington, DC. While the Vermonter route crosses the Boston-to-Albany route of Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited at Springfield, the schedules are not set for convient service between Boston and the "Knowledge Corridor."

Restoration of passenger service to Northampton and Greenfield is a significant step in creating a true Massachusetts regional passenger rail system. With the accompanying grants to Connecticut and Vermont, this will improve the current Vermont-Springfield-New Haven corridor. It will restore passenger rail service to Northampton and Greenfield.

However, I believe that once these improvements are in place, a study should look into ridership for Knowledge Corridor service routed through to Boston. Namely, this would be Greenfield - Northampton - Holyoke - Springfield - Palmer - Worcester - Boston true trains. When I discuss this folks I know in Northampton, they see a real potential for such service to be used.

In conjunction with this idea and in the spirit of a single statewide transportation agency, my vision is seeing the MBTA "commuter" rail system become a statewide "Massachusetts Regional Passenger Rail" system, connecting together all of our state.

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