Commuter rail service could be coming soon to western Mass.

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Steps towards adding commuter rail service here in western Massachusetts are now being made.

Tim Brennan of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission told 22News that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation has made a commitment with them to negotiate and analyze how to increase commuter rail service here in western Massachusetts. Brennan said that this service would ideally run north-south between Springfield and Greenfield, where the existing Amtrak Vermonter line now runs.

That entire length of the Vermonter runs Between St. Albans Vermont and Washington D.C. Stops are now made once a day in Greenfield, Northampton, and Holyoke after new platforms were added there over the last year.

Just this week, Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack.  Pollack met with the PVPC and the mayors of Springfield, Holyoke, Northampton, Chicopee and Agawam to discuss adding rail service along that line, during commuting hours. Pollack told 22News that there are still a lot of factors to work out, but that a pilot service could be up and running as early as spring 2017.

“We need to figure out how to pay for equipment, we need to figure out how to pay for the subsidy that will be needed to operate the service and we need to work out some issues with the handicap accessibility at some of the stations.”

She also told 22News, “The idea makes sense. We already invested a lot of money in tracks and stations and there’s one train, and so the idea that having made that investment, we should get more out of that investment it makes a lot of sense,” Pollack said.

Brennan told 22News they see a two to three year pilot service adding two trains a day in the morning and two in the evening along the existing north-south line to make more of an in-region commuter rail.  Something area commuters told 22News they’d like to see.

“If you make it convenient, before work hours and after work hours that would help,” Jeanne Allen, who commutes to Holyoke for work, told 22News.

Pollack and Brennan said a seperate rail planning project by MassDOT is looking at what options are available to add service east-west between Springfield, Worcester, and Boston.

They are not likely to have specific answers to planning questions on that project for another year or more.

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