CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Congressman Richard Neal got a surprise when he came to the 22News Broadcast Center Thursday morning. The congressman arrived at the station for an interview, but before that, he was greeted by Spirit of Springfield President Judy Matt, 22News General Manager Bill Pepin, and others who had worked to put together a video tribute to the congressman’s work on behalf of the Union Station project in Springfield.
The rehabilitation of Union Station, which had been closed since 1973, was a decades-long cause for Neal; first as a city councilor, then as Springfield’s mayor, and finally on Capitol Hill. In 2012, after years of struggle to achieve the proper funding, work began to both restore the station to its former glory, and update it into a modern transportation hub.
Work continued for about four and a half years, before Union Station opened to the public in June. It currently serves as the hub for PVTA bus service, but when work is complete on the passenger tunnel, Amtrak service will be also operating out of the building. Peter Pan and Greyhound bus service will also begin at Union Station soon, with commuter rail service connecting Springfield to Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut beginning next year.
The video, which was made by local filmmaker Chris Teebo and funded by the Chicopee Savings Bank Foundation and Westfield Bank, runs for about three minutes. Through video, still pictures, and animation, it shows the station in its former glory as well as its decline, and chronicles Neal’s successful effort to make Union Station a functional part of the city again.
After the video was over, Neal explained why Union Station was always so important to him, sharing his memories of growing up in Springfield, at a time in which the station was a central part of the life of the city.
“It was the center of activity- Union Station- for people. It was a big deal to go over there, this hub of economic activity always something going on, I took my first train ride there to New York,” Neal said.
“But this was never about creating a museum,” the congressman added, saying that the project is more about economic development for the city and the surrounding area.
Play the video to get a look at the history of the Union Station project, and Congressman Neal’s involvement.