After a 50 year hiatus, the Housatonic Railroad has proposed a passenger route that follows our rail line from Pittsfield to New Milford, Connecticut and then to Danbury and on to lower Fairfield County and Stamford. Service might also continue west to Metro North’s Harlem Line Southeast station. When our trains reach Southeast, we have proposed that some trains continue on directly into Grand Central Station under the operational control of Metro North, while others would stop at Southeast and passengers would cross a platform and board Metro North trains. This route enables the fastest transit times between The Berkshires/Litchfield Hills and Grand Central.
While the exact locations of stations will be determined by the towns with support from regional planning agencies, there are logical stops based on historical service. In The Berkshires, the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission has proposed station stops in Pittsfield, Lenox, Lee, Great Barrington, and Stockbridge in Massachusetts. South of Sheffield they have proposed a regional station that would serve Sheffield, MA, North Canaan, CT and the surrounding then stops in Connecticut at Cornwall Bridge, Kent, New Milford, and Brookfield/Danbury North. Service between Pittsfield and New York City is expected to take 3 hours and 55 minutes.
What will it offer?
In addition to offering wifi, we think it is very important that our passenger coaches be more comfortable than traditional commuter rail cars. We plan on offering seating and comfort that would be consistent with longer haul passenger coaches. We also plan on having some coaches be equipped for passengers to bring their bicycles or skis on board and store them safely. We also plan on providing appealing food service, and naturally, clean restrooms are very important on longer trips.
The proposed service has had broad support from the community, businesses in the region, local governments and elected officials. The primary issue that must be resolved is funding to upgrade the tracks so they can accommodate passenger trains at passenger speeds; Massachusetts has committed $113.8 million for upgrading their portion of the rail line. In fact, Phase 1 upgrade work is expected to begin in Massachusetts in 2015. The upgrade work includes upgrading the tracks and road bed as well as location and construction of stations. It is likely that most stations will be controlled by local towns, though some could be operated privately and partially funded with private funds.
The actual time for the reconstruction of the rail line, the purchasing and refitting of the rail cars and locomotives, and build stations between Danbury, Connecticut, and Pittsfield, Massachusetts, is expected to be three to five years.
Rail travel - still a great idea!
Where can I find out more?
Take a look at some of the Berkshire Regional Planning documents, here. The Massachusetts DOT blog has more on their Phase 1 plans, and there are two local websites about bringing passenger service back, http://traincampaign.org/ and on facebook.