Friday May 11, 2012

There is no denying that it will not be easy to replace the decrepit Wood lawn Avenue railroad bridge but Pittsfield doesn’t have three years to wait for the state Department of Transportation to complete the job. Far more immediately, Amtrak must do better by the riders left at the mercy of the elements at a temporary stop on East Street while CSX Railroad works on the rail line near the Intermodal Transportation Center. The city, in fact, should demand that it do better as the current setup is not good enough for the county’s largest community.

The Woodlawn Avenue bridge, which will provide north-south access through the William Stanley Business Park between Tyler and East streets, has been closed for six years. If it remains closed another three years, Pittsfield Economic Development Authority Executive Director Cory Thurs ton told the PEDA board Wednesday, the delay "puts the kibosh" on negotiations with prospective park tenants as PEDA tries to spur progress.

The state DOT is fixing six Western Massachusetts bridges to enable CSX to run double-stack freight cars from New York state to Worcester. All six are important, but it is doubtful that one has more of an economic impact on a community than does the Woodlawn Avenue bridge. Ideally the county’s legislative delegation will persuade DOT to prioritize this bridge project so the business park connection is made in two years at the most.

Amtrak passengers cannot be left to stand unprotected in the rain, sun or snow at the temporary stop until November. The spectacle of passengers dragging their belongings along East Street toward downtown reveals that accommodations must be reached with the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority to establish a shuttle bus between the temporary site and the Inter modal Transportation Center to accommodate passengers.

DOT and CSX have stepped up to financially and logistically assist the Hinsdale Fire Department when it temporarily lost an important access road because of work on a railroad bridge; one of the six being addressed in the region. Pittsfield and Amtrak should request assistance in providing a temporary shelter for passengers inconvenienced by rail work downtown, but one way or the other it must get done and quickly.