Letter: Fast Boston rail link would benefit Berkshires
To the editor of THE EAGLE:
Lee Rogers, the writer of "Many concerns about railroad plan" (letter, Jan. 31), makes good arguments on why commuter rail to New York City over Housatonic Railroad to Danbury, and Metro North beyond, is not feasible. Mr. Rogers is correct when he cites the Housatonic RR alignment as "quite curvy." Major and very expensive line relocations would have to be accomplished in order to get speeds up to anywhere near what Metro North achieves between Wassaic and Southeast.
And to Mr. Rogers’ point about Connecticut’s participation, ConnDOT has large existing commuter rail funding commitments for its segment of Metro North’s New Haven Line plus its own Shore Line East service New Haven/Old Saybrook/New London. And soon it will be funding local service on the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield route once all the capacity expansion projects are done. It’s not likely that ConnDOT has the resources for yet another new commuter rail start.
Mr. Rogers’ suggestion of a Harlem Line extension to Hillsdale would indeed serve central and southern Berkshire very well. Saves 60 miles (round trip) of driving and train speeds would most likely be in the same 65 mph maximum now achieved between Wassaic and Southeast. But New York state has no obligation to provide Massachusetts residents with commuter rail. Furthermore, if trains operated from Hillsdale, trip times to New York will be intolerable if they connect at Southeast to trains making all the local stops between Southeast and White Plains.
The obvious answer would be to operate the Hillsdale trains non-stop between Southeast and White Plains. But there are operational constraints to adding trains on the existing double-track between Southeast and Crestwood. Given the level of service that is currently operated, any additional trains will strain the ability to take a section of one of the tracks out of service for routine maintenance or major capital projects. Unacceptable delays will result.
And what of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail that occupies the old right-of-way north of Wassaic? The users of that trail might not give it up easily, as Berkshire residents wouldn’t easily give up the Ashuwillticook for a resumption of rail service between North Adams and Pittsfield.
The service Berkshire County should have is cross-state Albany-Boston. That would complete an iron triangle that includes New York City. Five or six trains each way and we make the following connections: 1) At Albany for New York City, 2) At Springfield to Hartford and southwestern Connecticut, 3) At Boston as a destination or to connect to the T or Amtrak to Maine and the Northeast Corridor.
MassHighway won’t like my saying this but the MassPike doesn’t have to remain the be all and end all for Berkshire residents wanting to go to Boston. And why does Mass DOT and the governor’s office want to make it easier to go to New York City instead of to Boston? Wouldn’t they rather we spend our travel/vacation dollars in our state rather than in another? I don’t like resort gambling casinos one bit but that was the governor’s and legislator’s rationale for bringing them to Massachusetts. So we would not take our dollars out of state.
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