Our Opinion: Long way to Grand Central Station
The purchase by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation of the Berkshire Line from the Housatonic Railroad for $12 million is certainly good news for the Connecticut-based company and is potentially a step toward restoring passenger rail service between Pittsfield and New York City. Without a major financial commitment from Connecticut, however, this train is going nowhere.
The Housatonic Railroad will continue using the tracks and improved rail lines are certainly better than the status quo. To justify that kind of expenditure of taxpayer money by DOT, however, service cannot be limited, as state Representative William "Smitty" Pignatelli of Lenox said recently in The Eagle, to the tracks between Pittsfield and Sheffield. Connecticut must step up and improve its rail lines.
Unfortunately, there does not appear to be anyone in Connecticut comparable to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick in terms of advocacy of expanded passenger rail service. The Pittsfield-New York City link depends on upgrading tracks from the Massachusetts-Connecticut border to Danbury, Connecticut, where trains would link with the existing Metro North tracks to Grand Central Terminal. As of now, there is no reason to believe that restoring the border-Danbury link is on a front or even a back burner in Hartford.
Berkshire residents are able to drive to Wassaic, N.Y., on Route 22 to ride Metro North to New York City, and if the rail line would extend its service to Chatham, N.Y., as was once the case on those rails, the county would benefit, even though passenger service would not come through the Berkshires to Pittsfield. Massachusetts, of course, has no influence on either Metro North or New York State.
Under either of these rail scenarios, Berkshire County is at the mercy of another state, Connecticut or New York. In the case of the Massachusetts plan, without the border-to Danbury rail upgrade no passenger train will make it to the promised land of Grand Central Terminal, and the train depots in the four Berkshire communities identified by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission as favorably located will be very quiet.