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Amtrak Initiates Vermonter Service to Holyoke, Mass.

By August 27, 2015 No Comments
Platform at Holyoke

Crowds greet the arrival of the first Vermonter at Holyoke. Photo courtesy of MassDOT.

HOLYOKE, MASS.—On August 27, 2015, Holyoke officials and residents, joined by representatives from Amtrak and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, gathered to dedicate the city’s new train station and welcome the arrival of the first southbound Vermonter (St. Albans, Vt.-Washington). In late December 2014, the train’s route in Massachusetts shifted west to the Connecticut River Line. As a result, new stations opened at that time in Northampton and Greenfield, while the station in Amherst was discontinued. Speakers at the event included Holyoke Mayor Alex B. Morse, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito and State Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack.

Located in the Depot Square area at the crossing of Dwight and Main Streets, the $4.3 million station facility is within easy walking distance of Holyoke’s commercial and governmental core. Designed by Michael Baker Jr., Inc., it consists of a concrete platform with tactile edging. An angled canopy protects passengers from inclement weather. Station design was funded through a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Sustainable Communities grant while construction costs were covered by a MassWorks Infrastructure grant. One block to the north of the new station stands the historic 1885 depot that has not been used for passenger rail service since the 1960s.

City and state officials gathered for the dedication ceremony. Photo courtesy of MassDOT.

City and state officials gathered for the dedication ceremony. Photo courtesy of MassDOT.

The Vermonter reroute was made possible by the rehabilitation of the Connecticut River Line between Springfield and East Northfield, located just south of the border with Vermont. The Amtrak Montrealer (Washington-Montreal) used these tracks from 1972-1987, but later moved its path eastward due to deteriorating track conditions. At that time, the stop in Northampton was eliminated from the timetable and Amherst was added in its place. In spring 1995, the overnight Montrealer was replaced by the state-supported, daytime Vermonter.

Vermonter crosses bridge

The Vermonter is especially popular with those seeking views of striking fall foliage.

Work on the rail line included crosstie replacement, installation of continuously welded rail for a smoother ride, track surfacing and alignment and improvements to signal and communications systems and switches. The state, regional planning organizations and Amtrak believe the project, when completed, will produce a reduction in overall travel time for the Vermonter of approximately 25 minutes and improve on-time performance for the train. Upgrades to the rail line, owned by Pan Am Southern Railroad, were made possible through approximately $73 million granted under the Federal Railroad Administration’s High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program and $40 million in state funds.

In Fiscal Year 2014, ridership on the daily Vermonter increased 6.6 percent, providing service to more than 89,000 passengers. The train is financed primarily through funds made available by the Vermont Agency of Transportation, the Connecticut Department of Transportation and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.