NORTHAMPTON and GREENFIELD, MASS.—On December 29, 2014, the route of the Amtrak Vermonter (Washington-St. Albans, Vt.) in Massachusetts shifted west to the Connecticut River Line. As a result, new stations opened in Northampton and Greenfield, and the station in Amherst has been discontinued. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Amtrak expect to open a third station at Holyoke in 2016.
One week earlier, a special demonstration train carrying Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Congressmen Richard Neal and James McGovern, former Congressman John Olver, MassDOT Acting Secretary and CEO Frank DePaola and other dignitaries, toured the rail line and stopped at the new stations. In a press release from the governor’s office, Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman noted, “Amtrak is excited to add these stops in the Knowledge Corridor to our national network, providing additional connectivity to Western Massachusetts. We look forward to continuing our partnership with MassDOT as we further develop this route and add the Holyoke station later in 2015.”
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 shifted 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 (Washington-St. Albans, Vt.).
Work on the rail line included crosstie replacement, installation of continuously welded rail for a smoother ride, surfacing and alignment of track and improvements to signal and communications systems and switches. The state, regional planning organizations and Amtrak believe the project will produce a reduction in overall travel time for the Vermonter of approximately 25 minutes and improve on-time performance for the train.
Rehabilitation of the Connecticut River Line, owned by Pan Am Southern Railroad, was 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.
The stations in Northampton and Greenfield consist of temporary wood platforms that will later be replaced with concrete platforms. In Northampton, the station is adjacent to historic Union Station, and Main Street and the campus of Smith College are within walking distance. Running nearby is the Manhan Rail Trail, which offers access to an extensive system of biking and walking trails linking Northampton to neighboring communities. Numerous Pioneer Valley Transit bus routes also serve the Main Street-Bridge Street corridor.
In Greenfield, the station is located at the John W. Olver Transit Center, a short stroll from downtown shops, restaurants and other businesses. Passengers may take advantage of an indoor waiting room, restrooms, a small café and Wi-Fi. The transit center is the main hub for Franklin Regional Transit Authority and intercity bus routes serving the region.
When dedicated in May 2012, the transit center was the first net-zero facility of its kind in the country. It derives its renewable energy needs on site through the installation of 7,300 square feet of photovoltaic panels, 22 geothermal wells and other sustainable features.