HOLYOKE – Although the official opening of the train stop in the city attracted a large audience on Aug. Aug. 27, perhaps there was no person more enthusiastic than Stephen Tracy.
Wearing an Amtrak t-shirt, Tracy held a ticket stub to the last passenger train that served Holyoke in 1967. He noted the last Amtrak train in Holyoke was the Montrealer that ended service in 1966. He said the opening of the passenger platform and the re-routing of the Amtrak Vermonter train through the city was a “step in the right direction.”
For Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, the establishment of the stop and the Amtrak service is the first step in a discussion of additional rail in Western Massachusetts.
Pollack said the Commonwealth must have a statewide rail plan to determine the feasibility of additional rail service beyond Amtrak.
“The train station can really create a jump start,” Pollack said. She added it could add new investment to a community and add value.
She noted the importance of “The Knowledge Corridor,” essentially the area defined from Hartford, CT to the Springfield area and said that in an examination of future rail service the Knowledge Corridor is one of the most important.
When asked if future rail service locally would be modeled after the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority that provides commuter rail service to Boston and Worcester, Pollack said it would not.
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito called the passenger platform in Holyoke “transformational” and believes to could be a catalyst for a discussion on east-west rail service.
Polito said that having rail service in Holyoke could attract more young professionals to the city.
Mayor Alex Morse said, “This is exactly what progress looks like for Holyoke.”
The city will now be a stop on the Vermonter and will see a train come through the city twice a day – one trip north and one trip south. Morse noted passengers on the train could go as far north as St. Albans, VT and as far south as Washington, D.C.
“The return of passenger rail to Holyoke represents a critical component of our revitalization strategy to transform downtown Holyoke. With expanded rail service, this project has the ability to enhance our connectivity to the metropolitan area and improve the real estate market in our Center City. I’m proud of the work we’ve accomplished as a City to make this happen, with the strong support, guidance and resources provided by our partners at the State and Federal levels,” Morse said.
State and federal funding paid for the $4.3 million passenger platform.
The stop doesn’t have a ticket office and riders should buy their tickets at Amtrak.com or 1-800-USA-RAIL. The Holyoke stops bears the abbreviation “HLK.”