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Holyoke rail scheduled for 2014 departure


May 31, 2013
Reminder Publications submitted photo

Reminder Publications submitted photo

By Chris Maza

chrism@thereminder.com

HOLYOKE — When the first passenger train on the new rail line passes through, the city of Holyoke will be ready for it.

Mayor Alex Morse told Reminder Publications that the city's rail platform would be built before the Amtrak Vermonter rail line upgrade is completed as part of a $17 million investment is being made to rail lines in the Knowledge Corridor.

"Our hope is to begin construction in August and have it completed by December," he said. "It will be complete even before the rail project is done, which is expected to be the spring of 2014."

Currently, trains roll past Holyoke as the only two stops on the line are in Springfield and Pelham. In addition to Holyoke, stops in Northampton and Greenfield would also be re-introduced.

Morse called the re-establishment of passenger rail service in Holyoke, which has been absent for nearly 30 years, a major coup for citizens and local commerce.

"When I took office, there was no plans for a rail stop in Holyoke," he said. "It's important for us to have one. It was identified by both residents and businesses alike as something that would help boost development in the area."

Near-final plans for the project were presented to residents at a public hearing on May 21.

"We are approaching 100 percent design of the platform and were ready to share it with the public," he said.

Renderings, which are available in PDF format through Morse's Facebook page and on the city's Twitter feed, @HolyokeCity, display no station, but a long passenger platform, including a covered area and small parking lot in what has been designated Holyoke Depot Square.

The construction of the platform is being funded by a $2 million grant through the state's MassWorks Program.

"Essentially, it's a pot of money that the state uses for infrastructure projects," Morse said.

The platform will be located at the corners of Main and Dwight Streets, adjacent to the original rail station, which was designed H.H. Richardson.

Morse explained that, in addition to connecting the Flats neighborhood with the downtown/City Hall area, the location of the new platform would fit in with the city's transportation oriented development plan.

"The placement of the platform is connecting it with the Multimodal Transportation Center," he said, referencing the bus terminal that was built and the former Holyoke Fire Department headquarters on Maple Street that renovated in a $9 million project that was completed in 2010. "In addition to bus services, people could easily walk or bike to the train station."

Morse added the rail line could provide an economic boost for the area in which it is planned.

"By planning in that area, we're hoping it will bring in more interest from businesses in investing and developing in that neighborhood because it will be more accessible," he said.

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