Amherst Town Council resolution calls for east-west rail

  • An engine pulling a New England Central Railroad train through Amherst is shown in December 2016. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/21/2020 9:16:18 PM

AMHERST — Amherst has been without direct rail service since rebuilt lines through Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield, known as the Knowledge Corridor, opened in late 2014.

But even though it’s been a few years since Amtrak trains last carried passengers into Amherst, the Town Council this week adopted a resolution pushing for reviving east-west passenger trail, which would potentially restore use of the train depot at Railroad and Main streets.

The resolution, adopted by a 12-0 vote, with Precinct 1 Cathy Schoen absent, states that the town “supports east-west passenger rail connecting Springfield and Boston with a station stop in Palmer.”

Council President Lynn Griesemer said the Palmer Rail Steering Committee, appointed by the Palmer Town Council, brought forward the request for support. Griesemer said she was pleased to sponsor the resolution, recalling that her work at the University of Massachusetts regularly took her to Boston by car.

The resolution points out the benefits to having the new line, including that the flagship campus for UMass is in Amherst and employees and students would use the train to get to both Worcester and Boston, that congestion would be relieved on the Massachusetts Turnpike, and that it would reduce carbon emissions.

Such east-west rail would also bring back a train depot in Palmer, where several freight trains and a passenger train pass by each day.

In the past, Amherst officials, working with Palmer officials, pushed for investment in the Central Corridor rail line, a key aspect of east-west rail, that would have linked New London, Connecticut to Brattleboro, Vermont and preserved Amherst’s stop.

While Amherst was without passenger trains for many years, between 1989 and 2014, the Amtrak Vermonter used the Amherst stop as part of what was called the “Palmer Detour,” adding about 50 minutes to each trip.

A Save Our Stop Task Force also looked at alternatives for Amherst riders and issued a final report to the Select Board in spring 2010, which supported the Knowledge Corridor but also advocated for keeping the Amherst train depot and promoting economic development near it.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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