New rail service that could give a push to the downtown economy of Northampton Massachusetts is on the city’s agenda tonight. City planners, business owners and residents will meet with representatives from the state Department of Transportation at the inaugural meeting of the city’s new Passenger Rail Advisory Committee.
Mayor David Narkewicz appointed the panel to oversee the federally-funded return of an Amtrak station to the downtown area. Jody Ray is with Mass D-O-T. He says he and other state representatives will present an overview of the what’s being called the Knowledge Corridor project. That’s the revised version of Amtrak’s Vermonter line, planned to run from New Haven through Massachusets and as far north as Vermont’s border with Canada. There will be new stops in Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield Massachusetts. Ray says the Northampton committee members have a lot of logistical work ahead.
“Do they want a pronounced bus connection and how would buses get in and where would they sit while they were cuing to match up with train times. How much walking activity do they expect. Or do they expect people to mostly drive to the station. So it’s those types of things that the town needs to really decide how they really want it to fit into the fabric of the community.”
Ray says the committee’s first major decision will be to pick a site. He says railway infrastructure upgrades such as track tie and grate crossing replacements all along the route will begin by next week. The meeting is scheduled for seven this evening in the Council Chambers of the Puchalski Municipal Building.