Consultant Says Getting New Intercity Rail Passenger Service Takes Persistence

A consultant told those seeking rail passenger service from western Massachusetts to New York City that the process is all about finding money to fund the service.

“The list is long where there was no money,” said Vinay Mudholkar, an international transportation consultant. “There will be no railroad if you don’t push hard.”

Mudholkar said that advocates for the service must use finesse and tenacity in dealing with government bureaucrats and railroad companies.

“You have to have that fire in you — don’t say you don’t have the money,” he said during a public hearing in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

The campaign to start the rail service is being headed by Karen Christensen, who is on a quest to restore intercity rail passenger service over the Housatonic Line between Grand Central Terminal in New York and Pittsfield.

The line lost passenger service in 1972 and is now operated for freight service by the Connecticut-based Housatonic Railroad

The State of Massachusetts has acquired 37 miles of track between Pittsfield and Canaan, Connecticut, with the idea of restoring passenger service.

But the project has lagged due to doubts about Connecticut’s ability to invest in track upgrades.

The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission has estimated it could cost $200 million to rebuild the track between Pittsfield and Danbury, Connecticut.

Massachusetts transportation officials may use The Berkshire Flyer, a seasonal weekend line, as a pilot to test the New York-Pittsfield market.

That service would offer service from New York Penn Station to Pittsfield via Albany on Amtrak.

Some lawmakers also want to upgrade rail service between Boston and Pittsfield, which is current provided by on Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited.

Mudholkar said government officials need to act quickly and not let the existing rail fall apart.

He also urged building a working relationship with the freight rail company using the line. “Don’t create animosity,” he said.

Acknowledging that it won’t be easy, Mudholkar said getting money for rail service is never easy. “You’ve got to have that spirit,” he said. “It’s easy to say, ‘We can’t do anything.’ ”

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