Support the reintroduction of passenger rail service in Berkshire County
Factsheet: Housatonic Railroad TIGER III Grants
The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and the Northwestern Connecticut Council of Governments each submitted a significant application for funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER III) program. The purpose of these projects is to totally rehabilitate 17.7miles of main line track (9.5 miles in Connecticut and 8.2 miles in Sheffield, Massachusetts) which will immediately improve safety for the current freight usage but also will be a significant step in allowing the future reintroduction of passenger freight service between the Berkshires and New York City.
BerkshireCountyRail Improvement Project: The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission requested $11.0 million to rehabilitate 8.2 miles of the Housatonic main line in Sheffield (from the Connecticut line to the Great Barrington town line). The project includes bridge improvements, new ties and welded rail (replacing the 1908 rail which is rapidly deteriorating and not up to needed weight and safety standards), safety upgrades, renewing turnouts and improving all grade crossings. The total project cost is $11.7 million with the Housatonic Railroad providing $738,000 in match.
Northwest Connecticut Rail Rehabilitation Project: The Northwestern Connecticut Council of Governments requested $13.2 million to rehabilitate 9.5 miles of the Housatonic main line in Litchfield County, replacing 90-140 year old rail with new ties and welded rail, and replacing highway grade crossings, and turnouts. The work involves 2 miles in Kent, 4 miles in Cornwall, and 3.5 miles in North Canaan. The project also builds a siding, replaces existing passing sidings, and rebuilds a spur, serving Specialty Minerals and Becton Dickinson (two very large employers). The total project cost is $15.5 million with $2.3 million in non-federal match provided by the railroad.
Importance of Passenger Rail Service Project
The reintroduction of good passenger rail service between the Berkshires and New York City has been identified as one of the two most important strategic economic infrastructure investments for the future of the Berkshires. Its importance can only grow over the coming years with ever-increasing gas prices. As most people in this region know, the New York metro area is our most important tourism market, many part-time residents come from that area, and it is one of the most important business centers in the world. Having decent passenger rail service is important in both maintaining and growing all aspects of our local economy.
The Housatonic Railroad has completed a market study which shows, very conservatively, that there would be 2 million one-way trips made annually between the NY metro area and northwest Connecticut and the Berkshires if service is in place. The estimated economic impact in northwest Connecticut and the Berkshires (primarily the Berkshires) is $625 million of additional economic impact, 733 new construction jobs and 610 permanent new jobs, $29.5 million in additional state and local tax revenues, and $55 million in new federal tax revenues over the first decade of service. As with ridership, these are conservative estimates.
The Housatonic Railroad is proposing to provide privately operated, non-subsidized passenger rail service along the line. They would interface with Metro-North Railroad in either Brewster, NY or Danbury, CT, with service between Pittsfield and Grand Central Station in New York. Total operating time between Pittsfield to Grand Central would be under four hours. In the Berkshires, it is preliminarily expected that there would be stops in Pittsfield, Lenox Dale, Lee, Stockbridge, Housatonic, and Great Barrington with a final stop in Massachusetts right at the Sheffield/Canaan line (station locations and needs still have to be determined). The very rough preliminary total cost for necessary track improvements, station facilities, and engines and cars is approximately $200 million. The two grants submitted will cover 20 percent of the total needed track improvements, which is a significant step in our final goal. Even in the interim, this will improve the safety of the tracks for the current freight train usage and will help protect the significant jobs at two Connecticut manufacturers who employ a large number of Berkshire County residents.
Influencing Grant Decision-Making
The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Raymond LaHood, is the decision-maker on awarding TIGER grants. He has been instructed by President Obama to make decisions by the end of December. This timeframe leads us to believe that these will be heavily political decisions as there won't be enough time for a full review of the 828 applications submitted early in November from a technical standpoint. It is critical that Secretary LaHood hear from you and that the U.S. Senators from both Massachusetts and Connecticut, the affected Congressmen and both Governors hear from you and realize this is important to their constituents!
While general letters of support are very helpful, including some specifics about how getting this project going is important to you or your business or organization is the most beneficial.
Nathaniel W. Karns, A.I.C.P.
BERKSHIREREGIONAL PLANNING COMMISSION
1 FENN STREET, SUITE 201, PITTSFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS 01201
TELEPHONE (413) 442-1521 · FAX (413) 442-1523 TTY: 771 or 1-800-439-2370
PLEASE CONTACT IMMEDIATELY
Raymond LaHood, Secretary
U.S.Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20590
The Honorable John F. Kerry
218 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
The Honorable Scott Brown
359 Dirksen Senate Office Building
State House, Room 280
Boston, MA 02133
(888) 870-7770(toll free - in-state)
(617) 722-4005(phone - out-of-state)
The Honorable Joseph I. Lieberman
706 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510