HOLYOKE — After 50 years, passenger train service returns here Thursday (Aug. 27).
“This is a big deal,” said Marcos A. Marrero, director of the city Department of Planning and Economic Development.
Mayor Alex B. Morse will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 12:30 p.m. Thursday at the new Holyoke Passenger Rail Platform at Depot Square, Main and Dwight streets.
The first train, southbound, is due at 1:45 p.m., Marrero said.
The schedule for the Amtrak Vermonter coming through Holyoke is for a daily southbound train to arrive at 1:45 p.m. and a daily northbound train to pull in at 3:49 p.m., including weekends, he said.
Amtrak is moving away from ticket booths posted at stations and platforms, he said, and going online is the recommended ticket-buying method at Amtrak.com.
Passenger rail service last operated here regularly in 1965 at the H.H. Richardson train station at Bowers and Lyman streets (built in 1883 and designed by famous architect H.H. Richardson).
Amtrak stopped serving Connecticut River communities north of Springfield in 1989 when deteriorating track conditions forced the railroad to shift the route to the east, adding time and complications to the trip.
Tracks paralleling the river and the busy Interstate 91 corridor, called the Knowledge Corridor Line, were rehabilitated in a $120 million state and federal project. The federal stimulus program provided $73 million of the $120 million, with the state making up the rest.
Construction began in December on the Holyoke $4.3 million rail platformand has been done for weeks. Amtrak construction engineers inspected the site Aug. 10 and approved its use, officials said.
The H.H. Richardson station is unsuitable because the track curves at that location and modern trains are unable to stop there, officials said. The revamped train line has passed through Holyoke since December while Holyoke’s new platform was under construction.
For now, the Vermonter is the only train currently serving the route north of Springfield, with one daily trip north ending in St. Albans, Vermont, and one trip south to Washington D.C. through New Haven, Connecticut, New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore each day.
But Marrero and others have said the hope is that the Holyoke platform and the ongoing redevelopment of Springfield’s Union Station into an intermodal transit center with offices and some retail will generate economic spinoff.
A state study on the possibility of increased rail service, including east-west from Boston through Worcester to Springfield and north-south from New Haven to Montreal and beyond is due by the end of 2015, officials have said.