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Amtrak returns to Springfield’s Union Station concourse, new platform expected to open in four weeks

June 10, 2019
In The News

SPRINGFIELD — Amtrak showed off its new ticket window Monday and checked luggage drop-off on the first floor of Union Station.

The counter moves Amtrak customer service to the main concourse with the Peter Pan and Greyhound counters and vending machines selling tickets for both CTrail’s Hartford Line and its connecting Metro-North service. Amtrak is now just down the corridor from the PVTA intracity bus counter.

"Amtrak has been a real partner in this," said U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield. "And we look forward to expanded service north-south."

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said the new arrangement will enhance the visitor experience.

Thomas F. Moritz, assistant vice president of infrastructure an access for Amtrak said depots like Union Station are an important part of the national rail network.

"These historic stations are a part of our community's history," Moritz said.

The new first-floor counter includes office and cash handling space.

The old waiting room upstairs at track side will be converted to office space.

Neal, in town for a series of meetings and announcements Monday, was the driving force behind the $103 million rehab of Union Station, a project completed two years following 40 years of planning and effort.

The state of Massachusetts is also exploring the possibility of adding additional east-west trains from Boston through Worcester to Springfield or even Pittsfield.

As for now, Amtrak passengers buy tickets and make travel arrangements with staff on the main concourse, then walk upstairs to track side or take the elevator past the old waiting room to meet their trains on the existing platform. Getting on a train requires walking across the track and climbing up a portable stool.

But contractors are completing the new Platform C, an $11 million state-funded project to build a new high-level platform that’s handicapped accessible. Platform C will have its own, new stairwell and elevator to the hallway and concourse below.

It'll be open in about four weeks, said Kevin Kennedy, city chief development officer for the city of Springfield.

Expanded north-south service from Springfield to Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield will begin in late August or early September. There will four trains, one northbound and one southbound in the morning and one northbound and one southbound again in the afternoon.

It’s a two -year pilot program funded by the state. The new service was to have started at about now, but was held up by construction delays near Greenfield.

The new service will be a continuation of the north-south trains Amtrak already runs from New Haven to Springfield in concert with the Connecticut Department of Transportation's CtRail Hartford Line service.

According to Amtrak statistics, 99,400 riders took Amtrak from Union Station in 2018, that's up from the 88,200 who took Amtrak in 2017 and the 92,400 who took Amtrak in 2016. Numbers for CT rail ridership are not available.

Amtrak has four arrivals and six departures a day as part of the Hartford Line. An additional three arrivals and two departures a weekday day are CTrail trains with Connecticut's locomotives and cars.

Amtrak also has the north-south Vermonter and two additional daily Northeast Corridor trains that go as south as Virginia. The Lake Shore Limited, one stop in each direction each day, is the only east-west train.

"It's coming together, " Kennedy said. "Slowly but surely. Which is how everything has been with Union Station."

Kennedy said the Springfield Redevelopment Authority is in talks to rent out more office space in the station's upper floors and with a possible restaurant and bar operator.

The station already has a convenience store, a Subway and a Dunkin Donuts.

Union Station still gets a subsidy from the city. But that subsidy is shrinking as the station gets busier.

The amount of city funds requested for the new fiscal year, beginning July 1, is down approximately 23 percent -- from $1,265,000 this fiscal year to $980,000 next fiscal year.

Kennedy spoke of the crowds who came out for a Community Music School Concert in the concourse.

“That’s what we need more of,” he said.