Is It Time to Bring Passenger Service Back to a Historic Connecticut Railroad?

Jan 7, 2014

A train on the Housatonic Railroad in Canaan, Connecticut in 2004. Legislators are exploring the possibility of investing in the historic tracks and reopening them to passenger service.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

A group in Connecticut would like to see passenger service restored to the Housatonic Railroad and Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty seems willing to explore the idea. The 90-mile-long Housatonic Railroad was chartered prior to the dawn of the Civil War and runs from Massachusetts to Danbury. Currently, it serves only freight trains. Its last passenger train ran in 1971.

Speaking on WNPR's Where We Live, Esty said if the Housatonic Railroad reopened to passengers, it would allow for train service between the Berkshires and New York City, which could be an economic boon to the region. Esty said representatives from the railroad told her they could restore passenger service to the line in three years if they had the money, but Esty said Connecticut would need cash from Uncle Sam to make that dream a reality. "I'm really going to bear down and see what we can do," she said. "We know what the roads are like here. We don't have a lot of opportunity to increase our footprint, [and] we don't want to for our roads and our highways. We absolutely need to be looking at rail."

Last year, Massachusetts identified $113 million in planned track upgrades, which Colin Pease from the Housatonic Railroad said is expected to be approved as part of Gov. Deval Patrick's transportation budget this month.