Overview

The Central Corridor is the link afforded by the New England Central Railroad between Brattleboro, Amherst, Palmer, Storrs, Willimantic, New London and regional economic and cultural centers. It is an underutilized asset for economic development.  The goal of the Central Corridor Line is to upgrade the rail line to accommodate growing freight traffic and facilitate expansion of passenger trains.

The route serves:

  • Two large state universities: U-Mass and U-Conn, along with smaller colleges like Amherst College and Connecticut College (the tracks run through both campuses)
  • Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino: Destination for more than 1 million visitors
  • Commuters who travel between Willimantic, Norwich and New London
  • Regional travelers from and to the area and nearby cities reached by existing or planned connecting trains and ferries to Long Island.

Amherst's brick train station with cupola, viewed from the trainThe proposed line would run past 13 colleges and universities, including the University of Connecticut, with 25,000 students, and the University of Massachusetts, with 27,000 students. Together, U-Mass and U-Conn account for over 35% of the total student population attending state universities in New England.  New London and Willimantic combined also have a college population of more than 11,000.

The track is currently operational, carrying freight between New London and Canada. The goal is to upgrade the track to accommodate passenger rail service and increase the track’s freight capacity to expand manufacturing and shipping opportunities in eastern Connecticut and western Massachusetts.

The cost of upgrading the NECR line in Massachusetts to continuous welded rail (CWR) with a bearing capacity of 286,000 Ibs. is estimated at about $18 million — cheap, in the world of transportation projects.

Diesel multiple unit trains are proposed for this service, which are economical to run and a fitting scale for the towns they’ll serve.

Palmer Train Station with CSX on the left, NECR on the right and the ghosts of passengers future on the platform
Courtesy Phil Opielowski, sevenrailroads.com

The east–west “Inland Route” from Boston through Worcester to Springfield is planned for improvement, with an important passenger stop at Palmer. A central passenger hub at Palmer would ease transit between UMass/Amherst, UConn/Storrs, and colleges, universities and destinations in Springfield, Worcester and Boston.

Train service offers environmental benefits and a better life for the community:

  • Relieves traffic congestion on secondary roads and strain on paving budgets.
  • Reduces fuel consumption and particulate emissions.
  • Lowers greenhouse gas emissions
  • Improves traveler productivity
  • Raises property values and encourages smarter land-use
  • Enhances public safety.

With casino gambling in Massachusetts close to becoming a reality, Palmer is a leading contender as a casino site, bringing additional travelers. The Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville (already the destination of 1 million visitors a year) and Foxwoods casino in Ledyard serve as important tourist destinations with major cultural and sports events. The Mohegan Sun casino is directly on the NECR line, and the site Mohegan Sun has proposed for a Palmer casino is just under a mile from the Palmer depot. The Foxwoods casino is within easy reach of the Central Corridor Line by bus.

Total population of communities on the Central Corridor is 305,559 —  plus 528,330 more in abutting communities in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

 

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