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Editorial: More trains

Gov. Deval Patrick’s public transportation vision may be down but it’s not out.

Yes, the governor did not get all the money he wanted from the Legislature for his transportation bill. But that hasn’t stopped Patrick from continuing his efforts to improve public transportation options, particularly passenger train travel, in Massachusetts.

Last week, the governor and others, including officials from the Housatonic Railroad Co., traveled by rail between the state line in Sheffield to Pittsfield. That’s the passenger rail route in the Berkshires that Patrick wants to be part of a route that connects the Berkshires with Danbury, Conn., and the MetroNorth service there that reaches to New York City.

“I think we can afford the Massachusetts end,” Patrick said in published reports. “But I want to be clear. In order for us to warrant this investment on the Massachusetts side, we have to get Connecticut to participate as well, because I think the maximum potential is to go all the way to New York not just the Connecticut line.”

We think it has potential, too, for Franklin County residents, even with the future Amtrak service that will stop in Greenfield. If the Berkshire service was more often than once a day each way, we could see people driving to Pittsfield to catch these trains.

Adding those options to the proposed extension of MetroNorth service from New Haven to Springfield would be a significant step forward for public transportation in western Massachusetts.

Yet the governor sees other benefits to opening up this route.

“I think the potential economic impact is considerable, and the opportunity for job creation and quality of life is considerable,” Patrick said. According to a story in the Berkshire Eagle, a study done in 2011 by a Williams College professor found that restoring passenger train service between Pittsfield and New York City would produce $344 million in construction and services over a 10-year period.

That’s not exactly chicken feed.

And while the governor has set aside money in the transportation budget to rail line upgrades in the Berkshires, that’s not the only financial connection that has to be made here. Connecticut, too, has to see the value of extending service from Danbury north. And like what Patrick has seen, not everyone is necessarily on board or willing to make the kind of financial commitment — yet.

Yet there’s hope, especially if people like Gov. Patrick are willing to keep pushing for this service.

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