One of our long-time supporters is Fred M. Cain of Topeka, Indiana. He has given us permission to share some of his observations about the Berkshire Line and related developments. First, some comments on the article about California high-speed rail we shared recently:

Hi Karen,

I have some thoughts that I’d like to share on this. It was mentioned that fares will never come even close to recovering the huge cost of the project. Of course they won’t. What’s left unsaid is that’s not what the project was meant to do. It was intended to help solve transportation problems – not make money and distributions to shareholders.

What I believe really went very badly wrong here is that billions upon billions were completely wasted on environmental mitigation, litigation and design and engineering issues. Billions were spent that could’ve gone toward construction.

The Cato Institute provides no answers on how to address and resolve that. Cato is so anti-rail that it borders on the irrational. They would make I-5 16 lanes if they could do it to “solve” California’s transportation problems. They don’t want to see the problems fixed, they just want to shelve it altogether so that “no more money will be wasted on it”.

On the other hand, in Connecticut, improving the Berkshire Line to handle passenger train speeds of 79MPH will merely involve the improvement of an existing facility and infrastructure. This ought to be a no-brainer. My advice would be to allow the existing railroad to do this rather than the state and just let the state reimburse the railroad for their expenses. That should work as it has in the past on other rail projects.

Fred also sent some thoughts about the benefits of having the Berkshire Line routing through South Norwalk and Stamford, not simply using the proposed Danbury-Southeast connection to New York:

My thinking about a Berkshire Line routing through South Norwalk and Stamford is two-fold.

First of all, I suspect that might be the fastest route. The South Norwalk – Woodlawn stretch mostly has four tracks whereas most of the Brewster Line has two tracks.

The other thing is that there has been an on-again, off-again, on-again, off-again plan to electrify the Danbury branch whereas I doubt they’d ever electrify the Maybrook Line west of Danbury. As things seem to stand now, the electrification of the Danbury branch appears to be “on again”. The State didn’t think they had the money to electrify the line but this new federal infrastructure bill might have changed that.

It would, of course, be ideal to do both routes. If both routes were done, folks in both south Westchester and Fairfield County could ride the train on the weekends to the Berkshires for skiing trips.

I most certainly continue to support what you’re trying to do! I think you’re gonna get there. The light is at the end of the tunnel now!

However, having said that, I would also strongly support a rebuilt Maybrook line possibly for other reasons.

The Maybrook line was once a very important artery, a “kingpin” you might call it, on freight moving in and out of Southern New England. It could be and should be so again.

The amount of huge trucks moving over the GW Bridge and onto the Connecticut Turnpike is an horrific nightmare. It was already bad 40 years ago and is without doubt much worse today.

A rebuilt Maybrook Line could serve a large container facility in the New Haven area and reduce truck traffic on the western end of the CT Turnpike.
The trouble is that the Poughkeepsie Bridge had some serious structural issues and would have to somehow be reinforced or possibly be replaced with a new structure much like the bridge at the Letchworth State Park. Then, on the west side of the Hudson, the tracks are gone and would need to be rebuilt.

Reviving the line has been talked about since at least the late 1970s but nothing ever seems to happen.

Nevertheless, it would be a great project that would provide jobs and greatly improve and facilitate freight traffic moving in and out of Southern New England. Then, if some of the Berkshire Line trains would end up using it, so much the better.