PALMER — Following a series of studies, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation announced its official recommendation for Palmer to have a station along the proposed Compass Rail during its Board of Directors meeting on Jan. 17.

MassDOT Rail and Transit Administrator Meredith Slesinger stated at the meeting that the state hired consultant The Regional Transportation District in December 2023 to begin “public outreach, site selection, identification of station amenities and access [and] environmental scoping.” RTD began this process in January, initiating the 18-month “Planning and Design” phase, MassDOT said.

Slesinger explained that the department’s 2024-2028 Capital Investment Plan included $4 million to design Palmer Station. The plan also notes that $8 million is to be given for rail improvements at Pittsfield station and $1.75 million for work on tracks in Springfield.

Following the planning phase, an operations plan for the Palmer Station will likely be created as part of the Federal Railroad Administration’s Corridor Identification and Development Program for the Boston and Albany Corridor, MassDOT stated.

For Ben Hood and Anne Miller, founders of Citizens for a Palmer Rail Stop, this recommendation reaffirms the announcement in July 2023 that Palmer would receive funds for a study of the station.

After founding their organization in 2015, Hood and Miller began advocating in Palmer for a train station. Yet, there was hesitation about whether the town could afford to construct a station, Miller said. She called the state’s adoption of the project “the best-case scenario” because it helped to ensure the project’s funding would remain intact.

Palmer is ideal for a train station due to its central location between Worcester and Springfield, as well as its connection to Amherst, Hood said. He explained that Palmer was shown as a clear choice through multiple town and state studies over the past nine years. In addition to his involvement with Citizens for a Palmer Rail Stop, Hood is also the State Appointee for the Palmer Redevelopment Authority.

Although a specific location for the Palmer station has not yet been selected, Hood and Miller emphasized that the town’s historic Union Station, now Steaming Tender Restaurant, worked well to connect the Compass Rail with the proposed northwest-running Central Corridor Line.

Furthermore, Hood stated that a station in Palmer’s downtown business district would revitalize the area in addition to bringing more housing and development to the town. He explained that multi-town meetings have shown “tremendous regional support” for the Palmer station from businesses,

organizations and residents across Monson, Ware, Amherst and even Stafford Springs, Connecticut.

State Rep. Todd Smola (R-Warren) also expressed his excitement for the official recommendation, stating in an interview that the decision was a “long time coming.” He thanked Gov. Maura Healey’s administration for their work on the Compass Rail project.

Smola emphasized Palmer’s history as “the town of seven railroads,” saying that a Compass Rail station in Palmer could only bring positive economic growth for the region.

“I think [Palmer] can be that hub again,” he said.

While Smola acknowledged that progress has been “not as aggressive as we want it to be” in recent years, he stated that those involved in the project currently had the “greatest momentum.”

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