Building momentum; CSX, commuter rail, airport linked.
The deal with CSX two years ago, last week's announcement that more commuter rail service is coming, and interest in Worcester Regional Airport from the likes of JetBlue are not isolated developments.
Along with CitySquare and other construction shaping new contours downtown, these advances interconnect like links in a chain. They strengthen each other, and point Worcester toward a pleasant future.
CSX's conversion of its rail yard in Worcester to a modern hub promised from the start to result in more commuter trains to the city. Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray, a longtime commuter-rail proponent, said when the deal was announced in February 2010 that the net effect of CSX's shifting the bulk of its Boston operations to Worcester would be to reduce freight hauling between the two cities - clearing track for more state-run commuter trains.
This October, Massachusetts will buy 21 miles of commuter rail track along the Worcester-Framingham line. The delightful upshot: Mr. Murray said seven weekday roundtrips will be added to the current 13 roundtrips between Worcester and Boston, which could include at least one express train that stops along the way only in Framingham. The additional service will be phased in, with a couple of roundtrips added by the end of this year and the rest coming next year.
The fuller train schedule will be a big plus for those who work in Boston, attend classes there or in Framingham, or who make frequent trips eastward and enjoy the convenience and thrift of going vehicle-free. The arrangements with CSX have taken much negotiation, complicated by the region's congestion, the sharing of track, and the need for improvements along the lines. Considering all that, for residents who ride the rails it does not seem to have taken long for the benefits of the deal to pull into the station.
For bus riders, the WRTA's upcoming central transfer hub at Union Station will connect still more dots.
Easier commutes and a more attractive downtown are bound to complement one another, each helping keep the other going.
That same synergy can only help lift Worcester's airport, a few miles to the west and far from idle, despite Direct Air's sudden shutdown this year.
During a visit to the Telegram & Gazette editorial board last week, David S. Mackey, interim chief executive officer of airport owner Massport, said Worcester Regional Airport has "a great future." General aviation is strong and getter stronger, he said, and the airport is generating considerable interest on the commercial side.
He said Rectrix Aviation's arrival has been a huge boost, helping bring airfield upgrades and enhancing the airport's interconnectedness with other Massport general aviation facilities. A major infrastructure improvement eyed for Worcester's airport is a Category III instrument-landing system to address visibility issues related to the hilltop setting.
Mr. Mackey pointed out that the now-bankrupt charter operator Direct Air had excellent passenger loads to and from Worcester, data that is not lost on decision makers at other carriers.
Indeed, JetBlue's CEO, David J. Barger, said via tweet last week that he would be at the airport Aug. 22 on an assessment visit.
Transportation is no small thing; it translates to business growth, housing, jobs, and citizen satisfaction. Many meetings and plans have gone into giving the city its current momentum. There's more track to lay on all fronts, but Worcester is getting there.
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|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Aug 5, 2012|
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