PITTSFIELD — A delayed experiment to improve tourist access to the Berkshires will finally roll out this summer, five years after it was awarded a grant.
Massachusetts and New York Department of Transportation officials said Monday that the Berkshire Flyer will provide limited train travel between New York and Pittsfield, starting July 8.
If adopted, the service — a Friday afternoon trip from Penn Station in Manhattan to Pittsfield and a Sunday afternoon return — could become a regular feature, officials say.
For now, it depends on subsidies and big marketing efforts, as well as the willingness of private track owners to allow rides.
The idea of providing a dedicated service to New Yorkers looking for weekend getaways in the Berkshires was proposed as early as 2017.
Despite the arrival of the pandemic in 2020, local officials hoped to test the service in the fall, until legal issues put the project aside.
“It took years to prepare,” Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, said in a statement. Hinds lined up initial funding for the Berkshire Flyer in 2017, seeing it as a way to grow tourism in the Berkshires.
In a 2020 interview, Hinds said one year of project funding included $240,000 to underwrite operations, a $30,000 fee for a program director, and $100,000 for marketing to build ridership. .
The service depends on a subsidy from the public sector, even with the sale of tickets to users.
A two-year pilot run, for 20 weeks a year, was due to start in the spring of 2020, then pushed back to the fall – then delayed by nearly two years.
On Monday, Massachusetts officials said the investment could pay off for the Berkshires.
“Western Massachusetts and the Berkshire area offer a wealth of cultural and recreational opportunities during the summer and we hope this pilot service will encourage even more visitors to this part of our state,” Governor Charlie Baker said. in a statement provided by the state. Department of Transport.
The service will depart Penn Station at 3:16 p.m. Friday and arrive at the Joseph Scelsi Intermodal Transportation Center at 1 Columbus Ave. in Pittsfield at 7:12 p.m.
On the way north, the train will make the same stops as a typical Amtrak Empire Service train, officials said. The Sunday return will depart Pittsfield at 3:00 p.m. and arrive in New York at 7:05 p.m.
Tickets will go on sale in May and will be available through Amtrak. For tickets, visit Amtrak.com or use the Amtrak app, or by visiting Amtrak ticket offices or calling 800-USA-RAIL.