Happening Now

Go West, Young Man

January 31, 2019

It's Time for Western MA to Have a Stake in the System

by Joe Aiello | Northeast Field Coordinator

In 2017, MA State Senator Eric Lesser brought a number of constituents to Boston from Springfield in order to promote bills that were being discussed at the time for a proposed “high speed” route between Boston, Worcester, and Springfield - the three largest cities in the Commonwealth. I, in my role then as Rail Passengers’ Council Member, joined the chorus of voices advocating for this route.

A section from my testimony:

“The Rail Passengers Association recently held our annual New England regional meeting in Springfield this past
August, based on the work going on in the “Knowledge Corridor” when it comes to passenger
rail as well as the redevelopment of Springfield’s Union Station. We were also there because of
the dire warnings coming out of DC.

If the current White House administration has its way, Amtrak long distance service could be
gutted and Springfield would lose it’s only current rail connection to Boston via the Lake Shore
Limited. Senator Lesser’s plan for a high speed line between the two cities could be the only
link that anyone west of Worcester has to the coast. The Commonwealth must step up to fill in
this gap, even if the threat from DC remains just that.”

While thankfully, for now, the threats against the National Network have subsided - work still remains to give the taxpayers in Western MA a stake in the system. The Boston to Albany segment of the Lake Shore would be a perfect opportunity for Amtrak to step up and try a more frequent corridor service - especially since they already have a deal with CSX for the tracks west of Worcester. But does that really solve the transportation issues that Massachusetts is facing? Would that be the best use of the $94M rehab of Springfield Union Station?

When he was reelected last fall, Senator Lesser made sure that people knew that this issue wasn’t going away for him. "It's not going to fall by the wayside. There's way too many people who care too deeply about this and know how important it is -- from the business community to the advocates, to just everyday people," he said following an event at Western New England University. "We're not going to let it go away." He has been holding strong to this promise.

MassDOT held their first meeting of the “East-West Rail Study Advisory Committee”, with Senator Lesser and US Representative Richard Neal involved, in December and the 12-18 month study should be starting in early 2019. With expanded service between Springfield and Greenfield coming this year and the success of the Hartford Line (not to mention the opening of the brand new MGM Springfield casino, the Basketball Hall of Fame, and Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden - just to name a few of the top things to do in Springfield) - the time is perfect for the Commonwealth to supplement the current Amtrak link and create a high-capacity and more frequent service between Boston and the Knowlege Corridor.

My hope is that one day Springfield train service will need it’s own multi-modal Regional Rail plan - and that I can attend those meetings via a 90-min ride on the rails.

Then I can “grow up with the country”.