Sen. Eric Lesser’s East-West Passenger Rail Bill Receives Favorable Recommendation by Transportation Committee

A bill filed by Sen. Eric P. Lesser calling for a feasibility study of passenger rail service between Springfield and Boston was given a positive recommendation by the Legislature’s Transportation Committee on Friday. “Today's favorable vote by the Transportation Committee is an important step forward for this bipartisan legislation. East-west rail will open new opportunities for our families, businesses and communities and will spur new economic growth in Springfield and the entire region. I'm grateful for the Transportation Committee's support, and look forward to continuing work with my colleagues on this vital legislation,” said Sen. Lesser, who is also a member of the Transportation Committee and voted in favor of the bill.

“It is important that we not only address the immediate needs of our transportation system, but also continue to think about the long-term opportunities of investment in statewide expansion projects,” said Senator Thomas M. McGee, Senate Chair of the Transportation Committee. “Projects such as this one are vital to our economy and have the potential to more easily connect people to jobs, educational institutions, and medical facilities.”

“Exploring the idea of rail service between Springfield and Boston will promote the region and all it has to offer,” said Rep. William Straus, House Chair of the Transportation Committee.

The bill, which was heard by the Transportation Committee in late February, has received bipartisan support from legislators throughout the Commonwealth.

Following the positive vote from the Transportation Committee, the bill will need to pass both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and be signed into law by Governor Baker.

Sen. Lesser’s bill enjoys bipartisan support from both legislative chambers, including Transportation Committee Chairman Thomas McGee, and Sens. James Welch, Donald Humason, Jr., Benjamin Downing, Anne Gobi and Ryan Fattman in the Senate.

In the House, Sen. Lesser’s bill is co-sponsored by Chairman Joseph Wagner, and Reps. Aaron Vega, Carlos Gonzalez, Brian Ashe, Jose Tosado, Thomas Petrolati, Benjamin Swan, Angelo Puppolo, Jr., John Scibak, John Velis, Ellen Story, Michael J. Finn, Peter V. Kocot, William Smitty Pignatelli, Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Antonio F. D. Cabral, and Chris Walsh in the House.

Currently, the fastest existing passenger rail link from Springfield to Boston, Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited, only runs once a day and takes 135 minutes. Improvements to the existing infrastructure could mean trains running at 70 mph or higher, cutting travel times down to 90 minutes, with multiple departures per day.

Recent discussion of east-west rail comes at a crucial point for economic development in Western Massachusetts.

An $83 million renovation of Union Station is expected to be completed by the end of this year, which will serve as a new transit hub, combining North-South and East-West rail with regional and intercity bus service.

In addition, the reconstruction of the “Knowledge Corridor” and the pending completion of the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail project will bring a steady flow of rail passengers through Springfield. Downtown Springfield is also expected to attract thousands of new visitors due to upcoming openings of the MGM Springfield casino and the Dr. Seuss Museum, along with the establishment of both the Springfield Cultural and Innovation Districts.

Sen. Lesser has made east-west rail a high legislative priority, and wrote an op-ed on the issue during his 2014 state Senate campaign.