Legislature’s Final Budget includes Senator Lesser’s Feasibility Study on East/West Rail

BOSTON-  On Thursday, June 30th, the Massachusetts House and Senate voted to approve the FY17 budget, which includes a requirement for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to conduct a feasibility study on high speed passenger rail access between Springfield and Boston. The budget passed 38-1 in the Senate and 150-3 in the House. “I’m grateful to my colleagues for their support of this measure,” Senator Lesser said. “There is broad bipartisan consensus that East-West rail can create new economic opportunities and new jobs in all parts of the state. A thoughtful and thorough study is the first step towards making this project a reality.”

Jeff Ciuffreda, President of the Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce, said, “I’m glad the legislature has made high-speed rail a priority. We have consistently felt that a train from Springfield to Boston has the potential to revitalize businesses in Western Massachusetts, and open up opportunities for our neighbors in Boston, as well.”

The budget directs the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to conduct a study to determine the costs and benefits of expanding rail service between Springfield and Boston. The measure also requires that the study outline any of the cultural or economic benefits that the Springfield area will see as a result of the rail link.

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 transportation 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.