Lesser Amendment to Study High-Speed Rail Passes Senate Unanimously

BOSTON — On Thursday afternoon, the state Senate voted unanimously to approve a budget amendment sponsored by Senator Eric P. Lesser to study a high-speed rail line between Boston and Springfield. “More than bringing economic development to communities outside of Boston, high-speed east-west rail would go a long way toward solving Boston’s housing crisis by offering a faster commute to the city from areas with more affordable housing. This is why this proposal continues to receive unanimous support in the Senate and is gaining support from the business community and others across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts who see its potential,” said Sen. Lesser.

Days before the vote, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce endorsed the proposal to study high-speed rail from Boston to Springfield.

In January, Sen. Lesser reintroduced his bill in the Massachusetts State Senate to require the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to move forward with a feasibility study of Springfield-Boston high-speed rail. The same bill passed both the House and Senate last year but was vetoed by Gov. Baker.

Since then, the proposal has continued to gain support, including high-profile endorsements from U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton.

In the state Senate, there was a rare widespread show of support for the measure. Senate President Stan Rosenberg of Amherst voted to support the amendment when the Senate President, who presides over the chamber, customarily abstains from votes. Sen. Karen Spilka, Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, also spoke in favor of the amendment, a gesture rarely used by the Chair of the committee, which writes the draft of the Senate budget.

Several Senators spoke in favor of the amendment before its passage.

“I support the high speed rail feasibility study from Boston to Springfield and thank my colleague Senator Lesser for his leadership on this initiative,” said Senate Majority Leader Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester).  “The rail would pass through Worcester, connecting not just two, but three major cities in the Commonwealth.  I know that the residents of Central Massachusetts would benefit from a high speed rail line that would provide them with more options to commute across the state.”

Sens. Anne Gobi and Donald Humason, both from Western Massachusetts, also spoke in favor of the amendment.

“Rail service is a necessary link to bring economic growth to our area. In the 1960's there were numerous daily trips between Springfield and Boston there is no reason, besides the funding and the will to do it, that passenger service can't flourish once again,” said Sen. Anne Gobi (D-Spencer).

“I’ve heard about the value of this proposal from residents across my district, and with good reason. Limited transportation options can put a damper on our economic development and impact families’ decisions to take advantage of so much that our communities have to offer,” said Sen. Don Humason (R-Westfield). “A comprehensive study will allow us to take the first step of considering important preliminary questions and develop a clearer understanding of the project’s cost to taxpayers and its economic benefits.”

The amendment will be included in the Senate version of the budget, which will be negotiated with House members before a final budget proposal is sent to the governor's desk.