Senator Lesser Completes Whistle-Stop Tour Across State in Support of East-West Rail

Tour ended with rally in Springfield attended by more than 100 supporters

SPRINGFIELD — On Monday, June 19, Senator Eric P. Lesser took a whistle-stop tour across the state to raise support for his proposal to study a high-speed rail link between Boston and Springfield.

The tour began in Boston and ended with a nighttime rally in Springfield’s newly renovated Union Station, which was filled by more than 100 supporters waving “Rally 4 Rail” signs.

“Our taxes paid for the Big Dig. We’re still paying for the Big Dig. We pay the sales tax that supports the MBTA even though we’re 55 miles from the closest MBTA stop. And you know what? My guess is most of the people in this room will gladly pay their fair share and will continue to because we understand that a rising tide lifts all boats. And we benefit from a growing, vibrant Boston just as much as other communities and other people do. But the deal has to be fair,” Sen. Lesser told supporters.

“And we need the same investment and we need the same attention as every other region in this Commonwealth,” he added.

Unlike a traditional whistle-stop tour taken by train, Sen. Lesser drove most of the way in his car, since there is only one train per day from Boston to Springfield — making it impossible to make stops along the way and complete the journey on later trains.

The tour started with a press conference at Boston’s South Station, where Sen. Lesser was joined by his colleagues Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry and Sen. Joe Boncore, who each represent parts of Boston and Greater Boston.

From there, Sen. Lesser rode a MBTA commuter train to Framingham Station, where he was welcomed by Sen. Karen Spilka of Ashland, the chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Reps. Carmen Gentile and Jack Lewis also spoke in favor of increased east-west rail service, noting that in developed countries around the world, from Japan to Great Britain, shorter commute times due to efficient rail service are taken for granted.

Sen. Lesser then drove to Worcester, where he met with Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler and the Worcester Telegram Editorial Board to discuss the new economic development in downtown due to the city’s revitalization of its train station and increased commuter rail traffic to Boston.

Sen. Lesser also met with former Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, who is now President of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce.

From there, Sen. Lesser drove to Palmer, where he spoke to a packed room at the famous local restaurant, the Steaming Tender, a former train station. Sen. Anne Gobi and Rep. Todd Smola also spoke in favor of east-west rail and specifically about the goal of reviving a train stop in Palmer, which they said would bring new economic opportunities to the town and region.

Sen. Lesser finished the tour with an energetic rally in Springfield, where supporters joined him at Union Station despite the rainy weather.

Sen. Lesser was introduced by Rep. Carlos Gonzalez of Springfield and Sen. Don Humason of Westfield, showing that in Western Mass — as across the state — the proposal to study east-west rail has diverse bipartisan support from urban, suburban and rural communities.

This is the third time Sen. Lesser has introduced this proposal.

In May, Sen. Lesser reintroduced his budget amendment in the Massachusetts State Senate to require the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to move forward with a feasibility study of Springfield-to-Boston high-speed rail. The same amendment passed both the House and Senate last year with broad bipartisan support. But Gov. Baker vetoed the proposal after Peter Pan bus company owner Peter Picknelly sent an email to Baker personally lobbying against it.

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.

During the debate on Sen. Lesser’s amendment this year, there was a rare widespread show of support for the measure in the State Senate. Sens. Spilka, Gobi, Chandler, Humason and Adam Hinds all spoke in favor of the bill.

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. Lesser sees this widespread, bipartisan support of his amendment as a sign of growing momentum to get the proposal passed and signed into law by Gov. Baker.