Lesser Amendment to Study High-Speed East-West Rail Passes Senate Fourth Year in a Row

Includes extension from Springfield to Pittsfield

BOSTON — For the fourth year in a row, the State Senate unanimously approved a budget amendment sponsored by Senator Eric P. Lesser to study a high-speed rail line between Boston and Springfield on Thursday.

For the first time, the amendment includes an extension of the rail link from Springfield to Pittsfield.

Although the Massachusetts Department of Transportation announced in January that it had included the study in its draft 2018 State Rail Plan, Sen. Lesser introduced the amendment again this year as an “insurance policy” to ensure that the study gets completed.

“Massachusetts has one of the strongest economies in the country right now, but that economic growth is not being shared across all our regions. Western Mass has waited too long for serious state investment, serious state consideration of this project, which could transform our region and unlock our full potential,” said Sen. Lesser.

“You cannot overstate the importance of connecting every region of the Commonwealth by passenger rail, thereby ensuring residents, visitors and people doing business in Massachusetts have ready access to major economic centers,” said Sen. Adam G. Hinds (D- Pittsfield).  “Investments in the Commonwealth’s transportation infrastructure are critical to ensure our region’s ability to grow and thrive. We need this feasibility study now, in order to determine how best to link Pittsfield to Springfield to Worcester to Boston by rail.”

As in past years, Western Massachusetts senators from both political parties spoke in favor of the amendment, urging their colleagues to support it.

“The prospect of commuter rail service for our communities is a step closer to reality with the passage of this amendment. It is imperative that a high speed rail study is undertaken in order to understand the needs and possibilities of our region. I appreciate the leadership of Senator Lesser on this amendment and look forward to working together on the project moving forward,” said Sen. Anne Gobi (D-Spencer).

“This study is part of a collaborative effort by the delegation from Western Massachusetts to ensure that the residents of the region have the access to transportation infrastructure they deserve. The feasibility study will give us the vital information we need to assess that the full impact, costs, benefits, and timeline of bringing high speed rail to our region,” said Sen. Don Humason (R-Westfield).

“For Western Massachusetts to be able to continue to prosper, this feasibility study is key to this mission and will a first step to connect our region with other economic hubs in the Commonwealth which has so many benefits to local businesses, job seekers, and visitors.” said Senator James T. Welch (D- West Springfield). “ And with the opening of the MGM Casino in August, the time to take this first important step is now. ”

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.