Proposals from MassDOT Show High-Speed Rail and a Shorter Commute between Springfield and Boston Is Possible, Says Sen. Eric Lesser

SPRINGFIELD — The East-West Passenger Rail Advisory Committee met on Tuesday for a presentation from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) about the different construction options for delivering east-west passenger rail service between Springfield and Boston.

Of the six preliminary alternatives presented, one would bring 16 roundtrip trains through Springfield’s Union Station every day, traveling at a maximum speed of 150 miles per hour. Such a commute would bring passengers from Springfield to Boston in as little as 80 minutes. If the line extended to Pittsfield, a trip from that city to Boston would take approximately two hours and 10 minutes.

“This is a huge leap in the right direction from where we were two or three years ago, when people were ignoring the possibilities and saying this couldn’t happen. Now we are seeing real options for what East-West Rail would look like, and MassDOT has proven that high-speed rail between Springfield and Boston is possible to achieve,” said Sen. Eric P. Lesser, who is a member of the East-West Passenger Rail Advisory Committee, which is tracking MassDOT’s progress on studying east-west rail.

“We would still like to see what it would take to get the commute time down even shorter, and we need a study option including a stop in Palmer. Part of the reason for this study has to be about local economies, considering what the impact on economic development would be, and envisioning new commuter patterns instead of assuming that the way we get to work or travel the state now will stay the same for 20, 30, 40 years,” Sen. Lesser, who has advocated for a study of east-west rail since first running for office in 2014, added.

The high-speed rail option would require building new track infrastructure along the I-90 “Mass Pike” corridor, which would potentially generate thousands of construction jobs. The track would also have to be electrified to reach higher train speeds.

Other alternatives that fail to achieve this level of fast, frequent service, but were still presented at Tuesday’s meeting, include a slower diesel-powered train connecting Springfield to Worcester, where passengers would have to switch trains to complete the trip to Boston.

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Eric Lesser