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MassDOT Board Hears Comments from Berkshires

Local leaders in Berkshire County submitted their comments to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation yesterday in North Adams. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports that officials made it clear to the board that funding to the county’s public transportation is inadequate.

At the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s monthly board meeting, held in North Adams yesterday afternoon, local officials brought their complaints with them to the 7-member board.

To make a point State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield spoke up about how she considered taking the bus to North Adams from Pittsfield, typically about a 40 minute drive.

Gary Shepard, Administrator for the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority, put the Berkshire County travel times another way.

Shepard announced that 65% of riders have no car, ridership is up especially among the elderly riders, and that the limited funding for the BRTA not only holds back the potential of public transit for the area, but also hinders economic growth. He said the riders simply need more.

The BRTA with Regional Transit Authorities across Massachusetts did receive this week 13.2 million in left-over federal funding. The BRTA is using the money to purchase four new minibuses, however Shepard said that the new vans will only replace existing vehicles and will not help expand service.

Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey said that across the Commonwealth, residents are asking for more.

But Davey did acknowledge the needs of the Berkshires. At the meeting a report from the Rail and Transit Division outlined the need for a new safety signaling program for commuter rail in the Eastern part of the state. Davey pointed out a striking contrast.

Rep. Bouvier also commented on the lack of a return the Berkshires make on their investment through the sales tax to public transportation across the Commonwealth.

The MassDOT Board will also be meeting tonight in Pittsfield as part of their “Your Vision, Our Future” program, to hear comments from the public on ways to improve the area’s transportation.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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