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Sen. Markey Meets With Western Mass. Mayors


Massachusetts U.S. Senator Edward Markey has been in western Massachusetts the last two days. Markey met with mayors in North Adams, Northampton, Pittsfield and Springfield.

After meeting with Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno in his city hall office Tuesday afternoon, Markey said the common denominator to help boost the economies of the cities of western Massachusetts is transportation.  He said he is hopeful Congress can strike a deal to keep federal funds flowing to highway, bridge, and rail projects for the next three years.

" We need to increase the funding for transportation that makes it easier for mayors to do long term planning so economic development can be done in conjunction with that," said Markey.

The Senate has passed a 6-year federal highway bill, but the House agreed to only a three-month extension.  Short term fixes to keep the Federal Highway Trust Fund solvent have been the rule in Washington for several years now because of partisan gridlock.

Markey said his goal is to get Massachusetts about $1 billion in federal funding for transportation projects over the next three years.

" It is to make sure there is a long term predictable source of funding and so that Massachusetts gets its fair share and Springfield gets its fair share, " said Markey.

The state’s junior Senator said he supports efforts by fellow Democrat U.S. Representative Richard Neal of Springfield to expand east-west passenger rail across Massachusetts.

" It is something I very much support and we are working hard to put that funding stream in place because that is the most difficult part of the entire project," said Markey.

Sarno said he supports a long term fix to federal transportation funding.

" It is good for everyone whether Democrat or Republican because it is economic development and generation of jobs and commerce has to move back and forth," said Sarno.

Transportation is a hot topic in Springfield this summer where a $230 million 3-year project to repair the elevated portion of I-91 through the city’s downtown is getting under way.  Sarno said he and Markey also discussed the progress of the $80 million renovation of Union Station that is expected to be completed next year.

Markey said he is trying to get more federal money to help combat the opioid addiction crisis in Massachusetts.

" We have to think of this in an integrated fashion so we can reduce the impact this epidemic is having on our country," said Markey.

Figures released last week by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health show the number of opioid-related deaths in 2014 was higher than originally thought and there are no signs the addiction epidemic is abating.  There were 312 suspected drug overdose deaths in the first three months of this year.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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