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Markey Says Bipartisan Infrastructure Package Would Be The Ticket To East-West Rail

Paul Tuthill
U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) speaks at a press conference in Springfield's Union Station about the bipartisan infrastructure package.

Senator visits Springfield's Union Station to highlight available funds

Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey was in Springfield today to highlight a provision in the bipartisan infrastructure package that could pay to build an east-west passenger rail line across the state.

In an irony lost on no one, the Massachusetts Democrat was a half-hour late arriving for his news conference at Springfield’s Union Station because traveling from Boston he got stuck in heavy traffic on the Massachusetts Turnpike.

“The day is coming soon where people just jump on the train in Boston and say ‘I’m going to be in Springfield in an hour’,” Markey declared.

Markey was joined by local and state elected officials and passenger rail advocates from western Massachusetts as he spoke about the infrastructure bill that was passed by the Senate earlier this month and awaits a vote in the House.

It includes $12 billion that can be used for projects that advance intercity passenger rail projects that create new service, enhance service, or restore former service in unserved and underserved communities such as those in Western Massachusetts.

“Communities like Springfield and Pittsfield and towns all throughout the Berkshires have been denied these transformational investments for far too long,” Markey said.

A feasibility study conducted by MassDOT last year said an east-west rail project connecting Pittsfield to Boston through Springfield and Worcester could cost between $2.4 billion and $4.6 billion. The study projected ridership would be low – a conclusion that passenger rail advocates disputed.

Markey said if federal funding for an east-west rail project is available than “failure is not an option.”

Patrick Beaudry of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission pointed to a recent study that concluded building an east-west rail line as part of an inland route between Boston and New York City would bring a nine-to-one return on the investment.

“ I also want to point out that we recently saw Census numbers come out that showed commuter rail-served Gateway cities in some cases experienced double-digit growth while Hampden County held on for dear life,” said Beaudry.

Karen Christensen of Great Barrington, a member of the Western Massachusetts Rail Coalition said she was overjoyed to see the infrastructure bill recently pass the Senate.

“We strongly urge our Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives to pass this bill as quickly as possible,” Christensen said.

Based on the funding formula in the infrastructure package, Massachusetts would get a total of $8 billion, according to Markey. He said that would include $4.2 billion for road projects, $1.1 billion for bridge replacement and repairs, and $2.5 billion for public transit systems.

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.