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US Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh promotes infrastructure law during Springfield visit

Paul Tuthill
US Sec of Labor Marty Walsh speaks about the bipartisan infrastructure law at Springfield's Union Station. Also pictured (l-r) are Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. US Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA1), Chicopee Mayor John Vieau, Walsh, West Springfield Mayor William Reichelt.

At Union Station, Walsh meets with area mayors, planners, labor leaders

A member of President Joe Biden’s cabinet was in western Massachusetts Monday to highlight the bipartisan infrastructure law.

Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh traveled to Springfield’s Union Station, which was rehabilitated from a crumbling eyesore to a modern transportation center, where he talked about how the $1.2 trillion infrastructure law will spur economic growth.

“Right here where we are standing is what infrastructure means – good jobs and strong communities,” Walsh said.

Walsh met with mayors from seven cities, municipal planners, economic development specialists, and labor leaders from the building trades before heading up to the train platform for a news conference.

During the closed-door meeting with the local officials, Walsh said he stressed that the infrastructure law will give them the money for projects that have long been on the shelf.

“What this money does is it allows cities and towns to plan those projects moving forward and to get the investment from the federal government,” Walsh said. “It allows also for them to market their city to bring new business to their city, to build new housing in their city, and create opportunities in their city for their constituents and the region.”

Massachusetts expects $9 billion from the infrastructure law with billions more in grant funding available. The money is to go to repair roads and bridges, improve public transportation, build out broadband, and address climate change.

Walsh said the infrastructure law will also mean “good union jobs that can’t be outsourced.”

One of the municipal leaders who met with Walsh was Chicopee Mayor John Vieau. He said the city needs to make major and costly upgrades to its sewer and water infrastructure to reduce the amount of pollution in the Connecticut River and also to bring clean drinking water to houses near the Westover Air Reserve Base.

“We’re excited about doing all these projects and hopefully getting our fair share of this infrastructure bill money,” Vieau said.

Hosting the meeting with Walsh and the local officials was U.S. Representative Richard Neal, the Springfield Democrat who chairs the Ways and Means Committee.

“The secretary and I discussed with the mayors today our number one project and that is improved passenger service on east-west rail,” Neal said.

Walsh said, as a former mayor of Boston, he gets the importance of high-speed east-west rail.

“We were talking about West Station and creating a stop there so we can bring people in from western Mass to work in the city of Boston and people coming out to the western part of the state to go to work in Springfield and live in the city of Boston,” Walsh said. “That’s why we need this investment in high-speed rail.”

Amtrak is getting more than $60 billion from the infrastructure law and it is from that pot of money the funds could come to build a passenger rail line connecting Pittsfield through Springfield to Boston.

A MassDOT feasibility study last year estimated the cost at between $2.4 billion and $4.6 billion.