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Maura Healey on East-West Rail: 'We'll get this done'

Healey_Union_Station.jpg
Paul Tuthill
/
WAMC
Attorney General Maura Healey spoke outside Union Station in Springfield on Sept. 9,2022 during her first visit to western Massachusetts as the Democratic nominee for governor.

Campaigns in Springfield for the first time as the Democratic nominee for governor

The candidates at the top of the Democratic ticket in the November elections came to Springfield today to talk transportation.

Attorney General Maura Healey made her first campaign stop in western Massachusetts as the Democratic nominee for governor on Friday, visiting Union Station in Springfield where she once again said she is all onboard with the area’s signature transportation project – East-West Rail.

“We’ll get this done and that is my promise to you,” Healey said. “I will work as a teammate along side all of you in delivering for this region.”

A transportation plan her campaign released last month calls for the appointment of a project director for East-West Rail.

Acknowledging there are transportation needs in every part of the state, Healey said there is no reason why given the vast sums of federal money now available that the most pressing ones can’t be addressed.

“We can do two things at once, you know, we probably can do three or four things at once,” Healey said. She the MBTA in eastern Massachusetts is “a debacle” and needs to be fixed because of it’s a functioning public transportation system in greater Boston is vital to the state’s economy.

Since officially securing the Democratic nomination for governor on Tuesday, Healey has visited Worcester, the South Coast, and now western Massachusetts to assure that if elected in November she will pay attention to each area’s unique needs.

“This is Springfield, home to basketball, and basketball is a team game and this is what it is about: people working together at the local, state and federal level to get things done and move us forward,” Healey said. “That’s what excites me so much about the job I am seeking and asking the voters across Massachusetts to support.”

Healey faces Trump-endorsed conservative Republican Geoff Diehl, a former state representative, in the November election.

Healey and her running mate for lieutenant governor, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, were joined in Springfield by a large group of prominent Democratic office-holders including U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia, and several state legislators from throughout the region including State Senators Adam Hinds and Eric Lesser, both unsuccessful candidates this year for lieutenant governor.

Neal observed that the effort to expand passenger rail service in western Massachusetts began in earnest during the administration of Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, that Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, once skeptical is now a supporter, and the East-West Rail project could finally launch during a Healey administration.

“We’ve never been closer to East-West Rail than we are right now,” Neal said. “I know the availability of funding for the state right now. It is the best in my lifetime.”

The Springfield visit by Healey and Driscoll was also a unifying moment after the sharp east-west divide that was on display in the results of the primary for lieutenant governor. Lesser, of Longmeadow, dominated in the four western-most counties, while Driscoll rolled up victories in the higher population counties of central and eastern Massachusetts.

“I want to say how excited I am to get to work to elect our first female pair- Democratic governor and lieutenant governor of Massachusetts,” Lesser said.

Lesser, who will be out of elective office in January when his senate term expires, said he will continue to advocate for East-West Rail, but told reporters he is unsure in what capacity.

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.