Feds give $108 million for east-west rail in Massachusetts
Track upgrades will be done between Worcester and Springfield
The federal government is putting major funding toward the longtime effort to connect western and eastern Massachusetts with high-speed passenger rail.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is putting $108 million toward a project to significantly upgrade an existing rail line west of Worcester to facilitate more frequent and faster passenger trains between Boston and Springfield.
“This is a huge step forward, a huge investment,” said Gov. Maura Healey.
She joined with Congressman Richard Neal and state and federal transportation officials at Springfield’s Union Station Friday to applaud the federal funding award.
Once the improvements to the track, signals, and other rail infrastructure is completed, Amtrak plans to add two daily trains to the route. Over some stretches of the new track, trains will be able to travel at speeds up to 80 mph. It means a trip between Springfield and Boston by rail could be accomplished in two hours.
There is no timetable for the project, which is still in the design phase, according to MassDOT officials.
Neal, an impactful and longtime advocate for improved east-west passenger rail service, said it will benefit the entire region.
“This is a huge economic boost for people who live in the (Pioneer) Valley linking with the city of Worcester and on to the city of Boston,” Neal said.
The additional east-west service would complement passenger trains now running north-south through Springfield’s Union Station including Amtrak’s Vermonter, the Valley Flyer between Greenfield and Springfield, and Hartford Line trains between Springfield and New Haven.
The federal funding comes from the bipartisan infrastructure law enacted in 2021. As the then chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Neal, a Democrat, helped write much of the legislation.
MassDOT will contribute $18 million and Amtrak $9 million to the project’s total cost of $135 million.
Proponents of east-west rail have long touted it as being beneficial for the entire state. It will, they argue, connect the western part of the state, where housing is relatively less-expensive to the innovation-driven economy in greater Boston.
“Our growth as a state, our destiny is tied to one another,” Healey said.
The availability of more frequent passenger rail service will also benefit the state by getting more cars off the highways, said acting state transportation secretary Monica Tibbits-Nutt.
“The project is anticipated to divert 15 million passenger miles annually representing a notable shift to more environmentally-friendly movement,” said Tibbits-Nutt.
The MassDOT capital plan includes money for additional east-west rail work. Track improvements are planned in Pittsfield and a new passenger rail station is to be built in Palmer.
MassDOT has two applications pending before the Federal Railroad Administration for more funding for the east-west rail project.