Massachusetts U.S. Senator Ed Markey has unveiled new legislation calling for the creation of a massive intercity rail network across the Northeast and the rest of the country.
The Massachusetts Democrat heralded the new bill on a conference call with reporters in late May.
“My bill – the Building Rail Across Intercity Networks To Ride Around Interior Of The Nation Act, or the BRAIN TRAIN Act – will authorize $5 billion of annual investment in high performance intercity rail projects, for a total of $25 billion over five years,” said the senator.
Markey said the investment would offer wide-ranging benefits.
“Passenger rail is an essential ingredient for a healthy economy, a healthy environment, and a healthy workforce," he said. "Studies consistently show that expanding passenger rail improves mobility, enhances safety, promotes economic development, generates new jobs, and protects the environment.”
He said Congress hasn’t done enough to expand the service.
“Although resources have been allocated to fixing and preserving existing services, insufficient funding has been dedicated to developing new routes and restoring passenger rail in communities that are left behind as the modern economy has developed,” said the senator.
Markey says the BRAIN TRAIN Act will specifically address some long-standing and unrealized Massachusetts rail projects, “including East-West rail, South Coast rail, and a Berkshires-Housatonic railroad line," he said. "I’m confident that each of these projects would benefit from the federal funding in my legislation, and that will make it available to them, and that the BRAIN TRAIN Act will create new connections between Boston to Pittsfield, with connections in Springfield along the way. Boston to New Bedford and Fall River and the Berkshires to New York City.”
The plan would make Springfield the state’s hub for passenger rail.
“We can connect all of the midsized cities throughout New England," said Markey. "It’s about Boston and beyond.”
Markey promised that the rail service would be affordable, safe, and environmentally friendly, and that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden had “indicated a strong interest in this subject.”
“I’m proud that my legislation has been endorsed by local organizations in the Western Massachusetts Rail Coalition, as well as national groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council, Transportation For America, and the Rail Passengers Association,” said Markey.
House Ways and Means committee chair Richard Neal of the first Massachusetts district was on the call. The Democrat is Markey’s partner on the project in the House.
“I met with Speaker Pelosi yesterday with Peter DeFazio and Steny Hoyer, the majority leader, in the speaker’s office and we spent an hour and a half talking about infrastructure – which, when Ed and I came to Congress, used to be the easiest thing to do – there was just broad agreement that it had to be done,” said the congressman.
Neal pointed to the success of North-South rail.
“Sixteen more trains a day from New Haven to Hartford and 12 to Springfield," he said. "I convinced the governor to do the study, which I hope that they will narrow the perspective on that in coming days if not weeks.”
Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer endorses the bill, noting that the city – the largest in Massachusetts’ westernmost county – often feels disconnected from the rest of the state.
“The idea that we would have rail access – the ability to get on a train and quickly get to Springfield or Worcester or Boston – is something that many people in our city have dreamed about for a very long time,” said Tyer.