SPRINGFIELD- The Springfield City Council voted unanimously on Monday, June 20th in favor of Sen. Eric P. Lesser’s legislation requiring the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to conduct a study on the feasibility of passenger rail access between Springfield and Boston. The measure unanimously passed the Massachusetts Senate in May. In March 2016, this same bill was given a positive recommendation by the Legislature’s Transportation Committee.
Speaking on the Senate floor in favor of the study, Senator Lesser said, “Much of what we focus on is making sure all the people of our Commonwealth have equal access to opportunity. A growing component of that is regional inequality. And we cannot have a functioning Commonwealth if all the growth, if all of the job opportunities are concentrated in the Boston area.”
The City Council echoed Senator Lesser’s sentiments, writing in a resolution sponsored by Councilor Shea: “Improving the existing rail connection between Springfield and Boston will help us connect people, ideas, and jobs, having a transformative effect on our entire region. The Springfield City Council goes on record as supporting Massachusetts Senate Bill 1849, An Act to Study the Feasibility of High-Speed Rail Access Between Springfield and Boston.”
Councilor Shea commented, “Effective rail, if we’re able to obtain that, really opens up our economy, our job market and our housing market. This is evidenced by what has happened in Worcester, and evidenced by all the towns in Connecticut served by Metro North. It’s unfortunate that Western Mass has gone this long without this service.”
Currently, the fastest existing passenger rail link from Springfield to Boston, Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited, only runs once a day and takes 135 minutes. Improvements to the existing infrastructure could mean trains running at 70 mph or higher, cutting travel times down to 90 minutes, with multiple departures per day.
Recent discussion of east-west rail comes at a crucial point for transportation development in Western Massachusetts. An $83 million renovation of Union Station is expected to be completed by the end of this year, which will serve as a new transit hub, combining North-South and East-West rail with regional and intercity bus service.
In addition, the reconstruction of the “Knowledge Corridor” and the pending completion of the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail project will bring a steady flow of rail passengers through Springfield. Downtown Springfield is also expected to attract thousands of new visitors due to upcoming openings of the MGM Springfield casino and the Dr. Seuss Museum, along with the establishment of both the Springfield Cultural and Innovation Districts.