Congressman Neal unveils regional rail study

July 28, 2016 | G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD – If the plan detailed by a federal rail study was implemented, there would be eight new daily round trips between Boston to New Haven, CT, added, as well as a daily Boston to Montreal, Canada, round trip and a New Haven to Montreal round trip added.

All of this new rail service would pass through Springfield.

Congressman Richard Neal announced the results of the study at a press event on July 20 and said he sees the funding of the plan a matter of “regional equity” in Massachusetts in light of a proposed expenditure of more than $2 billion to expand the Green Line of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority by six miles.

The Northern New England Intercity Rail Initiative would add more frequent and higher speed intercity passenger rail service on two rail corridors, the Inland Route and the Boston-to-Montreal Route. According a statement released by Federal Railway Administrator Sarah Feinberg, “More than two million people live within three miles of a station along this corridor. For everyone to move safely and efficiently, this region needs a robust rail system, and this blueprint will help achieve that goal.”

Neal said the plan would cost $1.7 billion to implement and could be financed between the three states and the federal government.  He added the Baker Administration in Massachusetts and the Mallow Administration in Connecticut have agreed to meet to begin discussing the proposal in the fall.

The $700,000 federal study has been long in the making as Neal said the initial effort to have it undertaken was in 2005.

Tim Brennan, executive director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, said the benefits for the enhanced rail system would be “multi-fold.” He noted the greater number of trains and the connections between the three states and Canada would offer greater access to the Pioneer Valley for economic development and offer some relief in the effort to affect climate change.

“It’s a substantial investment, but one long recommended,” Brennan said.

State Sen. Eric lesser welcomed the news of the report as he has been advocating for a greater rail link between Springfield and Boston.

“This is very, very good news,” Lesser told Reminder Publications.

The reason the report is significant is that is puts the inland route within its proper broader context,” he said.

Lesser said the next step is a “close collaboration” between the states.

He noted the Commonwealth’s plan to expand the Green Line is “perfect exhibit A” in the “serious imbalance in how state money is spent.”

Lesser added the increased rail service would “reinstate Springfield as the intersection of New England.” 

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