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With federal money available, East-West rail commission plans first hearing on Boston-Springfield passenger service

MassLive.com 11/29/2022 Jim Kinney, masslive.com
U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal and Gov. Charlie Baker hold a press conference to discuss East-West Passenger Rail at Union Station in Springfield Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 23, 2022. © Leon Nguyen | hnguyen/masslive.com/TNS U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal and Gov. Charlie Baker hold a press conference to discuss East-West Passenger Rail at Union Station in Springfield Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 23, 2022.

SPRINGFIELD — The Western Massachusetts Passenger Rail Commission — created this summer to come up with a permanent body to manage, and enhance, passenger rail through the region — will host its first meeting Dec. 9 in Pittsfield.

Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner speaks at Union Station in Springfield Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 23, 2022. © Leon Nguyen | hnguyen/masslive.com/TNS Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner speaks at Union Station in Springfield Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 23, 2022.

The 11 a.m. meeting is at Berkshire Innovation Center, 45 Woodlawn Ave., according to a recent official announcement from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. It’ll also be available via a livestream on the MassDOT website.

Governor Charlie Baker speaks about East-West Passenger Rail at Union Station in Springfield Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 23, 2022. © Leon Nguyen | hnguyen/masslive.com/TNS Governor Charlie Baker speaks about East-West Passenger Rail at Union Station in Springfield Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 23, 2022.

The 19-member commission’s job will be to review proposals and cost-benefit analysis from the previous East-West rail study that came out two years ago. While Amtrak will run the trains, staff them and sell the tickets, the state will come up with an entity to secure funding and govern the project, either the Western Massachusetts Rail Authority favored by outgoing Gov. Charlie Baker and others, the MBTA or something else.

Besides east-west rail, the commission will study existing north-south service through Springfield, including CTrail’s Hartford Line, the Valley Flyer running from Springfield to Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield, and the Berkshire Flyer linking New York City and Pittsfield.

In October, the state announced that Valley Flyer service would be permanent, having passed its two-year trial

The agenda for Dec. 9 calls for public comment.

The commission will host a total of six hearings with the other five not yet scheduled, said Eva deCharleroy, a staff member for the Senate chair of the commission , Brendan P. Crighton, D-Lynn.

The commission is looking at dates in December and January and locations in Springfield and in Hampden and Hampshire counties.

The Baker administration has said it plans to apply by the end of the year, and the end of its term, for federal money available to rail projects in the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law helped on its way to passage by U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D–Springfield, chairman of the Ways & Means Committee. That law has $9 billion for Massachusetts and $66 billion for Amtrak.

Springfield mayor Domenic J. Sarno welcomes U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal and other officials to Union Station Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 23, 2022. © Leon Nguyen | hnguyen/masslive.com/TNS Springfield mayor Domenic J. Sarno welcomes U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal and other officials to Union Station Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 23, 2022.

Also, the state has until Dec. 1, Thursday, to apply for part of $1.4 billion in Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement (CRISI) grant funding, said Dana Roscoe, principal planner and transportation section manager for the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission.

In June, Springfield Union Station received $1.75 from the CRISI program for track upgrades include additional platforms, additional crossover tracks, storage tracks, a new layover facility, and other work that will support the Amtrak Springfield Line, the CSX Boston Albany Line, and small segments of the former Armory Branch and Knowledge Corridor, which runs north from Springfield through Holyoke and Northampton to Greenfield. Enfield, Connecticut, got $13.9 million toward new station

U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal steps out of Amtrak’s “theatre car” at Union Station in Springfield Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 23, 2022. © Leon Nguyen | hnguyen/masslive.com/TNS U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal steps out of Amtrak’s “theatre car” at Union Station in Springfield Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 23, 2022.

Rep. William Straus, D-New Bedford, is the House chairman of the new commission.

U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal and Gov. Charlie Baker having a converstation at Union Station in Springfield Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 23, 2022. © Leon Nguyen | hnguyen/masslive.com/TNS U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal and Gov. Charlie Baker having a converstation at Union Station in Springfield Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 23, 2022.

Also appointed to serve on it are state lawmakers from Western Massachusetts: Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Sunderland, Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, D- Northampton, Rep. Bud L. Williams, D-Springfield, Rep. Todd M. Smola, R-Warren.

Also serving are state Sens. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, Adam Gomez Sr., D-Springfield, and outgoing state Sen. Eric P. Lesser, D-Longmeadow.

Lesser, a longtime champion of the project, is leaving office having run unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor.

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Governor Charlie Baker steps out of Amtrak’s “theatre car” at Union Station in Springfield Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 23, 2022. © Leon Nguyen | hnguyen/masslive.com/TNS Governor Charlie Baker steps out of Amtrak’s “theatre car” at Union Station in Springfield Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 23, 2022.

©2022 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit masslive.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

An Amtrak’s “theatre car” arrives at Union Station in Springfield Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 23, 2022 from South Station in Boston.

An Amtrak’s “theatre car” arrives at Union Station in Springfield Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 23, 2022 from South Station in Boston.
© Leon Nguyen | hnguyen/masslive.com/TNS
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