Massachusetts State Sen. Eric Lesser's bid to get an official state study of the prospect of linking Boston and Springfield with high-speed rail service will get a hearing before the Transportation Committee next week.
Lesser has proposed the east-west rail study twice before. Once, it was vetoed by Gov. Charlie Baker after passing both branches as a budget amendment. And this year, it was included in House-Senate budget negotiations, but did not survive talks between branch leaders.
To build support for his bill (S 1935) ahead of the Transportation Committee's Tuesday hearing, Lesser unveiled a new page on his campaign website that relays the stories of people in his district and how they would benefit from east-west rail. Visitors can fill out a form to contribute to the site.
"It's time to refocus the conversation about Springfield-Boston rail where it belongs: you and your family," Lesser said in a statement. "Other elected officials in the state might think differently on this issue if they hear the stories I hear every day in my district: how the lack of fast, reliable rail service is preventing young people from seizing opportunities, preventing family members from visiting each other, even preventing cancer patients from getting to their appointments on time."
Some excerpts from the stories posted on Lesser's website:
My daughter who lives in Worcester does not drive, so whenever she comes to visit, I must drive 2 hours to bring her to my home for the day, then another 2 hours round trip to bring her home. - Wendy Deshais, Palmer, Mass.
I work in an industry that is heavily concentrated in Boston, and the jobs that used to be in Hartford have mostly moved to other locations. As a result, if I want to leave my current position I will likely be unable to find work locally and my family will have to move away. - Jen Fromm, Longmeadow, Mass.
I live in Boston but I love visiting Western MA especially during the summer. Greyhound/Peter Pan goes out there but it can get expensive. - Amanda Tarbet, Boston, Mass.
Lesser's bill, which has 26 bipartisan co-sponsors, directs the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to "examine and evaluate the costs and economic opportunities related to establishing high-speed rail service between the cities of Springfield and Boston," including capital and operating costs, projected revenue, estimated ridership levels, environmental impacts and potential regional economic benefits.
The Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on Lesser's bill and others Oct. 24 at 10 a.m. in Hearing Room A-1 at the State House.
This report was originally published by the State House News Service. Heather Brandon contributed to this post.