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New Forecast Suggests MassDOT Underestimated East-west Rail Ridership

PIONEER VALLEY — Yesterday, state Sen. Eric Lesser joined Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin; Kimberly Robinson, executive director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC); and Lyle Wray, executive director emeritus of the Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG) for a virtual press conference announcing significant ridership findings based on a new sketch-level analysis on east-west passenger rail in Massachusetts.

The analysis was prepared by AECOM for CRCOG and PVPC and comes as a follow-up to the Metro Hartford-Springfield Rail Improvements Economic Impacts Study released in April, which demonstrated an addition of up to 40,000 jobs over 30 years and an economic return-on-investment ratio of 10:1.

The East-West Rail Sketch Level Ridership Forecast Update showed that, with the inclusion of direct service to the Hartford line in the east-west rail forecast, ridership estimates increase by 54%. This significant increase in ridership numbers, coupled with the economic-impact study results, comes at a pivotal moment as the $1 trillion federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act moves through negotiations in Congress.

“East-west rail is going to do more than link two regions, it’s going to link all of Western New England with all of Eastern New England,” Lesser said. “MassDOT needs to take this research into account and update their feasibility study to include the economic-impact analysis prepared by PVPC and CRCOG as well as this forecast update from AECOM. Now is the time for east-west rail, and with partners like Mayor Bronin, PVPC, CRCOG, and our federal delegation, I believe that we can get this done to create jobs, address skyrocketing housing costs, and increase economic opportunity for all of our communities.”

Bronin added that “this analysis proves what we already know: east-west rail between Springfield and Boston will make a huge difference for communities in our region. Increasing rail connectivity between cities in the Northeast isn’t just about convenience — it’s about job creation, housing opportunity, and economic growth. I want to thank Senator Lesser for his partnership and his leadership on behalf of Southern Massachusetts, as well as the PVPC and everyone at CRCOG, and of course Congressman [Richard] Neal, who has been a tireless advocate for east-west rail. East-west rail is long, long overdue, and we need to work together to make it a reality now.”

Robinson noted that “today we are again acknowledging the fact that, in order for this once-in-a-generation project to be completed, we will need to work together with our regional partners in Connecticut to present not a singular rail project existing in a vacuum, but rather a critical component of a larger rail system connecting Boston to New York City through a climate-resilient and economically empowering inland route. The real-life ridership figures already enjoyed by the smaller-market, lower-frequency, and longer-travel-time Amtrak Downeaster line tells us a metro Hartford-Springfield line will succeed, and the recent economic-impact study conducted on such an inland-route connection has provided us with a warning of the high-opportunity cost of not completing this project.”

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