Daily News

Sen. Eric Lesser Calls for East-West Rail at Western Mass. Transportation Forum

NORTHAMPTON — State Sen. Eric Lesser said the biggest step toward unlocking the vast economic potential of Western Mass. is solving the region’s transportation crisis. In a keynote address Friday at the Food Bank of Western Mass. Transportation Forum, the senator outlined a modern transportation network that would finally connect Springfield and its surrounding areas to Boston.

“In many ways, Western Mass. has an inverse challenge from Metro Boston. We have a fantastic quality of life; we have a lot to offer,” Lesser said. “Imagine if we had a one-seat ride — 80 minutes — from Springfield’s Union Station to Boston’s South Station 16 times per day. Think about what that would do for our communities. It would be a game-changer for us in so many ways.”

Lesser, who serves as the Senate chairperson for the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies and vice chair for the Joint Committee on Transportation, presented preliminary findings from MassDOT’s recent study of the service. One of the six alternatives touts the possibility of high-speed rail service between Springfield and Boston that could take as little as 80 minutes each way.

The senator also praised his colleagues in the Western Mass. delegation for their work toward enacting an equitable transit system statewide. Last month, the Valley Flyer program between Greenfield and Springfield started service, making it possible for commuters to travel from Greenfield to Manhattan and back on the same day.

Sens. Jo Comferford and Adam Hinds and Reps. Joseph Wagner, Mindy Domb, Dan Carey, Natalie Blais, John Velis, Lindsay Sabadosa, and Tricia Farley-Bouvier attended the forum as well.

“How many people here have a son or daughter, family member, or friend that grew up here in Western Mass., but had to leave to find a good job?” Lesser said. “I ask this question everywhere I go because our transportation crisis in Western Mass. shows us the cost of not investing in transportation — both in lost economic opportunity and in deeply personal ways such as this.”