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Gov. Charlie Baker and Congressman Richard Neal are calling for a Western Mass. Passenger rail authority that would apply for federal funds for east-west commuter rail and administer such a program. 

The joint call for a rail authority came after what Neal called a “historic meeting” Tuesday on east-west rail attended by Baker, Neal, Congressman James McGovern, and most all members of the Western Mass. legislative delegation to Beacon Hill. 

There was no timeline announced for a new east-west rail line, and there are many hurdles still to be cleared, including the securing of funding, but Tuesday’s meeting marked a step forward for the rail project, with Baker announcing support for the plan. 

At a press conference following the meeting, Baker, who has long been accused by some backers of the project as being opposed to the initiative, said that rather than opposition, he simply has questions about the bold endeavor. 

He told those assembled that he would like to see the state Legislature take up the formation of an authority by the end of this session later this summer. 

Funding for the east-west rail project, projected to cost from $1 billion to $2.4 billion or more, could come from the $1 trillion federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, which would be available later this year.