A hearing of the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation took up a long-awaited petition, and an accompanying bill, that would kick off the feasibility study of high-speed rail access between Springfield and Boston.
The bill in question (S.1849), was sponsored by State Senator Eric P. Lesser. If passed into law, it would require the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to conduct a feasibility study relative to high-speed rail access between the city of Springfield and the city of Boston.
The scope of the study includes, among other things, the projected capital costs; projected operating costs and revenue estimates; availability of federal, state, local and private sector funding sources; projected ridership levels; the prospect of operating high-speed rail service on existing rights of way and other operational issues; and the environmental and community impact estimates.
The study would also consider the resulting Greater Springfield economic development benefits. At the moment, the lion’s share of economic development in Massachusetts is occurring in Greater Boston. Easing travel between eastern and western Massachusetts would bring some of that economic and wage growth west to Greater Springfield.
State Senator Eric P. Lesser, who testified at the Joint Committee on Transportation hearing on this bill, said in his testimony that high-speed rail is an idea whose time has come, and added that it would transform Western Massachusetts.
But the fastest existing passenger rail link from Springfield to Boston is Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited, which only runs once a day and takes 135 minutes. So fast travel between Springfield and Boston now relies on roads and cars. High-speed rail would reduce travel time from the current 135 down to 90 minutes or less, make it safer, and would enable multiple departures per day.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has already created a capital investment plan to fund high-speed rail to Springfield, and also examines the possibility of extending high-speed rail service north to Montreal and south to New York.
This would be in line with what was envisaged by the United States Congress in 2004 when the Northern New England Corridor, one of ten federally designated high-speed rail corridors, was extended from Boston to Springfield, MA and Albany, NY, and from Springfield to New Haven, CT. If the 489-mile corridor were to be completed, high-speed trains could travel from Boston to Montreal in about four and a half hours.