For the second year in a row, Massachusetts lawmakers have sent a clear signal that high speed rail in the state’s western region is not a priority — and one Springfield City Council hopeful has some choice words for them.
Last week, state house negotiators sent a $40.2 billion state budget to Governor Charlie Baker, MassLive reports. Missing from that budget was a proposal from state Senator Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow) to study the feasibility of connecting Boston to Springfield via HSR. According to MassLive, the proposal was dropped behind closed doors, and the governor hasn’t seemed too excited about it in the past. Although the study was included in last year’s budget, Baker vetoed it. State lawmakers, however, have approved a $1.5 million study to consider connecting North Station and South Station, two hubs in Boston.
That move (which will close a one-mile gap) “adds insult to injury” for people in Western Massachusetts, who feel ignored by the state capitol, Springfield City Council candidate Victor Davila said in a statement released over the weekend.
“A high-speed rail system can transform the region’s economy by making jobs available that otherwise would not be within reach of residents that don’t have reliable transportation,” Davila said. “This is an imperative study that must be approved.”
He’s not the only one who feels that way. From MassLive:
Lesser’s plan earned support from more than two dozen lawmakers, including state Sen. Don Humason, R-Westfield, and state Rep. Carlos Gonzalez, D-Springfield, as well as the Greater Boston and Greater Springfield chambers of commerce.
Supporters said a high-speed rail line connecting Boston, Framingham, Worcester, Palmer and Springfield would give workers in Western Massachusetts access to higher paying jobs in expanding industries, while Boston residents could move to communities with lower costs of living.
In March, Lesser praised the Boston connection, but added that “the idea that in one breath that can be embraced and east-west rail can be dismissed is something that all of us in Western Mass. see and feel time and time again and should be very outraged over.”
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.