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MassDOT Study On East-West Rail Service To Look At Options

The rail platform at the Joseph Scelsi Intermodal Transportation Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Adam Frenier
The rail platform at the Joseph Scelsi Intermodal Transportation Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

A study of rail service options between Boston and western Massachusetts will look into plans involving high-speed trains and regular passenger rail.

The prospect of east-west rail service looms large in western Massachusetts politics. It has for years.

Now, New York-based engineering firm WSP USA will lead the study on how to make that service work, maybe even with travel times of 90 minutes or less.

The firm previously headed up the Hartford Line project, which established regular service between Connecticut's capital to Springfield.

Tim Brennan, executive director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, wants to see high-speed service. But he said a regular train route could be established quicker.

“[With] a traditional rail connection –which would be a speed probably in the neighborhood of 65 to 85 miles per hour — you could use the existing [track] between Boston and Springfield,” Brennan said.

News of the study comes as music to state Senator Eric Lesser's ears.

The Longmeadow Democrat has advocated for an east-west rail project for years, and the recent announcement that WSP will head up the study takes the state one step closer to making it happen. He sees the venture as absolutely doable.

"Ultimately, the challenge we have is not the logistics," Lesser said. "High-speed rail lines have been built through mountains, through deserts, in every corner of the world. The challenge here is politics, and marshalling the political will to make the project a reality."

A working group for the study could begin meeting as soon as next month, according to MassDOT.

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