© 2023 New England Public Media

FCC public inspection files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact hello@nepm.org or call 413-781-2801.
PBS. NPR. Local Perspective.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Western Mass. Version Of 'Big Dig' Or Not, The Short List Argues For East-West Rail

Massachusetts transportation officials unveiled possibilities this week for expanded east-west passenger rail service. And some lawmakers are questioning both the estimated price and ridership projections. 

MassDOT released six different options, with track work alone estimated to cost of between about $2 billion to $25 billion. Daily ridership was predicated at between 36 to more than 800.

Longmeadow state Senator Eric Lesser said the costs were likely at the high end of the spectrum and don't figure in federal funding. He also questioned the accuracy of the ridership numbers.

"They don't take into account the changes in what rail would bring both to western Mass. and, by the way, people in the Boston area commuting to Springfield and Pittsfield, which is an option," Lesser said.

Panelist Dave Eisenstadter said a lot of news coverage of the report highlighted the most expensive option, a high-speed electric railroad, while most of the alternatives are much less expensive.

"I think east-west rail is important. It doesn't mean that we have to have the tip-top-of-the-line $25 billion dollar thing," Eisenstadter said. "Don't look at that upper number — that's not the one that is probably going to be approved by the legislators anyway. Look at some of those other, more reasonable plans and let's get this done."

Only three of the six options would offer rail service all the way from Pittsfield to Boston. Both Eisenstadter and fellow panelist Natalia Muñoz say any final plan should extend the length of the state. 

"And maybe that'll be our 'Big Dig.' Boston had its 'Big Dig,' our region will have a 'Big Dig,'" Muñoz said, referencing the epic Boston highway project that ended up costing $24.3 billion. "And it's very important."

Also, TD Bank has announced it will keep its branch in Springfield's Mason Square neighborhood open on a limited basis. The company had planned to close it, but many lawmakers protested the decision, saying it would force residents to travel several miles for full-service banking. The about-face was met with relief by some who live nearby.

Tuesday is presidential primary day in New Hampshire. And, after the chaos surrounding counting votes during the Iowa Caucuses, Eisenstadter wrote that elections officials need to be careful about how much technology is used


Listen to The Short List Podcast.

Find more podcasts from NEPR.

Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.
Related Content