Lawmakers considering rail service from Springfield to Boston

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Lawmakers are considering a rail service that could take you from Springfield to Boston.

“We should feel outraged that we’ve been left out of this and we’ve been left behind and that we haven’t gotten the same level of attention and investment that all these other cities have gotten,” State Senator Eric Lesser said.

You can’t see it, but if you look close enough it’s there.

A great divide separates eastern and western Massachusetts financially, culturally, and geographically.

“I’m hopeful that we can get back to a bipartisan agreement that exists back to Abe Lincoln where transportation and infrastructure investment was agreed on,” said Tim Murray, President of Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce. “We didn’t have a fight over that. We knew that was important. It was important for business, for people, and for jobs, and that’s something we need more of.

Back in Abraham Lincoln’s time – Massachusetts’ largest cities Boston and Springfield bustled with life, and trains connected the state. Fast forward 150 years and there is just one train a day that travels from Springfield to Boston. It is by no means high speed: It’s a two and a half hour, one way trip.

History of the Rail

For more than 40 years, not a soul walked through Springfield’s Union Station. No trains entered or exited the station either, but that’s about to change in just a few months.

In this special edition of 22News InFocus, we’re looking at the proposals for and against new rail services connecting Boston to Springfield.

“It’s very interesting that Springfield was both a railroad center and car center because the automobile ultimately led to the demise of rail travel,” McLean said. “As more and more Americans acquired cars, the Model T became very popular in the 1920s, it was very inexpensive, so many Americans acquired automobiles starting in the 1920s and that means by the 1940s, the 1950s, rail travel was in steep decline and we could see that here in Springfield as well as across the country.”


Proposals and Pushback

Imagine this: eighty years ago, people would be rushing past me in Springfield Union Station, trying to make their train to meet up with friends, for business in Boston, and even to head off to the war. Now, this Union Station has been fully renovated to its original splendor…but the question of how important rail travel will be to Springfield remains.

This 22News InFocus, we’re exploring the proposals for and against an east-west rail service that would span the divide many people feel exists between Boston and Springfield.
As manufacturers closed shop in Springfield, the cost of living in the City of Homes dropped significantly.

Rail Study Recommendation

 

On this special edition of 22News InFocus, we’re exploring the proposals for and against a new rail service that would connect Boston to Springfield.

We’ve shown you the disagreement at the State House over the importance of this proposal…now we’ll look at what it would take to actually make this happen.

“The recommendations that came out in the study are very positive. What they basically call for is a rebuilding of the east-west link. And what that really means is rebuilding from Worcester to Springfield because Worcester into Boston is already owned by the state, they’ve already made improvements, and they actually have commuter rail service running as we speak.”

Related: Lesser wants Trump to support high-speed rail

Worcester Case Study

In just a few months, Union Station in Springfield will be open for the first time in 40 years to rail and bus travel.

22News met up with Tim Murray who has worked tirelessly on expanding rail travel from Worcester to Boston during his time as Lieutenant Governor, the mayor of Worcester and Worcester city councilor prior to that, and now the president of the Worcester Chamber of Commerce.

“Sometimes getting people in Boston to kind of think Worcester and Springfield aren’t the other end of the earth, and so we shrink that sense of time and distance between these regions, we make the region as a whole, the state as a whole, more competitive,” Murray said.


The Dream

A sense of nostalgia and accomplishment as U.S. Congressman Richard Neal proudly gave us a private tour of the newly renovated Springfield Union Station.

“Forty years ago in June, I stood right under the clock on a platform and in front of close to a thousand people, announced I was going to run for the city council in Springfield and at that time indicated that I was going to see to it that Union Station was refurbished.”

 

For the full hour special, please watch the video above.

 

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