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Massachusetts receives $108M federal grant to support East-West rail

U.S Representative Richard Neal announces a federal grant to support East-West rail at Union Station in Springfield, Massachusetts, on September 22, 2023.
Alden Bourne
/
NEPM
U.S Representative Richard Neal announces a federal grant to support East-West rail at Union Station in Springfield, Massachusetts, on September 22, 2023.

The availability of more frequent train service between Springfield and Boston took a big step closer to reality on Friday. That's after the federal government awarded a grant of $108 million to the state of Massachusetts.

U.S. Representative Richard Neal, D-Massachusetts, made the announcement at Springfield's Union Station, joined by Gov. Maura Healey and other elected officials.

Meredith Slesinger, who is with the state's Department of Transportation, said the federal money will pay to upgrade the infrastructure needed for East-West rail.

"We're going to be making track improvements between Springfield and Worcester in order to raise the class of track, so that trains can operate at higher speeds," she said. "Improving the class of track means that we can get to that two-hour travel time between Boston and Springfield."

Healey, who has been supportive of the project, signing off on $12.5 million in DOT funding, in the state's fiscal year 2024 budget, expressed her excitement.

"I just can't overstate the importance of this — access to jobs, access to housing, economic growth and development," she said. "We want to fully connect our communities."

Ben Hecksher co-founded Trains in the Valley seven years ago and has been pushing since for East-West rail. He called the announcement of the grant "great news."

"From our perspective, it effectively greenlights the project," he said. "We're thrilled that Massachusetts was selected right up front to get this project moving.

According to Neal's office, the grant to Massachusetts was the second largest among 70 awarded nationwide by the Federal Railroad Administration.

The first phase of the plan involves adding two round-trip options between Boston and Springfield.

The money will also support improved connections to Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut.

A state DOT official estimated it would take several years to make the improvements and start the new service.

Before joining New England Public Media, Alden was a producer for the CBS NEWS program 60 Minutes. In that role, he covered topics ranging from art, music and medicine to business, education and politics.

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