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Chasing the East-West Rail

The chase is on. Despite large support on both sides of the Commonwealth, there are very large obstacles that the Springfield-Boston rail project faces. The largest one was readily apparent when the State Budget Committee left the proposal by State Sen. Eric P. Lesser (D–Longmeadow) off the table because of budget concerns. The proposal was for a feasibility study that was signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker in July 2016.

Stopping short of using the word anger, Lesser utilized other words for the current situation and the disappointment that it brings to Western MA.

“We should channel the frustration into constructive purposes,” he said.

The commitment he and his supporters made to the the project is resolute, and Lesser believes that Western MA has been victimized in the past due to a combination of factors, such as smaller population density and not as many new innovations to business structure and economy.

Boston, meanwhile, has its own set of challenges. One is population density to the max, and because of that, expensive housing. Western MA has the advantage of less population density and the ability to expand the housing market, and this part of the state can take advantage of that enormous economic opportunity.

“This is a project for the entire Commonwealth,” Lesser said. “The entire state will benefit.”

The real issues that this part of the state will face are both newly-manufactured and issues that have been talked about for some time. Excruciating as it may be for Western MA to understand sometimes – Boston is not the enemy. The Boston Chamber of Commerce and several elected officials from the eastern part of the state have been for the resolution.

What Lesser understands is that Wester MA should be fostering relationships instead of accentuating the negative, since this is about helping all of Massachusetts through the rail line.

Lesser stresses that it doesn’t matter whether people are from the eastern or western part of the state, as long as they state their case.

Andrea Chasen, who started a petition in support of the East-West railway, is doing just that.

The East of the River Five Town Chamber of Commerce is another organization that was quoted in a newsletter recently in regards to the high-speed rail. In a very strong group opinion, they unanimously supported the project.

“Despite the recent action within The Budget Conference Committee, whereby The House of Representatives removed the amendment, the ERC5 feels even more strongly that it is important for us, on behalf of our members, to make known our support of this important study for the communities we represent,” the group wrote. “Also filed as Senate Bill 1935, An Act to study the feasibility of high-speed rail access between Springfield and Boston…, would have required the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to have examined the expansion of rail service between Springfield and Boston.”

The President of ERC5, Edward Zemba, stated: “The entire Board of Directors is in support of Senator Lesser’s efforts in moving a study forward. We believe it is in the spirit of ensuring our region receives the attention and respect it deserves from Boston.”

Zemba was further quoted as extolling the virtues of high-speed rail service and the benefits for both sides of the Commonwealth.

Lesser is opening the same door.

“It’s by building relationships,” he said. “Boston needs housing, Springfield needs high paying jobs, (The high-speed rail would be) transformational. It would benefit everybody. Construction workers, students, doctors, professional workers, small business owners, and realtors.

“We have to make our case,” Lesser added. “Western Massachusetts is important. We need the public help. We’ve got to get loud. We’ve got to mobilize.”

Western MA has an $83 million Union Station and bright, knowledgeable people throughout the Commonwealth who are for this project.

There’s no need for revolution, just cooperation.

– Article by Mike Maloni