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Testimony to the Joint Committee on Transportation

September 18, 2017

To: Chairman McGhee, Chairman Straus, and members of the Joint Committee on Committee Transportation:

Thank you for the opportunity to offer these comments in favor of HB3429 - An Act relative to improving passenger rail service between Springfield and Boston.

MASSPIRG is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security or our right to fully participate in our democratic society. Using the time-tested tools of investigative research, media exposes, and grassroots organizing, MASSPIRG delivers concrete results for the citizens of Massachusetts. MASSPIRG supports the transition to a clean and accessible 21st transportation system, where walking, biking, and transit options are robust, where there are fewer cars on the road, and where the air is cleaner and the people are healthier.

For decades, most government dollars have been spent on automobile infrastructure. This skewed dependence on the automobile has had a severe negative impact on public health and safety, as well as limiting the access of those unwilling or unable to drive to education, jobs, services, and other resources. Now people want better, cleaner options for getting around, and an alternative to sitting in traffic. It is time that we invest in smart, 21st century transportation infrastructure, including an improved rail system connecting Springfield and Boston.

Springfield was once referred to as the “crossroads of New England” because of its central location between Boston, Montreal and New York City. It was an attractive place for large manufacturing employers and was an affordable place to live for young workers who commuted to Boston.

As recently as 1960 there were five trains per day that traveled east to west, connecting Boston to Springfield. Now, there are more people in Massachusetts, there are more people traveling from Springfield to Boston or places in between, there is more demand for rail service, and yet, there are fewer trains.

Today, getting from Springfield to Boston by train takes three hours. There is just one train a day and it is only on schedule half the time. As a result, Greater Springfield residents are virtually cut off from the red-hot economy of Greater Boston, and those who do commute east have little choice but to travel nearly two hours by car or bus on the Mass Pike – emitting greenhouse gases and increasing levels of highway congestion.

Investment in an improved passenger rail system between Springfield yields economic, environmental, and quality of life benefits not only for the residents of Springfield, but for a significant portion of the Commonwealth.

This bill represents an important step in getting to that investment. That is why, I respectfully ask on behalf of our organization and members, not only in western Massachusetts but throughout the Commonwealth, that the committee report on this bill favorably.

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