Building on his call for renewed investments in transportation and education in this month's State of the Commonwealth address, Governor Deval Patrick today joined MassDOT Secretary and CEO Richard A. Davey and other state and local officials in Stockbridge to highlight the economic benefits of an expanded passenger rail in the region.
The Patrick-Murray Administration's 21st Century Transportation Plan includes passenger rail between Pittsfield and New York City. The $113.8 million investment is a commitment for track rehabilitation, the installation of a signal system, improvements to grade crossings, and six stations along the 37-mile rail corridor within Massachusetts. The plan includes a $1 billion annual investment in the Commonwealth's transportation system to maintain the current transportation assets we have today and launch a number of high-impact transportation projects across Massachusetts that, if built, will create thousands of jobs and spur economic development across the Commonwealth. The plan also includes a $550 million investment in education, reaching $1 billion over four years, to expand access to high quality educational opportunities and make higher education more affordable for all students in Massachusetts.
"The future belongs to those who prepare for it, and these preparations would be a major step toward running round trip passenger rail service between Pittsfield and New York City," said Governor Patrick. "As we look to position the Commonwealth for continued economic expansion, we face critical choices regarding the kinds of investments we should be making to put us in that position. Let's choose growth."
MassDOT recently received Federal Highway discretionary funds to support a station location and design analysis study for passenger service. Past research indicates that Berkshire County attracts some 2.5 million visitors annually with 1 million coming specifically from the New York City area. Research also shows that passenger rail has the potential to attract 2 million one-way riders annually from commuters, second homeowners, students and visitors from New York City.
"While the Berkshire County region is well-known as a tourism destination, its existing transportation infrastructure has made it difficult for businesses and innovators to truly thrive," said MassDOT Secretary & CEO Richard A. Davey. "Whether it's unlocking a region's potential or keeping its momentum going, we need to make these kinds of investments that will meet the needs of tomorrow's job creators and their workforce."
In order to run passenger service, similar upgrades would be required in Connecticut. However, transportation officials in both states are optimistic that Massachusetts' efforts could be the catalyst just south of the state border.
"A well-funded transportation system is the key to growing jobs and economic opportunity," said Senator Benjamin B. Downing. "Whether we're repairing roads and bridges, expanding public transit or investing in passenger rail from New York City to Pittsfield, we need to do all we can to create jobs now and well into the future. I appreciate the Patrick Administration's recognition of the value of investing in this project and in western Massachusetts."
"The geography of Berkshire County has long been considered a challenge to economic development," said Pittsfield Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi. "Transportation issues make this region less competitive when it comes to easily bringing people, goods and services in and out of Pittsfield. I fully support Governor Patrick's plan for expanding southbound rail service from Pittsfield and I will do all that I can to make this a reality."
The Governor's plan, laid out in the State of the Commonwealth address and his budget announcement earlier this month, will help grow jobs by making investments in education, innovation and infrastructure, expanding opportunity in the near-term and strengthening our Commonwealth in the long-term. The Governor's proposals will support important investments in our infrastructure in order to pay the bills the Commonwealth acquired from the Big Dig, maintain existing infrastructure, promote regional equity and make targeted expansions to unlock long-term economic development.