The figure is $108 million. That’s million, with an “m,” as in momentum.
Last week’s grant award to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and two rail giants is the clearest evidence yet that a dream of reawakening passenger rail travel will become reality.
To be sure, more money is needed to build out the kind of robust east-west rail service between Pittsfield and Boston able to transform the nature of travel within Massachusetts. The bill on that could hit $2 billion, planners say.
But this week’s grant from the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program (CRISI), one of the largest awarded in the country, ensures that while Massachusetts may not yet be a rail miracle in the making, people will, within a few years, be able to hop on a train in Springfield, travel up to 80 miles an hour along refurbished track and get to Boston in about the time it takes to drive.
With a lot less hassle – and no need to search for parking in Beantown.
That ease of travel is expected to bring sizable economic gains across the state.
This week’s big federal award could prove, looking back, to be the moment the idea of expanded passenger rail changed out of short pants. On Friday, Meredith Slesinger, MassDOT’s rail and transit administrator, said her team is already working on details of the work to be conducted between Springfield and Worcester – 44 miles of poor quality track that has forced trains to slow down.
A guiding principle of passenger rail is that it must be competitive with travel times on highways.
Amtrak announced Friday it is poised, when work is complete, to add two daily runs along what’s known as the Inland Route. With that corridor finally up to snuff, trains will be able to head west from Boston, reach Springfield, and turn south to destinations in Connecticut and New York City. The service will enable passengers in this region to look south as well as east – and eventually west, if they so desire.
Officials noted Friday that ridership numbers have rebounded from the pandemic. And here in the Pioneer Valley, service up and down the Connecticut River corridor has gone, well, swimmingly, since earlier investments and improvements by Amtrak, the state of Connecticut and an earlier CRISI grant from the federal government.
It all adds up, today, to a feeling of momentum — and that’s worth celebrating.
©2023 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit masslive.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.