SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Massachusetts is set to receive about $9 billion from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal to fix roads, bridges, and internet access across the state.
“The roads do need to be fixed,” said Jose Tapia of Springfield. “I just recently had an axle snap on the way home because of the potholes that are all over Springfield.”
A major part of the bill is improving railways, including the long-discussed East-West passenger rail that would connect Boston to Springfield. One passenger at Union Station in Springfield told 22News he takes the train down to New York, and would take it to Boston if it were an option.
“It comfortable, it’s convenient. It’s relaxing, at least for me,” said Tony Goncalves of Westfield. “If you’ve ever been to New York City, it’s a lot easier than driving. The last time I drove down there I broke down, which wasn’t fun. Boston’s not an easy town to get around either.”
Another part of the infrastructure bill would make railroad crossings safer by reducing rail-related deaths, like Warren Cowles, a Longmeadow DPW worker who was killed at a railroad crossing in town in 2017. Improvements include adding protective gates and signals, relocating tracks, and installing bridges.
Senator Ed Markey has also pitched using funds from the infrastructure bill to improve internet access in rural and low-income parts of the state – many of them located here in western Massachusetts. “The most important thing we can do for the regional economy is a significant investment in broadband and internet,” said Rick Sullivan, the President and CEO of the Western Mass Economic Development Council.
Sullivan said this would give people the ability to work from home without having to leave the area. “When you look at the future and the future of work, that is a real economic development opportunity, particularly for our smaller and more rural communities that need that access. That could be a real economic boom.”
It would be an economic boom for the region as a whole. “They will hire locally. Those jobs that are done here in western Massachusetts will hire locally companies. The sub-contractors will be local. The materials they use will be local. So there is certainly an economic spin anytime you do some sort of a construction project. We are well-poised here in western Massachusetts to take advantage of that.”
In total, the infrastructure bill is $1.2 trillion. To pay for it, President Biden has suggested taxing some of the country’s largest corporations and households earning more than $400,000 a year.