NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Public meetings were held by the Western Massachusetts Passenger Rail Commission on Tuesday in Northampton and Springfield.

It was a packed event at the Northampton Senior Center where people wanted to both voice their opinions and hear others about the future of passenger rail here in western Massachusetts.

Representative William Straus and Senator Brendon Crighton, co-chairs of the Western Massachusetts Passenger Rail Commission, spearheaded this meeting in Springfield. In order to examine how an expanded western Massachusetts passenger rail network should be governed, while also considering potential, sustainable funding streams.

For many of the representatives and members of the public in attendance, there was strong support for the advancement of passenger rail across Massachusetts.

Northampton Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra told 22News, “we strongly support expanded North-South service connecting western Massachusetts the metro of Springfield and Hartford regions, and New York. The opportunity here is significant.”

Support for expanded rail is unquestionable but there are concerns and logistical issues in areas like funding. Regardless, politicians from across Bay State had encouraging words to share.

Jo Comerford Massachusetts State Senator Jo Comerford said, “a rail authority in western Massachusetts that will connect us east to Boston, west to Albany, north to Vermont, and south to Connecticut and New York and beyond, and with that, we make the Commonwealth stronger not only here in western Massachusetts.”

Another meeting was held on the campus of Springfield Technical Community College. Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno submitted written testimony before their public hearing. 

Mayor Sarno stated, “Viable East-West Passenger Rail service that connects Western Massachusetts to Central and Eastern Massachusetts, utilizing our iconic and historic Union Station here in the city of Springfield, will significantly enhance economic development opportunities in the region while also providing a key component that would also connect key rail ports of the North-South rail lines running from Penn Station in New York City, through Union Stations in New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield, and into northern Vermont and Canada.”

“Key passenger rail stops along the East-West passenger line would provide a catalyst for economic growth throughout the area. The iron is hot, and now is the time to strike.  This project would open up a myriad of positive possibilities, including opportunities for economic development, jobs, and housing,” Mayor Sarno continued.   

“I want to also applaud Governor Healey for realizing the potential of this transformational project. By committing vital funding to support this project as part of her proposed FY24 budget, the Healey-Driscoll Administration is committed to growing our state and local economies, while enhancing our transportation infrastructure so that we have a comparable rail system that is on par with our brother and sisters in Europe and Asia.”

“This project, and in East-West Rail collectively is not only a transformational opportunity from a transit perspective,” adds the 7th Hampden State Representative, Aaron Saunders. “But it presents a transformational economic opportunity, for the entirety of western Massachusetts.”

This is the fourth of six public meetings scheduled by the Commission to receive public input into the design, permit, construction, operation, and management of the East-West passenger rail service.