“Brain Train” bill supports growth of passenger rail service in Mass, and nationwide

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BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP)– Senator Edward Markey is proposing legislation that would invest $25 billion over five years for the expansion of passenger rail service across the state, throughout New England, and nationwide.

Known as the Brain Train Act, the Building Rail Across Intercity Networks To Ride Around Interior of the Nation Act would create high performance intercity passenger rail service “that is designed to meet the current and future market demand for the transportation of people, in terms of capacity, travel times, reliability, and efficiency.”

Markey outlined the bill on a conference call Friday morning that included Representative Richard Neal, Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, and Ben Heckscher, representative for the Western Massachusetts Rail Coalition.

Residents in western Massachusetts say they feel disconnected from the rest of the state and are losing out on the economic growth opportunities offered in the Greater Boston area.

The idea of an increase of east-west passenger rail service in Massachusetts has been under consideration by the legislature, community development organizations, and state residents for several years. Proponents say that safe and affordable public rail transportation would provide multiple opportunities for people in terms of mobility in seeking better paying jobs and lower cost housing. They also cite the reduced environmental impact with fewer cars on the road.

Another consideration is tourism, which is the third largest economic driver in Massachusetts. Supporters say train travel would offer visitors a variety of regional choices without having to drive.

A copy of the BRAIN TRAIN Act can be found HERE. A section-by-section overview of the legislation can be found HERE.

According to news release sent to 22News from Senator Markey, The BRAIN TRAIN Act will specifically:

  1. Authorize the Department of Transportation (DOT) to implement a competitive grant program and award up to $5 billion annually to fund high-performance rail projects.

2. Instruct the DOT to evaluate applications for funding based on criteria such as:

  • The levels of estimated ridership, increased on-time performance, reduced trip time, or additional rail service frequency;
  •  The anticipated provision of passenger rail service in regions that are historically and persistently unconnected or under-connected; and
  •  The anticipated favorable impact on air or traffic congestion and safety.

3.  Direct the DOT to give greater preference to high-performance rail projects that will:

  •  Encourage direct connections between multiple modes of transportation, including train and transit stations, bus terminals, subway stations, ferry ports, and more;
  •  Improve conventional intercity passenger, freight, or commuter rail operations;
  •    Provide environmental benefits, including the use of environmentally sensitive, fuel-efficient, or electrified passenger rail equipment;
  •   Reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
  •   Improve air quality and public health;
  •    Provide positive economic and employment impacts, including development in the areas near passenger stations, historic districts, or other opportunity zones; and
  •    Provide enhanced transportation options for persons with disabilities.

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