Study: support for high speed east-west rail gains steam - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Study: support for high speed east-west rail gains steam

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(Western Mass news photo) (Western Mass news photo)

 A majority of Massachusetts residents support the creation of an east-west high speed rail service.  That's according to a new study out today by Western New England University.

This is a hot button issue on Beacon Hill.

It has been for a very long time and supporters of this latest bill say the study clearly shows most Massachusetts residents want to connect Springfield and Boston via high speed rail.

The idea:  Hop on a high speed train in Springfield... Get to Boston in an hour.  

"This issue has made it through the senate three years in a row on unanimous bipartisan votes but unfortunately we keep hitting snags each year," State Senator Eric Lesser told Western Mass News.

This is the second time State Senator Eric Lesser has introduced a bill that would require the  Massachusetts department of transportation to move forward with a feasibility study of Springfield-to-Boston high-speed rail.  

"I think unfortunately there are some entrenched interests that don't want to see it happen and we also face a challenge in western mass which is that we're only about 14% of the population state wide," he added.

Lesser tells Western Mass News he hopes this new study out by the Western New England University Polling Institute will spark renewed support of his latest effort.

"My hope is that this study, this survey that came out that shows more then three quarters of our state's population supports this initiative is going to be a wake-up call that the public really wants this and this is an issue who's time has come," Lesser noted.

Here's how the study breaks down: 

74% of Massachusetts residents overall, support high-speed east-west rail.

Central mass: 80% support 

Greater boston 73% support

Western mass 87% support

Some of the top reasons why? 

25% to commute to a job

33% to attend a concert, sporting event or recreational activity

Only 1% said they would not use the service at all.

Lesser says its no surprise that most western Mass. residents in the study support high speed east-west rail service. But the fact that most in the Boston area do, shows its a win win. 

"The single biggest challenge they have in Boston is out of control housing prices, out of control congestion, out of control costs and no one can afford to live there.  The single biggest challenge we have in western Mass. is we don't have enough high paying jobs. So an exchange happens that can help both sides."  

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has until mid-February to decide whether to move forward with the feasibility study.  If approved, it would then be taken up by the State Senate. 

Copyright 2017 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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