Secretary of Transportation gives update on East-West Rail project

The East-West Rail project, the state’s newly appointed Secretary of Transportation saw for herself why many are pushing for a Palmer stop on the direct line.
Published: Nov. 20, 2023 at 4:04 PM EST
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PALMER, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - The East-West Rail project, the state’s newly appointed Secretary of Transportation saw for herself why many are pushing for a Palmer stop on the direct line linking Pittsfield to Boston.

It is not yet an official stop, although that is exactly what state senator Jake Oliveira, State Representative Todd Smola, and the MassDOT Secretary, Monica Tibbits-Nutt, were discussing with members of the community.

On Monday, Palmer community members welcomed Monica Tibbits-Nutt, the Secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, to the Steaming Tender Restaurant, a building that once before was a train station.

She joined state legislators who represent the area to discuss the $135 million East-West Rail project with the hope of adding a stop in Palmer and rebuilding that station to connect Western Mass. and Eastern Mass. with high speeds fast enough to make commuting across the state via train, a reality.

“Everybody knows about Springfield,” noted Oliveira. “And Union Station, and the success of Union Station from North-South and soon to be West-East. But Palmer is an essential stop for economic growth because of its proximity to the five colleges. You know, University of Massachusetts, one of the largest employers in our region with ten of thousands of students, having a stop here in Palmer is essential for them to get to link up to the West-East Rail line.

State Senator Jake Oliveira said a decision about Palmer needs to be made soon, since construction on the project is expected to begin by spring 2027.

“The administration and the legislature is committed to making this a reality,” explained Oliveira. “It’s my hope that within the next decade we are going to be having commuter rail lines and people jumping on to the stop here in palmer, going to Boston and vice versa, coming back. I don’t think is that far off.”

Right now, the plans are for the East-West Rail to connect Pittsfield to Boston with stops in Springfield and Worcester, to Boston. But Blake Lamothe, the current owner of the train station, told Western Mass News adding a stop in Palmer would be beneficial for the entire community.

“We always wanted to be in the forefront of things to try and develop Palmer,” expressed Lamothe. “So, what we’ve done, behind me there is a map that I’d like to show you, our concept would be, not only would we leave Palmer, but we would bring people into Palmer.”

He shared a proposal that would transform the station into a space that holds more cars for parking, connects to an adjacent park, and offers shopping, water activities along the river, and year-round entertainment—all things that could promote more economic development in Palmer.

Something that Senator Oliveira said could only happen with community support.

“Palmer is a very important stop along this route,” noted Oliveira. “And having the commitment from the community is essential for this moving forward and they’ve been with us every step along the way.”

The Healey-Driscoll Administration is hiring five people to oversee the entire East-West Rail project and make it a reality.

According to Senator Oliveira, the Biden-Harris Administration is allocating $100 million to improve the tracks in Worcester and hopefully Palmer.