Current Legislation in Mass.

Current bills filed in the Massachusetts General Court (the legislature) that affect passenger and/or freight rail service in our region of the state.

 

191st Session (2019–2020)


An Act authorizing and accelerating transportation investment

Commonly referred to as the Transportation Investment Bill or the Transportation Bond Bill

2/26/2020
House Committee on Ways and Means — reported as H.4506

3/5/2020
House — Passed as H.4547

7/10/2020
Senate Committee on Ways and Means — reported as S.2813

7/16/2020
Senate — Passed and printed as amended | see S.2836

 

Current status
A bi-partisan conference committee of three members from each branch has been selected to prepare a compromise bill. The appointed members of the committee are Reps. Straus, Cusack, and Orrall, and Senators Boncore, Rodrigues, and Tran.

 

Here are the key elements, for our region, in the Senate version of the bill

$250 million for Rail Improvements, including $50 million dedicated to East-West Passenger Rail

Line item 6622-2184 — $250,000,000
For the purpose of implementing rail improvements pursuant to chapter 161C of the General Laws; provided, that not less than $50,000,000 shall be used for transportation planning, design, permitting and engineering, acquisition of interests in land, vehicle procurement, construction, construction of stations and right-of-way acquisition for the East-West passenger rail project, which includes Pittsfield to Boston service via Springfield, Palmer, and Worcester; provided further, that said rail improvements may take the East-West Passenger Rail Study conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation into consideration; provided further, that funding for said rail improvements may be used in conjunction with any federal funding set aside for the East-West rail project;

provided further, that funds may be used for transportation planning, design, permitting and engineering, acquisition of interests in land, vehicle procurement, construction, construction of stations and right-of-way acquisition for rail projects,

  • including Housatonic Railroad service,
  • Boston to Cape Cod service, including, but not limited to, commuter service to Buzzards Bay and Cape Cod,
  • Fitchburg to Greenfield to North Adams service, Pittsfield to New York City service and Boston to Albany, New York service and
  • converting the Valley Flyer Pilot Service into a permanent commuter rail service connecting the cities town of Greenfield and the cities of, Northampton, Holyoke and Springfield;

and provided further, that not less than $25,000,000 shall be expended for transportation planning, design, permitting and engineering, acquisition of interests in land, vehicle procurement, construction of rail and stations and right-of-way acquisition for the Berkshire Flyer rail project, which includes service from the city of Pittsfield to the city of New York, New York via the city of Albany, New York

 

Creation of an Office of Rail Enhancement
Section 78 — There shall be within the department an office of rail enhancement. The office shall be dedicated to improving the productivity, equity and environmental sustainability of the rail system. The office shall develop and implement short-term, medium-term and long- term plans for each line of the rail system based on consideration of criteria developed by the department, including, but not limited to:

  • enhancing performance and ensuring that the rail is fully integrated into the commonwealth’s transportation system;
  • instituting a fare and parking pricing policy that is designed to reduce congestion and maximize ridership and equity;
  • ensuring vehicle parking at rail stops
  • increasing accessibility for people with disabilities;
  • prioritizing investments and decisions that maximize ridership return on investments; and
  • reducing carbon emissions.

The office shall develop and implement a stakeholder engagement plan to support its mission. The office shall develop and monitor key metrics to measure performance of its mission and annually make available on the department’s website a public report on the performance metrics and the short-term, medium-term and long-term plans for each line of the rail system.”

 

Increased funding for the Industrial Rail Access Program
Line item 6621-2117 — by adding after the words “industrial rail access program” the following words:- “; provided further that not less than $6,000,000 per fiscal year shall be expended for said industrial rail access program; provided further, that the department of transportation shall establish a rolling grant application process for said program that ensures applications decided within 90 days of receipt;”

Dedicated funding for Mainline track modernization
Line item 6921-2115 — by adding the following wording:- “; provided further that not less than $20,000,000 shall be expended for a public-private partnership program, pursuant to chapter 161C of the General Laws, to implement mainline track improvements to accommodate 286,000-pound gross rail load capacity freight cars; …”

 


An Act relative to transportation finance

commonly referred to as the Transportation Revenue Bill

2/26/2020
House Committee on Ways and Means — reported as H.4508

3/5/2020
House — Passed as H.4530

3/9/2020
Referred to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means

 

Current status
At the moment it would appear that the Senate will not take up this bill during the session.

 

Further reading

“What happened to the transportation revenue bill?”
By Shira Schoenberg | Commonwealth Magazine | July 15, 2020

“Mass. Senate Passes Transportation Debt Bill, Punts on How to Pay for It”
By Christian MilNeil | StreesblogMASS | July 16, 2020

 


An Act making appropriations for the fiscal year 2021 for the maintenance of the departments, boards, commissions, institutions, and certain activities of the commonwealth, for interest, sinking fund, and serial bond requirements, and for certain permanent improvements

Commonly referred to as the Fiscal Year 2021 state budget

The current status can be found on this official link
FY2021 Budget

 


An Act special act funding a study of passenger service on the Housatonic rail line

1/22/2019
Referred to the Joint Committee on Transportation as S.2096

4/30/2020
Bill reported favorably by committee and referred to the Joint committee on Rules

7/9/2020
Accompanied a study order | see S.2809

7/13/2020
Discharged to the Senate Committee on Rules

 

 


Further reading

How an Idea Becomes a Law (PDF)
Office of the Clerk of the Senate

 

 

Page last updated: August 2, 2020
Page last reviewed: July 17, 2020