East–West Rail

This page provides an overview of efforts underway to expand East–West passenger rail service in Massachusetts.

If you are looking for information about Amtrak’s existing once-a-day service between Boston, Springfield, and Albany-Rensselaer NY please visit this page.


Contents

Overview

Service options

Latest developments

Milestones

Background information


Overview

to be written


Service options

This diagram details the three versions of East-West Rail that have been discussed in recent years.

The three options are summarized as,

New Haven – Springfield – Boston (the so-called Inland Route)

In 2016 the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and the Vermont Agency of Transportation, in coordination with the Connecticut Department of Transportation, completed a three-year feasibility and planning study known as the Northern New England Intercity Rail Initiative.

This study recommended that eight (8) new daily round-trip trains be established between Boston and New Haven on the Inland Route as part of a larger plan to increase intercity passenger rail service in the region.

MassDOT chose not to move forward with an any of the recommendations from this study, even though the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) was, and remains, keenly interested in establishing though passenger rail service between central Connecticut and Boston via the Inland Route.

Pittsfield – Springfield – Boston

In January of 2021 MassDOT completed a two-year study — known as the East-West Passenger Rail Study — that examined the feasibility of passenger rail service from Boston to Springfield and Pittsfield.

The study recommended three possible build alternatives that includes up to nine (9) new round-trip trains between Pittsfield and Boston, via Springfield, on this corridor.

Albany-Rensselaer NY – Springfield – Boston

In May of 2021 Amtrak released a Corridor Vision Plan which outlined Amtrak’s desire to add new intercity passenger rail service in key markets across the country over the next 15 years.

Amtrak’s plan calls for two (2) new round-trip trains to be established between Albany-Rensselaer and Boston. These trains would be in additional to the existing round-trip (train 448 and 449) that Amtrak operates today on this route.

And from these options we have a conundrum — what will the path forward be for East-West Rail?

At the moment this is not clear since there does not exist, at the moment, a Service Development Plan for the service.

MassDOT at the moment appears to be solely focused on the Boston, Springfield, Pittsfield corridor, while CTDOT remains focused on the Inland Route corridor.

The New York Department of Transportation and MassDOT, as of now, have not indicated what their level of interest is for additional service passenger rail between Albany-Rensselaer and Boston, since both states would have to agree to such any new service.

Amtrak would surely be happy to have any or all of these options implemented, as long as they are selected as the operator of the service.

A strong argument can be made that the Service Development Plan for East-West Rail must include provisions for interstate service on one or more of the corridors noted above.

Why? Because significant grants from the Federal Railroad Administration are expected to be used to fund both the capital and operating costs of this new passenger rail service.

If federal funds are being used these funds should be used to benefit the greater region (CT/MA/NY) rather than only serving to benefit Massachusetts.


Latest developments

June 23, 2022 | The Massachusetts House of Representations passed H.4897, An Act relative to Massachusetts’s transportation resources and climate.

The bill includes $250 million funding that could be used for East-West Rail and it establishes a commission to investigate what the governance structure should be for passenger rail in western Massachusetts.

The wording states that the work of the commission must be completed by December 31, 2022.


Milestones

2013

December 18, 2013 | The first meeting of the Stakeholder Committee for the Northern New England Intercity Rail Initiative (the NNERI Study) was held in Springfield, Mass.

The Northern New England Intercity Rail Initiative examined the opportunities and impacts of adding more frequent and higher speed intercity passenger rail service on two existing rail corridors — Boston–Springfield–New Haven (known as the Inland Route) and the Boston–Springfield–Montreal.

2014

Two (2) Stakeholder Committee meetings and four (4) public meetings were held to support the ongoing work of the NNERI Study.

2015

Five (5) Stakeholder Committee meetings were held to support the ongoing work of the NNERI Study.

The group Citizens for a Palmer Rail Stop is established to advocate for East-West Rail and a future station in Palmer.

2016

June 2016 | MassDOT releases the final report for the NNERI Study. The report recommended that eight (8) daily round-trip trains should be operated between Boston and New Haven on the Inland Route as part of a larger plan to increase intercity passenger rail service in the region.

Printout of the Northern New England Intercity Rail Initiative final report | January 28, 2020

July 19, 2016 | The Federal Railroad Administration issues a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the Tier 1 Environmental Assessment that was prepared as part of the Northern New England Intercity Rail Initiative (the NNEIRI Study).

2017

January 30, 2017 | Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy wrote to Governor Charlie Baker asking for Massachusetts to establish passenger rail service on the route between Hartford, Springfield and Boston.

June 19, 2017 | State Senator Eric Lesser travels from Boston to Springfield, with stops in Framingham, Worcester, Palmer and Springfield, on a ‘whistle-stop’ tour to promote expanded East-West passenger rail service. (RNR #2)

October 24, 2017 | A bus load of citizens from western Mass gave up their day to ride a charter bus from Springfield to Boston to testify before the legislature in support of expanded rail service between Springfield and Boston. (RNR #8)

November 13, 2017 | A statewide survey by the Western Mass Western New England University Polling Institute showed that 80% of adult registered voters in Massachusetts support east-west rail between Springfield and Boston. (RNR #8)

2018

February 2018 | Three local rail advocacy groups — Trains In The Valley, Citizens for a Palmer Rail Stop and The Train Campaign — host pop-up rail advocacy meetings in 19 locations across western Massachusetts in an effort to encourage public support for East-West Rail in the updated 2018 State Rail Plan.

June 12, 2018 | Governor Charlie Baker joined elected official at Springfield Union Station to announce a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a consultant team to study the feasibility of east-west passenger rail service. (RNR #14)

December 18, 2018 | MassDOT hosts the first meeting of the East-West Rail Study Advisory Committee in Springfield.

2019

One (1) advisory committee meeting and one (1) public meeting are held to support the ongoing work of the East-West Passenger Rail Study.

March 12, 2019 | MassDOT hosts its first public meeting of the East-West Rail Study to a standing room only crowd.

East-West Rail Study Public Meeting #1 By Robert Kearns | Springfield, Ma. | March 12, 2019

May 1, 2019 | The Boston City Council adopts a resolution supporting East-West rail service between Boston and Springfield. (RNR #24)

June 1, 2019 | The UMass Amherst Center for Economic Development releases a report — The Case for Palmer: Towards a Passenger Rail Station on the East-West Massachusetts Train Line.

June 23, 2019 | The Western Mass Rail Coalition is formed and holds its first meeting in Springfield.

Western Mass Rail Coalition – group shot Springfield, Ma. | July 23, 2019

2020

Four (4) advisory committee meetings and two (2) public meetings are held to support the ongoing work of the East-West Passenger Rail Study.

February 21, 2020 | The Boston Globe publishes an editorial in favor of moving forward with East-West Rail.

The Boston Globe | February 21, 2020 | Page A8

2021

January 10, 2021 | MassDOT releases the final report for the East-West Rail Study. The report includes a summary of the actions that MassDOT intends to take as part of what they refer to as “advancing the conceptual planning phase for East-West Passenger Rail.” (RNR #38)

January 15, 2021 | Governor Charlie Baker signed into law a $16 billion Transportation Bond Bill which included “not less than $50 million” for work in support of East-West Rail. (RNR #41) (ed. as far as we are aware, none of this money has been spent.)

May 6, 2021 | Congressmen Richard Neal hosted at press conference at Springfield Union Station to highlight a new report — commissioned by the Capitol Region Council of Governments (located in Hartford CT) — and the need for passenger rail service along the New Haven – Springfield – Boston Corridor. (RNR #39)

May 27, 2021 | Amtrak announces that it is initiating the work to deliver by 2035 more frequent passenger rail service to over 160 more communities and 20 million more people nationwide. Amtrak’s proposal includes a new Amtrak-operated rail corridor between Albany and Boston. (Amtrak press release)

The proposed new service would add two (2) new round-trips between Albany and Boston, with new station stops in Chester MA, Palmer MA, and Chatham NY. (RNR #39)

Proposed Amtrak 2035 Network Map – Northeastern Corridors
Source: Amtrak Connects US Vision (PDF) | Page 57

November 12, 2021 | MassDOT released the Massachusetts Intercity Passenger Rail Governance White Paper. In the paper MassDOT recommends Amtrak as the operator for any East-West Rail service and that the legislature should create a “Western Massachusetts Intercity Rail Authority to manage the project.” (RNR #40)

November 15, 2021 | President Biden signed into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The legislation provides an unprecedented $66 billion in funding for intercity passenger rail. (RNR #40)

2022

January 12, 2022 | CSX, the owner of the rail corridor west of Worcester, formally indicated to the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) that it will agree to a set of [pro-passenger rail] conditions requested by Amtrak as part of their acquisition of Pan Am Railways. (RNR #41)

April 26, 2022 | Governor Charlie Baker announced that he has agreed on a path forward for East-West Rail.

The agreement call for the legislature to create a new rail authority to manage the development of East-West Rail. The authority would seek federal funding for the project. (Agreement Reached to Advance East-West Rail)

The announcement of this agreement occurred soon after a meeting (shown below) that was attended by the Governor, Congressman Neal and Congressman McGovern, Secretary of Transportation Jamey Tesler, Rail & Transit Administrator Meredith Slesinger, and just about every state senator and representative from western Mass.

East-West Rail meeting | Springfield Union Station | April 26, 2022
Tweet by Congressman Richard Neal

June 2, 2022 | The Federal Railroad Administration announced that it had awarded a Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grant to MassDOT for preliminary engineering design and environmental clearance work for track, signal, and infrastructure improvements in and around Springfield Union Station.

This design project is seen by some and an “early action” item in support of expanded passenger rail service at Springfield Union Station.

June 23, 2022 | The Massachusetts House of Representations passed H.4897, An Act relative to Massachusetts’s transportation resources and climate.

The bill includes $250 million in funding that could be used for East-West Rail and it establishes a commission to investigate what the governance structure should be for passenger rail in western Massachusetts.

The wording states that the work of the commission must be completed by December 31, 2022.


Background information

Rail corridor ownership

Boston South Station–Worcester (45 miles)
MBTA

Worcester–Schodack NY (142 miles)
CSX

Schodack NY–Albany-Rensselaer station (13 miles)
Amtrak

Current intercity passenger service

Boston South Station ⬌ Albany-Rensselaer1
1 daily round-trip train with 5 intermediate stops
Boston to Springfield | 2hr 31m
Boston to Pittsfield | 3hr 52m
Boston to Albany-Rensselaer | 5hr 20m

Past intercity passenger service (1958)

Boston South Station ⬌ Albany Union Station2
5-6 round-trip trains with 8 intermediate stops
Boston to Springfield | 2hr 0m
Boston to Pittsfield | 3hr 15m
Boston to Albany-Rensselaer | 4hr 30m


Footnotes

[1] Amtrak Lake Shore Limited timetable (PDF) | May 19, 2022

[2] New York Central timetable (PDF) | July 1, 1958

Page last updated: June 27, 2022
Page last reviewed: June 22, 2022