Intro to Government and Rail

Needless to say, there are dozens of jurisdictions and entities that make decisions impacting passenger and freight rail service in our region.

Here a brief summary of some of the major parties involved, in alphabetical order:

The National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) operates all scheduled passenger rail service in western Massachusetts.

Amtrak operates the service but in many cases, Amtrak’s trains travel over tracks that are owned by other entities. For example – traveling north, between Springfield and the MA-VT border, Amtrak’s Vermonter runs over tracks that are owned by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, but in Vermont the train travels over tracks that are owned by the New England Central Railroad, which is a private entity.


Elected officials – Federal, state and local
Federal, state and local elected officials work at many levels to see that transportation projects and initiatives in our region get the attention that they deserve. As example,

Now retired Congressman John Olver (D-Mass. 1st District) was instrumental in efforts to obtain $79 million in federal funding for the reconstruction of the Knowledge Corridor along the Connecticut River Main Line in western Massachusetts.

State Senator Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow) has been strongly advocating for the establishment of a high-speed passenger rail link between Boston and Springfield.

And at the local level, Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz has been actively involved with every aspect of the return of passenger rail to the city since he was elected in 2011.


Federal Railroad Administration
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is an agency of the United States Department of Transportation. The purpose of FRA is to communicate and enforce rail safety regulations, administer railroad assistance programs, conduct research and development in support of improved railroad safety and national rail transportation policy, provide for the rehabilitation of Northeast Corridor rail passenger service, and consolidate government support of rail transportation activities.

The FRA’s primary role in our region is the enforcement of rail safety regulations and the administration of railroad assistance programs.


Franklin County Transportation Planning Organization
The Franklin County Transportation Planning Organization (FCTPO) is the organization that completes the federally required tasks to remain eligible for Federal Transportation Funding. These primary tasks include developing the Transportation Improvement Program, the Unified Planning Work Program and the Long Range Regional Transportation Plan.


Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
Most people know that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is the public operator of most bus, subway, commuter rail, and ferry services in the greater Boston area. In our area of the state, MassDOT relies on the technical expertise inside the MBTA for design, engineering, construction, and installation of improvements along the Knowledge Corridor rail line.


Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT)
Rail and Transit Division
The Rail & Transit Division is responsible for the development, implementation and oversight of statewide rail policies and programs as well as for the Commonwealth’s fifteen Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).

Specific regional initiatives of the Rail and Transit Division include leadership of the Knowledge Corridor — Restore Vermonter Project and oversight of the MassDOT-owned Connecticut River Main Line that runs through the valley.

MassDOT Rail & Transit Division presentation (PDF) | March 2017


Pioneer Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization
The Pioneer Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is the body which approves federally funded projects in Hampshire and Hampden counties. The MPO jointly develops, reviews, and endorses a Planning Works Program which includes a Unified Planning Works Program; a Regional Transportation Plan; a Transportation Improvement Program, as well as any transportation plan or program that may be required by federal and state laws and regulations.


Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) is the designated regional planning body for the lower Pioneer Valley region. The PVPC is the primary agency responsible for increasing communication, cooperation, and coordination among all levels of government as well as the private business and civic sectors in order to benefit the Pioneer Valley region and to improve its residents’ quality of life.

The PVPC is leading an advocacy campaign that could increase the level of passenger rail service available in the Knowledge Corridor north of Springfield in the next few years.

They are also advocating in concert with the Baker Administration, MassDOT, the Western Massachusetts legislative delegation, and affected cities and towns to move forward with the recommendations emanating from the recently completed Northern New England Intercity Rail Initiative study project. This study calls for the establishment of a viable Inland Route intercity passenger rail corridor that would interconnect Boston – Worcester – Springfield – Hartford and New Haven and, eventually, would establish a passenger rail link between Boston and Montreal via Springfield.


Further reading

Guide to Transportation Decision-making (PDF)
U.S. Department of Transportation | April 2015

The Transportation Planning Process | Key Issues (PDF)
U.S. Department of Transportation | 2008


Page last updated: April 26, 2019
Page last reviewed: July 8, 2016