Western Mass. Passenger Rail Commission Overview

This page provides an overview of the Western Massachusetts Passenger Rail Commission.

Trains In The Valley created this page to make it easier for interested parties and the public to learn about the commission and its work.

Please note that this is not the official webpage for the commission.

The official webpage can be found here:
Western Massachusetts Passenger Rail Commission

Latest news

The second public meeting of the Western Massachusetts Passenger Rail Commission was held in Greenfield on January 24, 2023.

The date and location of the third meeting of the Commission has not yet been announced, but details will be posted here when they are known.


Overview

Western Mass Passenger Rail Commission Meeting in Greenfield | January 24, 2023

The Western Massachusetts Passenger Rail Commission (sometimes referred to as the East-West Rail Commission) was established with the approval of An Act Relative to Massachusetts’s Transportation Resources and Climate on August 10, 2022.

The legislature established this commission to, “investigate and receive public testimony concerning potential public entities with the ability to design, permit, construct, operate and maintain passenger rail service proposals from the East-West Passenger Rail Study Final Report.”

In other words, the commission is focused on figuring out which public entity (for example, MassDOT) should build and manage the East-West rail project and the passenger rail service associated with this project.

With that said, it is our understanding that the commission has broadened the scope of its work such that it will now also be considering which entity should be managing the existing passenger rail services that operate in western Massachusetts.

The first public meeting of the Commission was held in Pittsfield on December 9, 2022.

Contents

Overview

Authorizing language

Commission information

Timeline

Background information

See also


Authorizing language1

SECTION 60.  (a) For the purposes of this section, “operate” shall include, but not be limited to, the awarding, management and oversight of a contract with a third-party to operate the service.

(b)  There shall be a commission to investigate and receive public testimony concerning public entities now in existence or that may be created by statute with the ability to design, permit, construct, operate and maintain passenger rail service that meets the standards of at least 1 of the Final Alternatives set forth in the East-West Passenger Rail Study Final Report issued by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation in January 2021.

(c)(1)  The commission shall consist of: 4 members of the house of representatives appointed by the speaker of the house, 1 of whom shall serve as co-chair and 3 of whom shall represent municipalities in Hampden, Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin or Worcester counties; 4 members of the senate appointed by the president of the senate, 1 of whom shall serve as co-chair and 3 of whom shall represent municipalities in Hampden, Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin or Worcester counties; the secretary of transportation or a designee, who shall serve as vice chair; the general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority or a designee; the administrator of the rail and transit division of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation; the executive director of the Pioneer Valley planning commission, or a designee; the executive director of the Franklin Regional council of governments, or a designee; the executive director of the Central Massachusetts Regional planning commission, or a designee; the executive director of the Berkshire Regional planning commission, or a designee; 1 member appointed by the 495/MetroWest Partnership; 1 member appointed by the MetroWest Regional Collaborative; 1 member appointed by the minority leader of the senate; 1 member appointed by the minority leader of the house of representatives; and the executive director of the University of Massachusetts Transportation Center, or a designee.

(2)  Members may attend and participate in meetings remotely, and the chair shall ensure that members are able to join the proceedings using video conferencing software and that the hearings shall be made available for viewing and participation by the public virtually.

(d)  The commission shall examine and receive testimony on matters concerning the public entities described in subsection (b), including, but not limited to: (i) the feasibility of directing an existing public entity to design, permit, construct or operate the rail service; (ii) the operational and geographic jurisdiction of any newly-created public entity and any areas of potential conflict with existing public entities that may arise in connection with the operation of the rail service; (iii) governance, powers, assets and liabilities of any newly-created public entity; and (iv) funding sources for projected operating and capital budgets associated with the rail service.

(e)  The commission shall consult with subject matter experts and stakeholders, including, but not limited to, representatives from the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, relevant departments and agencies within the United States Department of Transportation, freight rail entities, transportation advocacy groups, housing and environmental advocacy groups, regional planning agencies and municipalities. The commission shall be supported by staff from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

(f)  The commission shall hold not less than 6 public hearings for the purpose of receiving public testimony; provided, however, that at least 1 meeting shall be in each of the follow locations: (i) Hampden county; (ii) Berkshire county; (iii) Hampshire county; (iv) Franklin county; (v) Worcester county; and (vi) in a community along the proposed route in Middlesex county.

(g)  Appointments to the commission shall be made not later than 14 days after the effective date of this act. The commission shall convene its initial meeting not later than 45 days after the effective date of this act.

(h)  Not later than March 31, 2023 the commission shall file a report of its findings and any recommendations with the secretary of transportation, the joint committee on transportation and the clerks of the senate and house of representatives. The report and recommendations shall include, but not be limited to: (i) public entities now in existence or that may be created by statute with the ability to design, permit, construct, operate, fund and maintain passenger rail service in western Massachusetts; (ii) a section detailing projected costs identifying, by category, the project’s design, permitting, land acquisition, utility connections, land and right of way acquisition, and capital equipment costs, as well as projected costs to operate the entity; (iii) updated ridership projections; and (iv) operations for possible levels of service. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation shall make the report publicly available on its website.

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 176, § 60 (2022)


Commission information

Membership list

Updates
January 23, 2023 | Sen. Anne Gobi was added to the list.

Commission contact details

Written testimony and questions may be submitted to commission staff at:
Siobhan.Morrissey@mahouse.gov


Timeline

2022

August 10, 2022 | Approval of the legislation that established a commission which is now known as the Western Massachusetts Passenger Rail Commission.

November 14, 2022 | The Western Massachusetts Passenger Rail Commission held an organizational meeting.

December 9, 2022 | The first public meeting of the Western Massachusetts Passenger Rail Commission was held at the Berkshire Innovation Center in Pittsfield. (Public Hearing Notice)

Western Mass Passenger Rail Commission Meeting in Pittsfield | December 9, 2022

“East-west rail commission hears of need but discusses no specifics at first hearing”
By Jim Kinney | The Republican | December 13, 2022

2023

January 24, 2023 | The second public meeting of the Western Massachusetts Passenger Rail Commission was held at the John W. Olver Transit Center in Greenfield. (Public Hearing Notice)

“East-west rail commission sets 2nd meeting in Greenfield as boosters look to discuss nuts-and-bolts governance”
By Jim Kinney | The Republican | January 11, 2023

“Commission reviews economic, environmental impacts of rail system”
By Domenic Poli | The Greenfield Recorder | January 24, 2023

Future dates of note

March 30, 2023 | The due date for the Western Massachusetts Passenger Rail Commission to submit its final report to the legislature, according to the Act.1


Background information

Massachusetts Intercity Passenger Rail Governance White Paper (PDF)
MassDOT | November 12, 2021

In this 29-page White Paper for 2021 MassDOT made its case for establishing a Western Massachusetts Passenger Rail Authority to build and manage the East-West Rail in Massachusetts.

Report of the Joint Committee on Transportation Relative to the Safety Management Practices of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (PDF)
January 3, 2023

Notability, the report includes a proposal from Rep. Straus, a Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation, that, “Responsibility for operation of commuter rail and oversight of the contract with Keolis could be transferred from the MBTA to MassDOT’s Rail and Transit Division (or another office) under direct supervision by the Secretary of Transportation.”

References

1 Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 176, § 60 (2022)


See also

East–West Rail in Massachusetts

East-West Rail Study Overview

Page last updated: January 30, 2023
Page last reviewed: January 6, 2023