10/18/2014

Improving the Fitchburg and Worcester Commuter Rails

Economic prosperity, mobility and a better quality of life depend on the ability for people to get to work in the most direct way possible, as well as visit the many attractions and regions of Massachusetts. A 21st century transportation system would make this possible for Massachusetts residents. While Governor Patrick and the Massachusetts Legislature have made solid progress on investing in infrastructure over the past six years, there is still a lot more work to be done.

Work begins on making the South Acton commuter rail station handicapped-accessible, with new platforms, shelter for commuters and double-tracking.

The Fitchburg Commuter Rail serves as the primary public transportation route to get from Fitchburg to Boston, and has been impacted in the past by poor reliability and outdated railroad tracks and cars. The line is in the middle of a multi-year, multi-phase project geared to get trains moving more efficiently and on time. The improvements span from a new train station in Littleton with additional parking that opened in 2013, and a new South Acton station scheduled for the end of 2015.

In 2004, former State Senator Pam Resor established the Fitchburg Commuter Rail Advisory group, which laid the groundwork for a comprehensive investment in improving the commuter rail. Beginning in 2007, the legislative delegation in North Central Massachusetts and Metrowest began advocating for a $150 million upgrade to the Fitchburg Commuter Rail, with half of the funding coming from the federal government, and the other half from the state. The federal legislative delegation, led by Congresswoman Niki Tsongas and Congressman John Olver played a critical role in securing the initial $75 million investment. The state delegation pressed for the matching funding, and thanks to the tremendous leadership of former Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, we were successful in securing the $75M match.

The Worcester Commuter Rail runs through the southern part of the Middlesex and Worcester district, including stops in Southborough and Westborough. The major challenge in improving the commuter experience for residents in Metrowest who took the train to work in Boston was the railroad company CSX owned the rails, leading to frequent late and delayed trains. Fortunately, Governor Patrick and former Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, supported by the Metrowest legislative delegation, secured over $100m in funding to purchase the lines, allowing for a commuter line from Worcester to Boston that would prioritize commuters over freight. During the 2013-2014 legislative session, I voted to pass a $13 billion Transportation bond bill.

The Transportation Bond bill will replace aging infrastructure and revamp the transportation system. Although I supported a larger amount of funding that was proposed by Governor Patrick and transportation advocates, I am pleased that the Legislature worked together to craft a transportation finance bill to create a more efficient transportation system that addresses the pressing infrastructure needs of our Commonwealth. I’m pleased to see revenue increases in the bill that will fund a number of important transportation initiatives throughout the Middlesex and Worcester District. However, more needs to be done, including improving the connections of Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) and rail trails to commuter rail stops, To realize these plans, everyone, from elected officials to everyday citizens, must continue to advocate for greater investments in transportation across Massachusetts.

For more information on both the state’s progress, and the work ahead of us on improving transportation, please visit Transportation for Massachusetts’ website.

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