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East-West rail commission takes further public comment in Greenfield

The rail platform at the Joseph Scelsi Intermodal Transportation Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Adam Frenier
The rail platform at the Joseph Scelsi Intermodal Transportation Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

A panel looking at expanding passenger rail service from Boston to western Massachusetts held a public hearing in Greenfield Tuesday.

The main task of the Western Massachusetts Passenger Rail Commission is to come up with a governance structure for any new train service.

State Rep. Natalie Blais, D- Sunderland said it is important there is western Mass.- based control.

“There’s a feeling, certainly from what I’ve heard from constituents, that there’s a fear that this entity will be swallowed up by some organization in the Boston area,” she said.

Blais went on to say under that scenario, the agency running the trains might not be as dedicated to western Massachusetts.

Some of those making public comment expressed concerns about having enough ground transportation at rail stations, making sure the project is environmentally friendly, and supported a train stop in Palmer.

Joe Curlin, of Heath, said he thinks there are several things that need to be considered with any expanded passenger rail.

“We need convenience, we need connectivity, we need frequency. We need to be able to make it attractive for people to use,” he told the commission.

Curlin also said it isn’t always about going to and from Boston. He said intermediate stops are important too.

As the announcement for Tuesday’s meeting explained, “the legislature established the 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”.

The commission is slated to host four more public sessions before issuing a final report at the end of March.

During Tuesday’s meeting, it was announced that former Longmeadow state senator Eric Lesser was staying on the commission as a non-voting member after leaving the legislature. The former candidate for lieutenant governor had been a leading advocate for East-West rail, and was in attendance in Greenfield.

Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.