In Williamstown selectman, Berkshire County gets its voice on state transportation panel

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WILLIAMSTOWN — Sometimes, a well-worded letter can make a difference after all.

The Berkshire County legislative delegation wrote a letter to Massachusetts' Gov. Charlie Baker asking that he include on his Commission on the Future of Transportation in the Commonwealth a representative from the Berkshires, because the Berkshires also face transportation challenges.

Williamstown Select Board member Andrew Hogeland was informed Monday that he was appointed to the commission.

"I'm very pleased the legislative delegation made that request, and that the governor so quickly agreed to it," Hogeland told the Eagle on Tuesday. "It's as great opportunity to help Western Massachusetts can make their voices heard on transportation issues."

On Wednesday, Jan. 24, Berkshire County's four state representatives and one state senator sent a letter to the governor about the lack of representation on the commission, asking him to make a change. Of particular concern was the area's major projects and needs not being included in Massachusetts' future transportation plans.

The day before, Baker had announced the creation of the 18-member Commission on the Future of Transportation in the Commonwealth, the findings of which will advise Baker and his administration in their transportation planning. Key areas the commission is charged with investigating are climate and resiliency; transportation electrification; autonomous and connected vehicles, including ride-sharing services; transit and mobility services; and land use and demographic trends.

The Commission will develop a range of scenarios anticipated between 2020 and 2040. The Commission will meet monthly and will provide a report on the analysis of members and make recommendations by Dec. 1.

Hogeland said he's looking forward to helping the commission understand the needs of the Berkshires and what future technologies might do to alleviate those challenges.

He said a big challenge for public transportation in the Berkshires is a lack of local resources to meet those needs, and a lack of passenger rail between Boston and the Berkshires.

"Another goal should be to ensure there is adequate transportation for nondrivers like the elderly, or those with medical issues, or those unable to afford a car," Hogeland said. "Now and in the future, we need to ensure that transportation is available and affordable for these populations."

One of the things they will examine is the effects of electric cars and driverless vehicles.

"It's going to be a challenge to determine how best to plan for autonomous and electric vehicles and factor these into the needs of Berkshire County residents," Hogeland said.

Baker named 18 members with a range of backgrounds and skill sets to serve as unpaid members of the commission, but none were residents of the Berkshires.

The commission will be chaired by Baker's former chief of staff, Steven Kadish.

The commission will engage with a range of nonprofit groups, academic leaders and other stakeholders. As needed, commonwealth of Massachusetts experts in will be providing information to the commission.

In the letter signed by all four of the area's representatives, as well as Hinds, Berkshire officials pointed out the financial division of funds, as well as the area's current and future transportation needs, and said they cannot support a commission without Berkshire County representation.

They noted that the county sends about $30 million annually to Boston, via the sales tax, to help support the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. That money should, at the very least, provide them with a seat at the table when the future of the state's transportation is being discussed, the representatives said.

Hogeland has served as an attorney for SABIC and General Electric Plastics. He began his career as an associate at Goodwin, Procter and Hoar in the environmental and litigation departments. Hogeland served as a trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice and then as an assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. Attorney's Office of Boston. He also served as partner at Hale & Dore. He serves as a member of the Williamstown Select Board where he has been involved in various town committees and as board secretary of the Massachusetts Selectmen's Association. Hogeland earned his Bachelor of Arts from Williams College and his Juris Doctor from the New York University School of Law.

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.


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