Local lawmakers talk ending the isolation in the Berkshires, from transportation to telecommunication

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BOSTON — When Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, steps out from his Statehouse office and goes back to his house in the town of Peru, he is practically cut off from the world.

"No high-speed internet, no cable television and my cellphone doesn't work there," said Mark in an interview at his Statehouse office. "I have 16 towns; in 10 of them that's the case."

The situation is similar for constituents of Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox. In many communities in Berkshire County without broadband, people have to park at the local town library parking lot at night so they can pick up the library's Wi-Fi.

"So from the economic development and educational standpoint, they are in serious disconnect," said Pignatelli, who represents 17 towns in Berkshire County.

Equally frustrating is the lack of public transportation in people's daily lives in the Berkshires— a problem that would cause major headaches in a big city like Boston, but creates even deeper impact in the Berkshires.

Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield views the issue as a barrier to the Berkshires' economic growth.

"We spend millions and billions of dollars on the `T' every year, but we can't get a bus past 6 o'clock at night in the Berkshires," said Farley-Bouvier who represents almost all of Pittsfield.

The condition is no different for Mark, whose district is about 2 hours away from Boston.

"There's no bus service at all in my town. You can go to Boston once a day and you can't come back on the same day," said Mark.

That puts telecommunications and public transportation at the top of the list of things that the Berkshires' delegation have been putting a lot of effort into at the Statehouse.

Most recently, Sen. Adam G. Hinds, D-Pittsfield secured a budget amendment to allow for a new working group to study the quickest and cheapest way to have rail service between Pittsfield and New York City. The service will be similar to the CapeFlyer, the train that runs between Boston and Hyannis during the summer. The group held its first meeting at the end of September.

"We are in the study phase right now; the report will come out in March 2018," said Farley-Bouvier. "One thing that is important to keep in mind that this has to be in partnership with New York State, not just about Massachusetts. So it's more complicated, whereas the Cape Cod flyer is fully inside Massachusetts."


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