Lawmakers to study Boston-to-Berkshires high-speed rail

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PITTSFIELD — The possibility of high-speed passenger rail service from Boston to the Berkshires will likely get a serious look.

State lawmakers announced Wednesday that the Joint Committee on Transportation has recommended that the House and Senate pass a bill to study an EastWest rail service that would reach Berkshire County.

In a statement, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, said the cost, timelines and potential ridership would be examined, as well as the economic, social and cultural impact on the Berkshires, Pioneer Valley and the rest of the state.

She said the study would lay groundwork for what would serve the county well into the future.

"In advocating for economic development, it's important to not only look to the immediate future but to create opportunities in a decade or two," Farley-Bouvier said.

Amtrak currently runs a service between Pittsfield and Boston on the Lake Shore Limited. The ride takes nearly 4 hours for what is a roughly 2 1/2-hour car trip.

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Originally, lawmakers were eyeing a study that would start in Boston and end in Springfield.

But Farley-Bouvier and other lawmakers pushed for the full western reach.

Farley-Bouvier is also an advocate for rail service from New York City. She is a member of the Berkshire Flyer Working Group, which is wrapping up its five-month study of passenger rail from New York City to Pittsfield. That group is expected to deliver its report to the Legislature in the next month.

Farley-Bouvier said connecting the Berkshires to Boston by rail would fortify the economy statewide by helping residents work in other parts of the state.

It would also, she said, "expand our cultural and tourism markets."

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or on Twitter at @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.


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