Letter: Yes to high-speed rail to the Berkshires

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To the editor:

If you haven't been to Boston in a while, or haven't talked to people trying to buy a house in the metro area, you probably have no idea how hot the Boston economy really is.

Home and rental prices have gone through the roof. Most home sales are auctions with the asking price just the opening bid. So people are buying homes with cash and no inspections because there is always someone standing behind them ready to do so.

Of course, driving there is difficult, too, and parking is impossible in the Hub, yet the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is constantly breaking down. Charlie (of Kingston Trio song fame, not the governor) would be ashamed.

That's why U.S. Rep. Ritchie Neal's proposal, which is hailed by state Sen. Adam Hinds, to make West-East rail expansion in Massachusetts a priority in his massive infrastructure bill is so important for the economic future of Massachusetts.

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Opening up Western Massachusetts to high-speed commuter rail initially would allow people to live here and work part- or full-time in Boston and, eventually, to increased business activity. Lower real estate prices would attract homebuyers and increase homebuilding, while companies looking for lower-cost sites while still maintaining their critical Boston ties will begin locating new facilities west of Worcester — and eventually even here in Berkshire County, which is pretty much terra incognita to folks in the Metro Area.

This idea doesn't come out of the blue. We've done it before in Massachusetts. In the 1950s and '60s, we built Route 128 around Boston's inner suburbs. In 1955, Business Week referred to Route 128 as "the Magic Semicircle." By 1958 it needed to be widened from four to six lanes, and growth continued.

By the mid-1960s development was filling the 128 corridor, so the state built a second Boston beltway — Route 495 — with the same result. At the time, friends and I drove the new 495 at night — at high speed — because you never saw another car. Try that today and you'll find business and population growth have made traffic on 495 as bad as it is nearer to Boston.

So, let's learn from our own history: Transportation opens up areas to growth. And let's learn from our mistakes and turn to high-speed rail this time — all the way to Pittsfield. It will be good for the Berkshires — and good for the planet.

Lee Harrison,

Williamstown


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