Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Rep. Smola Named To East-West Rail Commission

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed State Representative Todd Smola (R-Warren, Ranking Member, Committee on Ways & Means) to a special commission that will work to advance the long-awaited East-West Rail project establishing passenger rail service between Pittsfield and Boston with stops in Springfield, Palmer, and Worcester.

“Being appointed to the East-West Rail Commission is an opportunity to help develop safe and efficient travel between western Massachusetts and Boston,” stated Representative Smola. “I am grateful to have been selected and eager to contribute to the planning of an advantageous project for the Commonwealth.”

Created as part of the MassTRAC bill, a comprehensive $11.3 billion transportation and climate bill signed into law on August 10, the 20-member commission will investigate and receive public testimony to determine if the East-West Rail project should be overseen and operated by an existing public entity such as the MBTA, or by creating a new public agency with the ability “to design, permit, construct, operate and maintain” the rail service. The commission will also work to identify funding sources for the projected operating and capital budget costs associated with the project.

“The establishment of an East-West Rail has been a longstanding priority for communities in Western Massachusetts for more than a decade and will help to create jobs and stimulate economic development throughout the region,” said Representative Jones. “Todd has been a strong supporter of expanding passenger rail service and his input will be invaluable as the commission works to move these plans forward.”

The East-West Rail Commission will conduct a minimum of six public hearings, including at least one hearing each in Hampden, Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester counties, as well as in a community along the proposed route in Middlesex county. The commission is required to hold its first meeting no later than September 24 and will be filing a report with its recommendations by March 31, 2023.

The MassTRAC bill also provides $275 million in funding for the East-West Rail. This funding can be used for a variety of purposes, including planning, design, permitting and engineering, land and right-of-way acquisitions, vehicle procurement, and construction of stations.

A former member of the Palmer Planning Board and the Palmer Board of Selectmen, Representative Smola currently serves as the Ranking Minority Member on the House and Joint Committees on Ways and Means, and as a member of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. He represents the First Hampden District communities of Brimfield; Holland; Palmer; Wales; Ware (Precincts B and C); Sturbridge; and Warren.