Massachusetts Law Makers Take the Lead on Infrastructure
Karen Christensen, founder and president of the Train Campaign, writes: I cannot send this email without saying something about my grief over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the racism that continues to haunt and damage our country. W. E. B. Du Bois grew up in Great Barrington, the small town where I live and campaign today, He wrote 1903 that “the problem of the 20th century is the color line.” How tragic that this divide remains so deep today. You can read former president Barack Obama’s statement here. He writes that it falls on all of us “to create a ‘new normal’ in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts.”
I intend to be more explicit from now on that improved public transportation has to – and will – improve the lives of all Americans and help to bring us together. And we’ll be highlighting the work being done to address transportation equity (which ties directly to economic equity and opportunity) for people of color and all marginalized communities.
You might have thought the Train Campaign would go quiet during COVID-19, but we have, again, a lot of news to share!
World and national news remains grim, but future of passenger rail is a bright spot, in our region and elsewhere. Yes, the immediate future is challenging, but our lawmakers recognize that America needs to step up to the infrastructure challenge. It is especially gratifying to see the way Massachusetts legislators in Washington are at the forefront.
This week brought two new major pieces of rail legislation, one from Rep. Seth Moulton and the other, announced on Friday, from Senator Edward Markey.
Rep. Moulton’s bill would invest $205 billion to build a national high-speed rail network.His press release explains that if Congress passed the plan, the most conservative estimates show it will create more than 2.6 million direct jobs over five years across the country and make high-speed rail a competitive option against road and air travel, modes that Congress heavily subsidizes.
On Wednesday, the Rail Passengers Association hosted a webinar at which Rep. Moulton talked about his transportation bill. You can find a summary of the webinar at our website, but, in brief, Rep. Moulton’ spoke on the importance of analyzing positive externalities – the benefits – of rail transportation, as we do for highways.
He, like the Rail Passengers Association and the Train Campaign, sees how unreasonable it is to consider a highway network worthwhile because it supports economic activity but not to count the economic and other benefits of passenger rail.
Moulton announced the plan in an interview with Wired magazine. The full white paper is available for download on Moulton’s website here and you can listen to the webinar here.
“When the Train Campaign surveyed our contacts in MA and CT in February 2018, the top-ranked item by far was ‘Outreach to federal legislators & campaign for infrastructure funding’,” said Karen Christensen, Founder, the Train Campaign. “When I met in May in 2019 with our federal delegation a bipartisan bill seemed possible, but the very next day it was nixed by President Trump. Now we have the prospect of support for interregional rail in the bill proposed by Senator Markey. A bright spot in these challenging times!”
“The Western Mass Rail Coalition (WMRC) strongly supports Senator Markey’s bill because investment in regional rail between smaller American cities and major urban centers will benefit communities like ours across the United States,” said the Western Massachusetts Rail Coalition.
Sen. Edward Markey announces “BRAIN TRAIN” ACT
“New major legislation will help fund East-West Rail, South Coast Rail, a Berkshires Housatonic Line, and more.” (from the press release here)
On Friday, 29 May 2020, Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey held a virtual press conference at which speakers included Rep. Richard Neal, Linda Tyer, mayor of Pittsfield, and our own Western Mass Rail Coalition representative Ben Heckscher, founder of Trains in the Valley. He announced the BRAIN TRAIN: Building Rail Across Intercity Networks To Ride Around Interior of the Nation Act.