BOSTON — The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is seeking public comment on its newly released draft Massachusetts State Rail Plan, which articulates the Commonwealth’s priorities and proposed plans for passenger and freight rail investment over the next 20 years.

Highlights from the draft plan include:

--A commitment to study east-west passenger rail service between Springfield and Boston;

--Designation of Springfield to Greenfield pilot service as a priority for implementation;

--Continued commitment to both South Coast Rail Phase I in the near term and the project’s full build in the long term.

The Draft State Rail Plan documents the current state of the intercity passenger and freight rail system. It identifies planned improvements and describes the Commonwealth’s near term priorities, based on MassDOT’s Capital Investment Plan and outlines a long-term proposed plan for rail investment in the Commonwealth. While state of good repair investment remains at the forefront of MassDOT’s long-term investment strategy, the plan identifies modernization and expansion projects that are priorities for implementation, those that warrant further study, and those where no action is recommended at this time.

“The finalized State Rail Plan will help guide the Commonwealth’s investments in both passenger and freight rail services for years to come and ensure project coordination between local, state, and federal partners, as well as with other key stakeholders,” said Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. “The 20-year plan will support the development of regional transportation corridors. Investments in these critical assets are designed to improve the rail system, add capacity where needed in order to meet the needs of rail customers and foster the goals of the communities we serve.”

The Draft State Rail Plan fulfills Federal Railroad Administration requirements to regularly update a comprehensive rail plan for the state and is currently available online at https://www.mass.gov/service-details/rail-plan/. The plan’s commitment to further study and analyze the costs and impacts of various proposed service models for service from Boston to western Massachusetts reflects requests for such a review. Over the next few months, MassDOT plans to develop a Request for Proposals for a thorough and robust study and analysis of such possible service.

"This is encouraging news and should give the people of Western Massachusetts hope that the Commonwealth will conduct the study of east-west rail that they have long asked for,” said State Senator Eric Lesser, Chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies (D-Longmeadow). “I thank MassDOT for addressing this need and look forward to working with them and the Administration on a thorough feasibility study that adequately addresses the realities and opportunities of establishing Boston to Springfield rail service. With the facts in front of us, we can begin to address the transportation needs of Western Massachusetts."

“Today’s release of the updated statewide rail plan continues the state’s commitment to maintaining and expanding a critical part of the transportation system in Massachusetts,” said House Chairman of the Joint Committee on Transportation, Bill Straus (D-Mattapoisett). “The combined values of transportation access, public safety and environmental protection are all parts of the new plan. Early start service for South Coast Rail is a key part of the new plan and I appreciate the Administration’s demonstrated commitment to this expanded service.”

On South Coast Rail, MassDOT is preparing a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (DSEIR) on Phase 1 for filing in early 2018.

The Draft State Rail Plan also designates Springfield to Greenfield pilot service as a priority for implementation. MassDOT seeks to build off Connecticut DOT’s CT Rail Service that is set to begin this year from New Haven to Springfield, adding through service to Greenfield as a pilot.

“This new state rail plan underscores that having a connected rail network, which can efficiently move people and freight, has rapidly become the new normal and a powerful engine for achieving enhanced mobility, economic progress, improved air quality and a sustainable future,” said Tim Brennan, Executive Director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission. “Now that the Commonwealth has its new, modern rail plan in place, the focus must now shift to its implementation.”

“The Governor’s draft rail plan outlines steps towards a better connected Commonwealth,” said State Senate Chairman of the Joint Committee on Transportation, Joseph Boncore (D-Winthrop). “These priorities and investments in our rail lines will improve access to goods, jobs and housing for the whole of the state, further strengthening the Commonwealth’s economy.”

The Draft State Rail Plan does not include policy decisions regarding specific MBTA commuter rail investments, which are the subject of other ongoing studies by the MBTA, including Focus40, the long range investment plan for the MBTA, and the MBTA Commuter Rail Vision, an 18- month effort that has just begun to study different approaches to delivering commuter rail service.

The public comment period on the Draft State Rail Plan will be open through February 16. Comments can be sent to planning@dot.state.ma.us, to the attention of Jen Slesinger.

--MassDOT