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The State of MA Needs a Smart East/West Rail Plan : Over the last ten years, the state and federal government has invested significant public money into Western Massachusetts . It is time to upgrade the infrastructure so that everyone can use our world class facilities. Over the last 10 years, UMass Amherst has invested billions of taxpayer dollars in new, state of the art facilities, that can and will hold world class researchers. Providing regional rail to Springfield would spur this growth and make it possible for people who want to work for the university to retain a foothold in the city as well. It would also retain a vibrant, viable local consumer base for all of western mass’s amazing artists and artisans who rely on people with disposable income to buy their products. The median age of university professionals is increasing each year, and in my own office we have had over a half dozen retirements in just 2 years. These positions would make a fine beginning to many young professional’s careers. But, younger people are not taking these jobs. I would, but my fiance works in Boston, so they will not get me. Instead we have lived in Palmer. She does an Airbnb each week. This weekend we will sign a lease in Boston, and I will finish out my time at school in Airbnb situations. In a similar vain, last year we had a visiting professor come from Scandinavia. He had never been in this part of the world, and so he decided what he would do is rent an apartment in Boston AND buy a hotel room for three nights a week. That way he could actually experience Boston. If the barriers of constructed infrastructure are removed, the ridership estimates in this iteration of the study will come to be seen as laughably low. Many of us who come out here to work and go to school at UMass, especially for grad school, are in our late twenties or early 30's. We have families and they cannot always find good jobs in this economically depressed region. You guys have kept all the growth post recession confined to the metro area. At the public hearing earlier this week, many came from Boston who are in their early 30's. They want to leave. They took the afternoon off to come and say it. They do not want to pay 800k for a condo in Southie. They would rather push out into the middle of the state. But they can't, because the commute would be hellacious. The more ambitious proposed regional rail lines would spur growth along a corridor that would result in a more spatially equitable distribution of opportunity along the east / west corridor and by extension, the entire state. The least ambitious would only band aid the situation and not provide the kind of connection required. There are good options in the $10-15 billion range that the committee needs to explore by combining the best parts of each of the 6 proposals during the next phase of the study. For example, Option 6 could be used between Springfield and Boston, with option 4 extending out into the Berkshires. Option 4 could also be combined with option 5. The committee also needs to calculate induced demand scenarios to better understand the cost per rider, and they need to explain why their proposed cost is more expensive than was found in comparable studies. However, this is at a conceptual phase, so there is still time to resolve these issues. The committee has found some interesting tools that could be used to solve this problem. The question is if the public is willing to spend the money to more equitably distribute opportunity across the state. Full Article

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