Knowledge Corridor Pilot Program with Senators Lesser & Comerford | Connecting Point | June 5, 2019

Knowledge Corridor Pilot Program with Senators Lesser & Comerford | Connecting Point | June 5, 2019


>>>CURRENTLY, IF YOU ARE NEW
YORK CITY BOUND AND PLAN TO TAK A TRAIN, YOU HAVE ONE CHANCE A
DAY TO DO SO FROM SPRINGFIELD. LAST YEAR THE STATE STRUCK A
DEAL THAT WILL TEMPORARILY ADD TWO MORE CHANCES PER DAY. BUT
TWO SENATORS FROM THIS REGION ARE AMONG THOSE CONCERNED THAT
VERY FEW PEOPLE EVEN KNOW THE KNOWLEDGE CORRIDOR PILOT
PROGRAM IS SET TO LAUNCH. SENATORS ERIC LESSER AND JO
COMERFORD JOINED ME TO DISCUSS WHY THEY ARE ADVOCATING FOR
MONEY TO MARKET THE PROGRAM.>>WE ARE REALLY EXCITED THAT
THE SENATE ACCEPTED THE AMENDMENT, THAT OUR COLLEAGUES
UNDERSTAND THE VALUE OF THE OPPORTUNITY OF THE KNOWLEDGE
CORRIDOR, AND THAT WE ARE ABLE TO OFFER THIS AS AN INVESTMENT
A JIM DOWN PAYMENT IN THE KIND OF COMMUNICATIONS WORK THAT
NEEDS TO BE DONE. NOW THAT THE PILOT IS UPON US,
WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT IT SO WE CAN BUILD
A RIDER BASE THAT WILL DEMONSTRATE THE EFFICACY OF
MAINTAINING THAT SERVICE AFTER THE PILOT EXPIRES.>>SO THE PILOT HASN’T EVEN,
PUREED, HOW DID YOU GET THEM TO PUT THIS IN THE SENATE
VERSION OF THE BUDGET, IT REALLY SELLS ITSELF. WHAT PEOPLE NEED TO
APPRECIATE, THIS IS A MAJOR REGIONAL PROJECT THAT’S BEEN
REALLY WELL OVER A DECADE IN THE MAKING, GOING BACK INTO
THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION STIMULUS, THERE’S BEEN AN
EFFORT TO CONNECT THE PIONEER VALLEY THROUGH RAIL SERVICE. I GOAT FROM THE VERMONT WORDER
TO THE CONNECTICUT BORDER, OVER $100 MILLION HAS BEEN
INVESTED ALREADY TO GET THE TRACKS AND INFRASTRUCTURE UP
TO SPEED, O SO TO SPEAK, WHAT AN EXCITING OPPORTUNITY,
YOU’LL BE ABLE TO GO THROUGH GREENFIELD TO NEW YORK IN ONE
DAY, THAT’S REALLY A BIG DEAL. THE CRAZY THING IS, I DON’T
THINK PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT IT. WHEN WE WERE OUT IN THE
COMMUNITY, PEOPLE DON’T KNOW THIS WILL BE HAPPENING VERY
SOON, WHICH IS WHY WE WORKED TO PUT THE MONEY IN FOR
MARKETING.>>THE GOVERNOR CAME OUT HERE
OVER A LITTLE OVER A YEAR AGO TO MAKE THIS ANNOUNCEMENT THIS
EXTENDED RAIL SERVICE WOULD BE HAPPENING, THE STATE HAD
STRUCK A DEAL WITH AMTRAK AND THE STATE OF CONDONE ADD THESE
TWO ROUTES AS A PILOT PROJECT AND THAT IT WOULD BE HAPPENING
IN THE SPRING OF 2019. SPRING HAS COME AND GONE, HERE
WE ARE PUSHED TO SUMMER 2019. WILL IT EVEN HAPPEN IN SUMMER
OF 2019?>>WE DON’T HAVE REASON TO
BELIEVE, THUS THE SENATOR SHOULD CORRECT ME IF I’M
WRONG, WE DON’T HAVE REASON TO BELIEVE WE ARE GOING TO PUSH
IT FURTHER AT THIS POINT. I THINK WE ARE HEARING NOW
LATE SUMMER. WHICH, AGAIN, JUST ADDS
URGENCY ON OUR PART TO MAKE SURE THAT THERE’S A PLAN SO
THAT PEOPLE ACROSS THIS REGION HAVE AN UNDERSTANDING THAT,
HEY, COME FALL, OF THIS YEAR, WE’LL BE ABLE TO REALLY HAVE
SERVICE NEVER EVEN THOUGHT POSSIBLE BEFORE.>>DO WE KNOW WHAT’S GOTTEN IN
THE WAY TO THIS POINT. PRETTY MUCH AFTER THE GOVERNOR
MADE THE ANNOUNCEMENT, THE DELAY WAS ALSO ANNOUNCED?>>IT’S A COMPLICATED PROJECT,
AND THERE’S A LOT OF MOVING PIECES, THEY HAVE TO GET THE
ROLLING STOCK FROM A CERTAIN LOCATION, IT HAS TO BE
SYNCHRONIZED BOTH WITH THE AMTRAK TRAINS AND THE NEW
CONNECTICUT DOT TRAINS OPERATING SPRINGFIELD SOUTH,
BUT THE BIGGER POINT, A GOOD ONE AND AN IMPORTANT ONE, THE
COMMUNICATION DOES NEED TO BE APPROVED, WE WERE TOLD A
SPRING PILOT, IT’S NOW JUNE THAT’S COME AND GONE, SUMMER
PILOT WILL BE ANNOUNCED, PART OF THE EFFORT WITH THE
AMENDMENT WE FILED AND THE MONEY WE ARE HOPEFULLY GOING
TO TRY TO SECURE IN THIS VERSION OF THE BUDGET IS TO
MAKE SURE WE HAVE THE RESOURCES WE NEED TO GET THE
WORD OUT. THE COMMUNITY IS ASKING
QUESTIONS, LOCAL CONSTITUENTS UP AND DOWN THE CORRIDOR ARE
ASKING QUESTIONS AND YOU WOULD THINK THAT IF IT’S GOING TO BE
LAUNCHED THIS SUMMER, A MARKETING PROGRAM WOULD NEED
TO BE GETTING STARTED NOW, IN ORDER TO GET THE WORD OUT TO
PEOPLE SO THEY CAN START PLANNING THEIR TRIPS.>>AS THIS MOVES FORWARD,
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION HAS SET A BENCHMARK IT WANTS
TO SEE 24,000 RIDERS TO DETERMINE WHETHER OR NOT ONCE
IT GETS GOING, IF IT WILL CONTINUE. DO YOU THINK THERE IS THAT
MARKET FOR THOSE 24,000 RIDERS OR EVEN MORE?>>YEAH. I THINK WE HAVE SEEN SOME REAL
PROMISING NUMBERS FROM THE AMTRAK SERVICE THAT’S
CURRENTLY RUNNING, WE HAVE SEEN SOME REAL SPIKES, AND WE
CAN JUST ONLY IMAGINE IF WE CAN INCREASE THE FREQUENCY AND
INCREASE THE SPEED BY WHICH PEOPLE CAN GO DOWN AND BACK TO
NEW YORK. I CALL IT THE DOWN AND BACK.>>YOU HAVE TO STAY OVERNIGHT
IF YOU TAKE THE VERMONTER, WHICH ONLY RUNS ONCE A DAY.>>THE PILOT WOULD TURN THAT
INTO A ROUND TRIP?>>UNDER THE WEIGHT OF THE
RAIL SERVICE, YOU HAVE TO STAY OVERNIGHT.>>THAT WORKS FOR SOME FOLKS,
WE HAVE SEEN A SPIKE IN THOSE FOLKS, WE CAN ONLY JUST
IMAGINE THAT IF WE CAN INCREASE THE FREQUENCY, MAKE
IT POSSIBLE TO GO DOWN AND BACK FROM OUR REGION TO NEW
YORK CITY AND THROUGH CONNECTICUT, MAKING STOPS IN
CONNECTICUT, NOT ONLY WILL WE USE IT HERE IN WESTERN
MASSACHUSETTS, BUT FOLKS IN CONNECTICUT, FOLKS IN NEW YORK
CITY, WHERE THE MARKETING WILL HAVE TO STRETCH TO OVER TIME,
WE’LL THINK, THIS IS A GREAT WAY TO GET TO WESTERN
MASSACHUSETTS AND IT’S NOT ONLY THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY, I
TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU, THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY IS
ANXIOUS. I KNOW WE HAVE HEARD FROM THE
ARTS COMMUNITY, HEARD FROM THE EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS,
WANTING TO BRING VISITING FACULTY, HOSPITALS, EXACTLY,
THIS HAS OPPORTUNITIES FOR EVERY SECTOR THAT WE CAN
IMAGINE.>>GOVERNOR BAKER HAS SAID THE
STATE IS INVESTING ABOUT A MILLION DOLLARS IN THIS, BUT
DO YOU KNOW, HAVE ANY SENSE OF THAT RETURN ON INVESTMENT THAT
WILL COME FROM THAT? YOU TALKED ABOUT HOSPITALS,
ARTS?>>THE RETURN IS ALMOST INCAL
CUE LABEL, THE SINGLE BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN WESTERN MASS,
IT’S A GREAT PLACE TO LIVE, WE ARE ON HERE ALL THE TIME
TALKING ABOUT THE AMAZING SCHOOLS, CULTURAL
INSTITUTIONS, OPEN SPACE, THE SINGLE BIGGEST CHALLENGE WE
HAVE IS OUR ECONOMY IS NOT GROWING FAST ENOUGH TO INCLUDE
ALL OF OUR FAMILIES, TO INCLUDE ALL OF THE COMMUNITIES
JUST OUTSIDE OF THE WALLS OF THIS STUDIO. WE NEED TO CONNECT OURSELVES
TO THOSE RED HOT ECONOMIES WHERE THE JOBS ARE BEING
CREATED, THAT WILL PUMP INVESTMENT INTO WESTERN MASS,
IT’S AN BIG CHANGE THAT WILL RESULT, AND WE KNOW THIS
BECAUSE WE HAVE SEEN WHAT THE IMPACT HAS BEEN JUST ON THE
PLATFORM IMPROVEMENTS IN NORTHAMPTON WHERE YOU HAVE
SEEN RECORD PASSENGER TURNOUT AT THE NORTHAMPTON STATION FOR
CONNECTIVITY DOWN INTO NEW YORK, BUT THE CHALLENGE HERE
IS IT’S NOT GOING TO BE A SUCCESS IF YOU DON’T GET THE
WORD OUT. IT ALMOST — SOMETIMES YOU
ALMOST FEAR THEY ARE SETTING IT UP FOR FAILURE BECAUSE IF
YOU’VE PUT, AGAIN, OVER $100 MILLION OF INVESTMENT,
YOU’VE SPENT A DECADE WORKING ON IT, JUST AT THE MOMENT
WHERE THE TRAIN IS GOING TO COME ONLINE AND IT’S TIME TO
GET EVERYBODY ON BOARD, YOU DON’T EVEN MARKET IT, DON’T
EVEN RUN AN AD, THINK ABOUT THE BIG E, HOW LONG THEY DO
ADVERTISEMENTS FOR THE BIG E BEFORE THE RUNUP AT THE FAIR
OPENING, YOU HAVE ONE OF THE SINGLE BIGGEST AND MOST
IMPORTANT INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS FRANKLY IN THE
HISTORY OF WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS OPENING UP
POTENTIALLY THIS SUMMER, RIGHT NOW THERE DOESN’T SEEM TO BE
AN ADEQUATE PLAN FOR GETTING THE WORD OUT ABOUT IT.>>LET’S MOVE ON WITH RAIL. YOU HAVE TALKED ABOUT WEST TO
EAST, EAST TO WEST TO BOSTON, DEPENDING ON YOUR DIRECTION.>>OUR FRIEND AND COLLEAGUE,
HE CALLS IT WEST-EAST RAIL. I’M ALL FOR BECAUSE IT KIND OF
CHANGES THE ORIENTATION OF HOW WE TALK ABOUT IT.>>GETTING SPRINGFIELD TO
BOSTON. WHERE DOES IT STAND RIGHT NOW,
WE TALKED ABOUT PILOT AND WHETHER OR NOT THERE’S ENOUGH
SUPPORT FOR THE FINAL PROJECT, WHERE IS IT RIGHT NOW?>>THE FEASIBILITY STUDY IS
ONGOING. THERE WAS A LISTENING SESSION
IN SPRINGFIELD NOT TOO LONG AGO, MORE SCHEDULED FOR AROUND
THE ROUTE, ALONG THE ROUTE, AND THE HOPE IS FIRST QUARTER,
2020, WE WILL HAVE THAT FEASIBILITY STUDY COMPLETE. MASS DOT — THIS ISN’T GOING
TO BE A 20-PAGE WORKING GROUP REPORT, THIS IS A REAL
ENGINEERING ANALYSIS, THE FIRST ONE THAT’S BEEN DONE,
SOMETHING,ABLE, WRITTEN BY ENGINEERS THAT WILL TELL US
WHAT’S INVOLVED IN MAKING THIS A REALITY, IT’S VERY EXCITING,
ALL EYES ARE ON IT, WE ARE VERY HOPEFUL THE RESULTS WILL
BE VERY POSITIVE. THE HOPE IS THEY’RE GOING TO
PRESENT IT AS A MENU OF OPTIONS, THEY’LL SAY, LIKE,
PROVIDE FIVE OR SIX DIFFERENT OPTIONS OF SERVICE AND THERE
WILL BE A PRICE TAG ATTACHED TO EACH OF THOSE OPTIONS, BUT
ONE THING THAT WE HAVE BEEN PUSHING AND THAT I THINK IS
VERY IMPORTANT, WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE TO HAVE THE ROUTE
FROM SPRINGFIELD TO BOSTON BE ONE HOUR. LET’S GIVE THAT VISION AND
THAT GOAL TO THE PUBLIC AND THEN LET’S HAVE A DEBATE ABOUT
INVESTMENTS AND WHAT IT WILL COST. WE DON’T KNOW WHAT THE NUMBER
WILL BE YET, OBVIOUSLY IT’S SUBSTANTIAL, NO ONE IS
PRETENDING IT WOULD BE A SMALL PROJECT, IT’S VERY EXCITING WE
ARE NOW AT A POINT WHERE WE ARE GETTING VERY CLOSE TO
SEEING THOSE DOCUMENTS COME BACK.>>SENATOR, YOU’D LIKE TO SEE
IT GO A STEP FURTHER AND EXTEND TO NORTH ADAMS, YOU’VE
INTRODUCED LEGISLATION TO THAT EFFECT?>>YES, I DID, AND IT’S
IMPORTANT TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THE LEGISLATION OR THE OUTSIDE
SECTION THAT WE WERE ABLE TO MOVE IN THE BUDGET ACTUALLY
ACKNOWLEDGES THAT THE EAST-WEST RAIL OR WEST-EAST
RAIL, THAT SENATOR LESSER IS MOVING COMES FIRST, RIGHT? SO OUR STUDY WOULDN’T START
UNTIL SENATOR LESSER’S STUDY ENDS. SO I’M VERY EXCITED, I HEAR
THIS ALL THE TIME, EVERY TIME, THIS IS NOT AN EXAGGERATION. WHY ISN’T THERE A RAIL ANYMORE
ALONG THE ROUTE 2 CORRIDOR OR NORTHERN TIER, AND PEOPLE IN
FRANKLIN COUNTY REMEMBER PASSENGER RAIL. THEY REMEMBER IT, THEY USED TO
RIDE ON IT UP UNTIL THE ’60s, LATE ’60s, IT’S
AN OPPORTUNITY FOR US TO LOOK AT THE RETURN ON INVESTMENT,
WHAT IT WOULD TAKE, A MENU OF OPTIONS, NONE OF ARE GOING TO
HAPPEN TREMENDOUSLY QUICKLY. IF WE ARE SUCCESSFUL. BUT IT’S JUST — IT’S AN
OPPORTUNITY FOR US TO GET ENGINEERS TO LOOK AT THE
TRACKS, TO LOOK AT THE POSSIBILITY OF THAT RAIL
STRETCHING FROM NORTH ADAMS INTO FITCHBURG AND HOOKING UP
WITH THE COMMUTER RAIL THERE AND THINK ABOUT THE
OPPORTUNITIES FOR FRANKLIN — NORTHERN FRANKLIN AND
BERKSHIRE COUNTIES.

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