More frequent train service between Springfield and Boston took a step closer to reality on Friday after the federal government awarded a grant of $108 million to Massachusetts.
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal made the announcement at Springfield's Union Station, joined by Gov. Maura Healey and other elected officials.
Meredith Slesinger, rail and transit administrator for the state's Department of Transportation, said the federal money will pay to upgrade the infrastructure needed for East-West rail.
"We're going to be making track improvements between Springfield and Worcester in order to raise the class of track, so that trains can operate at higher speeds," she said. "Improving the class of track means that we can get to that two-hour travel time between Boston and Springfield."
Healey, who has been supportive of the project and signed off on $12.5 million in DOT funding in the state's fiscal year 2024 budget, expressed her excitement.
"I just can't overstate the importance of this — access to jobs, access to housing, economic growth and development," she said. "We want to fully connect our communities."
Ben Hecksher co-founded Trains in the Valley seven years ago and has been pushing for East-West rail ever since. He called the announcement of the grant "great news."
"From our perspective, it effectively greenlights the project," he said. "We're thrilled that Massachusetts was selected right up front to get this project moving.
According to Neal's office, the grant to Massachusetts was the second largest among 70 awarded nationwide by the Federal Railroad Administration.
The first phase of the plan involves adding two round-trip options between Boston and Springfield.
The money will also support improved connections to Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut.
A state transportation officials estimated it would take several years to make the improvements and start the new service.
This story is a production of the New England News Collaborative. It was originally published by New England Public Media.