Legislative action to launch a long-sought passenger rail extension into western Massachusetts “certainly is being considered” among a growing to-do list, Senate President Karen Spilka said Monday, though the exact steps Beacon Hill will take remain unclear with less than eight weeks left for formal lawmaking business.

Spilka told reporters she had a “first conversation” about the project last week with Congressman Richard Neal, who in late April joined with Gov. Charlie Baker to herald a breakthrough on efforts to offer passenger train service linking Springfield and Pittsfield with the eastern part of the state.

At the time, Neal said the agreement would hinge on the Legislature using a pending infrastructure bond bill to create a new rail authority. Lawmakers since then have given no signals if they intend to make East-West Rail a highlight of the more than $9.7 billion transportation and environment bond bill Baker filed in March.

“We will continue our discussions about the need and how to create such an authority,” Spilka said.

Baker, who met privately with Spilka and House Speaker Ronald Mariano before the trio addressed reporters on Monday, interjected and asked the Senate president if the best vehicle for addressing East-West Rail management would be his infrastructure bond bill or a separate $3.5 billion economic development bill he filed in April.

“Wouldn’t that just end up in MassTRAC or FORWARD or something like that if it were to happen?” Baker said, using his administration’s titles for the two bond bills.

“It could. It could,” Spilka replied.

Talks Still Active On East-West Rail Authority

by State House News Service time to read: 1 min