Federal, State and Local Officials Push for Commuter Rail Electrification

A coalition of 24 federal, state and local officials, who represent the communities served by the Newburyport-Rockport line, signed a letter urging the MBTA to prioritize electrification of the Commuter Rail in its upcoming five-year capital improvement plan (CIP). The Coalition consists of representatives from the following municipalities: Beverly, Chelsea, Everett, Lynn, Nahant, Peabody, Revere, Salem, Swampscott.

In 2019, the MBTA’s Fiscal Management and Control Board (the current MBTA Board’s predecessor) approved the electrification of the Fairmount and Providence lines along with portions of the Newburyport/Rockport Line known as the Environmental Justice Corridor. In addition to electrifying the lines, the vote included reducing fares to levels comparable to the subway and increasing frequency.

“The electrification of the Commuter Rail, coupled with reduced fares and increased frequency, will provide overall growth for the City of Lynn and its residents,” said Mayor Nicholson. “We must continue to invest in public goods that will push communities towards inclusive growth, such as public transportation. The electrification of the Environmental Justice corridor will help tackle long standing equity issues as well as improve connectivity for Lynn’s residents and increase access to jobs and housing.”

The letter has identified key components of the project that need to be funded including:

• $400 million for the costs associated with the actual electrification of the Newbury-Rockport line. This includes power distribution and catenary installation, modifications to appropriate maintenance facilities and purchasing a new electric fleet.

• $260 million for step-free access to speed up boarding for everyone and to give riders with reduced mobility easier access to the train.

• $120 million for infill stations that will be built on the existing line in address areas that have demand, but currently no stops.

• $35 million for trolley rapid transit that would serve as a link between downtown Peabody and the Salem Commuter Rail Station, attracting hundreds daily.

“We need a commuter rail system that works for everyone and with electrification we can accomplish this by ensuring that service is affordable, reliable, frequent and environmentally friendly,” said Senator Brendan Crighton. “We strongly urge the MBTA to immediately make these investments that will reduce carbon emissions and congestion while also creating economic mobility for all”.

The CIP prioritizes MBTA investments over the next five years. A process of weighing the costs and benefits of each proposed projects is what shapes the CIP. A draft will be published on March 24th, which includes preliminary program sizes and project budgets. After the draft is released, the MBTA will hold a 30-day public comment period and public engagement campaign, where they will welcome comments through many channels such as public meetings, letters, emails and online forms. In May, the MBTA Board will vote on a final CIP to be published.

“Our region has an unprecedented opportunity to abandon the status quo and invest in the future. If we electrify the Newburyport-Rockport Commuter Rail line—making it greener and more accessible—we’ll be setting the standard for other communities,” said Congressman Seth Moulton. “The MBTA should prioritize rail electrification and show that the Commonwealth is serious about leading on economic recovery, environmental justice, and improved mobility.”

“I am proud to work in a united front with my colleagues from across the North Shore to request for the electrification of the Newburyport/Rockport line,” said State Representative Dan Cahill. “We realize the immense potential that this investment in infrastructure would have for the workers and families of North Shore. The faster and more reliable connection between cities and towns will have positive economic benefits for those municipalities and their residents.”

“Investments into the commuter rail system are long overdue, “said State Representative Peter Capano. “I join my colleagues in urging the MBTA to prioritize electrification, affordable fares, and reliable service so that residents of the North Shore have access to clean, equitable, and dependable transportation.”

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