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State House Transportation Committee Discusses Bills Regarding East-West Rail, T Oversight

9:27 AM EDT on May 8, 2023

The gold-plated dome of the Massachusetts State House against a blue sky, with the Massachusetts flag flying to the right of the dome in the foreground.

The Massachusetts State House in downtown Boston.

The legislature's Joint Committee on Transportation hosted a hybrid in-person and virtual public hearing on Monday afternoon to discuss several bills related to transit expansion projects, East-West rail, and MBTA oversight.

You can find hearing details – including information about  how to attend in person or submit testimony virtually – at the Massachusetts Legislature's website.

Here are some of the bills for which the Committee will hear testimony this afternoon:

    • Senate bill 2199, sponsored by Sen. Michael Barrett (Lexington), would relieve the state's Department of Public Utilities (DPU) of its safety oversight role over the MBTA and app-based ridesharing services, and hand off that responsibility to a new 7-member "Commission on Transportation Safety Oversight and Regulation." In a newsletter to constituents, Sen. Barrett writes that "no longer will transit be an add-on to an office preoccupied mainly by other things. Separating the DPU from transportation brings with it a crucial added benefit: The agency is freed up to concentrate on its major responsibility, climate change and energy policy."
    • Another bill, H. 3452 from Rep. William Straus (Mattapoisett) would convene a high-level working group to produce a proposal to "transfer state safety oversight of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority from the Department of Public Utilities to the Office of the Inspector General," while also establishing a process to document official disagreements between the T's Chief Safety Officer and the T's General Manager or Board of Directors.
    • Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa (Northampton) and Sen. Paul Mark (Pittsfield) are respectively sponsoring House and Senate versions of a bill that would direct the Secretary of Transportation to "negotiate and enter into compacts on behalf of the Commonwealth with the states of Connecticut, New York, and Vermont" for improved passenger rail connections through western Massachusetts to Albany, New Haven, Brattleboro, and beyond.
    • Sen. Mark is also sponsoring S.2269, which directs MassDOT to begin running east-west passenger rail service "at least five times daily" between Boston, Springfield, and Pittsfield by January 1, 2024.
    • Rep. Brandy Fluer Oakley (Mattapan) and Sen. Liz Miranda (Dorchester-Roxbury) are sponsoring House and Senate versions of a bill that would mandate electrification on the MBTA's Fairmount Line by the end of 2024 and effectively make the line part of the T's rapid transit network.

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