Thursday, May 8, 2008

Commuter Rail Summit Tomorrow

As mentioned on Monday, there will be a public summit tomorrow at the DCU Center in Worcester addressing the state of commuter rail service in Massachusetts. I believe the people behind Daily Worcesteria may be live blogging from the conference.

Unfortunately, for work-related reasons, neither Train Rider or I can make it to tomorrow's summit. Yesterday's Telegram & Gazette published an article about the summit. Here are the highlights:
Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray, the city’s former mayor, will introduce the public forum. Speakers will include former Gov. Michael S. Dukakis; U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester; Thomas Cahir, deputy secretary for transportation programs for the state Executive Office of Transportation; Maurice J. O’Connell, vice president of public affairs for CSX Corp.; and Jody Ray, director of railroad operations for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

Other elected officials and transit advocates are expected to attend. The summit will be held from 8:30 to 11 a.m. Friday. It is open to the public.

Mr. Murray, a longtime proponent of expanding commuter rail service, who occasionally rides the train from Worcester to Boston, said the summit is an opportunity to explain what has been done to improve commuter service and what challenges lie ahead.

“I want to make sure people are aware of how hard we’ve been working on various fronts,” he said. “This is an important priority of this administration.”

The expansion of commuter rail service to Worcester has been discussed for many years, but has not moved beyond talks. Among the challenges to expanding rail service is a disagreement over liability that has become a hot political issue. CSX Corp., the national railroad company which owns the track from Framingham to Worcester, insists on maintaining the existing no-fault liability policy if CSX sells the track to the state. Lawmakers and transportation officials refuse to sign on to such a policy.

Mr. Murray described rail transportation in Massachusetts as a checkerboard, with the ownership and control of tracks varying from one line to the next.

Yesterday Gov. Deval L. Patrick’s office authorized the Executive Office of Transportation to conduct a study to boost freight transportation in Massachusetts. The $1 million study, expected to be completed in 15 months, will be the first rail master plan in nearly 20 years.

“It benefits the state, and it benefits (CSX) as well,” Mr. Murray said. “What we need is a real public-private partnership.”

Last week, the MBTA approved spending $15 million to improve tracks and signaling on the Fitchburg commuter rail line. This is the first installment in a $150 million upgrade on the Fitchburg line, expected to be complete by 2010, which will allow trains to travel faster.
Does anyone find it weird that no one from the MBCR appears to be on the public speaking schedule? If MBCR operates the commuter rails for the MBTA, shouldn't a representative be included in the program?

The summit is a great idea. Too bad it is on a work day. I wonder if more people would attend if something like this was scheduled for an evening or on a weekend?

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