Holyoke Rally Set

There will be a rally for tenants' right on September 13 at 3 p.m. outside Holyoke city hall. The event is being organized by the group Neighbor to Neighbor. According to that group's web site, "An elite few have created a housing crisis here in Massachusetts. A handful of lawmakers -- and the real estate speculators, corporate developers and landlords that fund their campaigns -- jack up rents, destroy affordable options, and price us out of the neighborhoods we call home. No matter how much money you have in your wallet, you should be able to make a home in Massachusetts."

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The world's leading scientists say climate change caused by humans is a major threat to earth's ability to support life. Electric cars often run on electricity generated with fossil fuels or with equally problematic sources like nuclear, burning trees, and hydro-electric. Building and maintaining roads is a major cause of climate change. One solution is to make better sidewalks, crosswalks, bicycle paths, and trains.

Ben Heckscher runs the Northampton-based group Trains in the Valley. Every six months the Valley Post asks him for an update. On September 1, Heckscher said, “The biggest news (since March) in my view was the funding that MassDOT provided in their annual Capital Investment Plan (CIP) in support of design work for a new station in Palmer (about 20 miles east of Springfield) and track work at the station in Pittsfield (about 50 miles northwest of Springfield, on the way to Albany, New York). These projects are both in support of East-West rail, which is slowly starting to move forward as a project rather than simply a dream.”

Heckscher said, "MassDOT, in partnership with Amtrak, and with support from CSX, has submitted grant applications seeking $108 million in funding from the Federal Railroad Administration in support of early action items for East-West Rail. The application seeks more than $108 million... The planned project would include the following major elements: Two new Amtrak “Inland Route” daily round trips between Boston, Springfield, and New Haven, CT as a first phase of East-West corridor improvements; (and) Infrastructure improvements that will result in increased train speeds.... The goal in this round of improvements is to get the trains from Springfield to South Station (in Boston) in about two hours time....”

He continued, “MassDOT has allocated funds that will allow for the study and design of a future station stop in Palmer and track work in and around the Pittsfield station. The funding — $4 million for the Palmer station design and $8.5 million for the track work in Pittsfield — was originally proposed by Gov. Maura Healey in the state budget... The legislature chose not to include this funding in the annual state budget even though House version of the budget included a $250 million allocation to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority....”

Heckscher said, “In early June the Western Mass Rail Coalition asked MassDOT... that these two projects be included in MassDOT’s FY2024–2028 Capital Investment Plan. The Coalition also reached out to Sen. Paul Mark to seek his support for the Coalition’s proposal. Staff in his office quickly organized a joint legislative letter of support for the proposal. In the 'eleventh hour,' as MassDOT was finalizing the CIP, the Palmer and Pittsfield Rail Project funding was added to the CIP.... The Palmer station design work is planned to take place over the next two years and the Pittsfield track work is planned for the next four years."

Heckscher spoke about “the impact that the catastrophic flooding in Vermont had on the Amtrak Vermonter service. The train was suspended between July 10 and 18th and when it resumed there were significant delays due to damaged infrastructure along the line, which follows the Connecticut River in many locations. The train is still running (through Brattleboro) with delays of about an hour southbound but this should improve in the coming weeks.”

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