Inspired by constituents, a new state senator leads with rail

In this episode of Train Time, we spoke to State Senator Jo Comerford, who represents a large rural district in the northwest of  Massachusetts. Comerford is a relatively new legislator, having taken office in 2019. As a legislator in Boston, she started talking about rural rail right out of the starting gate, and explains in this interview that her focus on rail was driven by the stories she heard on the campaign trail. Here, she explains her vision for restored passenger service on what’s known as the “Northern Tier” line.

The Northern Tier Rail Study will look at the feasibility of restoring passenger rail service between North Adams, Greenfield and Boston. In addition to direct service along the Northern Tier Line the service could provide connecting service via Greenfield to southern New Hampshire and Vermont. A connecting service to Montreal would also be possible. For more detail, visit the Northern Tier Rail Study page at Trains in the Valley. At the Train Campaign website you’ll find an earlier proposal for the same line, extending west to Pownal, VT and then to Schenectady, NY, by Walter Klinger, a retired Amtrak conductor based in Vermont. For more about the potential connections in New York State, here’s Guest Post: Letter to MassDOT from Steve Strauss, NYS Council Representative – Rail Passengers Association.

Jo Comerford moved to western Massachusetts after graduating from the Hunter College School of Social Work in New York. Her career has included time at the Center for Human Development, the American Friends Service Committee, and The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. She was then executive director of the National Priorities Project before becoming a campaign director for MoveOn, focusing on a range of issues from gun safety to health care. She was elected to the state senate in 2018 and represents the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester District. In 2021, Comerford was appointed chair of a new Joint Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management.