New major legislation will help fund East-West Rail, South Coast Rail, a Berkshires Housatonic Line, and more


Boston (May 29, 2020) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and the Environment and Public Works Committee, today announced introduction of the Building Rail Across Intercity Networks To Ride Around Interior of the Nation (BRAIN TRAIN) Act. This legislation authorizes $5 billion annually, for a total of $25 billion over five years, to invest in “high-performance” intercity passenger rail service that will connect communities within a state, across states, and around the country. High-performance rail means passenger rail service that will enhance transportation capacity, travel times, reliability, and efficiency. Chairman Richard E. Neal (MA-01) will introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives.


Passenger rail is an essential and popular alternative to traditional highways or air travel. Studies consistently show that expanding passenger rail service will improve mobility, enhance safety, promote economic development, generate new jobs, and protect the environment. Moreover, these benefits are especially pronounced for regions of the country – such as Western Massachusetts – that are historically and persistently unconnected or under-connected.


“Despite clear economic, environmental, and safety benefits, Congress has insufficiently invested in expanding passenger rail,” said Senator Markey. “Developing and restoring passenger rail service, especially in communities that have been underconnected, is exactly the kind of recovery program that can help repair the economic damage caused by the coronavirus while correcting long-standing inequities.


“I am introducing the BRAIN TRAIN Act so we can create new jobs, combat climate change, and mitigate traffic congestion while building an East-West Rail connection, finishing the South Coast Rail project, and exploring routes like a Berkshires Housatonic Line,” continued Senator Markey. “When the coronavirus pandemic is over, and whether you are traveling to Boston, Springfield, Hartford, New York City, Albany, or anywhere in between, the BRAIN TRAIN will help you get there.”


“I am thrilled to know Sen. Markey has introduced this critical legislation,” said Pittsfied, Massachusetts Mayor Linda Tyer. “This support will grant the western Massachusetts region much needed access throughout the state and will enhance our local economy. The time is now to move forward on robust funding that will support the development of comprehensive rail transportation throughout our country.”


A copy of the BRAIN TRAIN Act can be found HERE. A section-by-section overview of the legislation can be found HERE.


The BRAIN TRAIN Act will specifically:

  • Authorize the Department of Transportation (DOT) to implement a competitive grant program and award up to $5 billion annually to fund high-performance rail projects.
  • Instruct the DOT to evaluate applications for funding based on criteria such as:
    • The levels of estimated ridership, increased on-time performance, reduced trip time, or additional rail service frequency;
    • The anticipated provision of passenger rail service in regions that are historically and persistently unconnected or under-connected; and
    • The anticipated favorable impact on air or traffic congestion and safety.
    • Direct the DOT to give greater preference to high-performance rail projects that will:
      • Encourage direct connections between multiple modes of transportation, including train and transit stations, bus terminals, subway stations, ferry ports, and more;
      • Improve conventional intercity passenger, freight, or commuter rail operations;
      • Provide environmental benefits, including the use of environmentally sensitive, fuel-efficient, or electrified passenger rail equipment;
      • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
      • Improve air quality and public health;
      • Provide positive economic and employment impacts, including development in the areas near passenger stations, historic districts, or other opportunity zones; and
      • Provide enhanced transportation options for persons with disabilities.


The BRAIN TRAIN Act is endorsed by the Western Massachusetts Rail Coalition (which includes the Train Campaign, Trains in the Valley, Chester Railway Station & Museum, and Citizens for a Palmer Rail Stop), the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Transportation for America.


“The Western Mass Rail Coalition (WMRC) strongly supports Senator Markey’s bill because investment in regional rail between smaller American cities and major urban centers will benefit communities like ours across the United States,” said the Western Massachusetts Rail Coalition.


“When the Train Campaign surveyed our contacts in MA and CT in February 2018, the top-ranked item by far was ‘Outreach to federal legislators & campaign for infrastructure funding’,” said Karen Christensen, Founder, the Train Campaign. “When I met in May in 2019 with our federal delegation a bipartisan bill seemed possible, but the very next day it was nixed by President Trump. Now we have the prospect of support for interregional rail in the bill proposed by Senator Markey. A bright spot in these challenging times!”


“Passenger rail is a critical component of the low-carbon transportation system we need in the United States,” said Ann Shikany, Federal Policy Advocate, Natural Resources Defense Council. “The BRAIN TRAIN Act will provide the investment we need to keep our communities connected and our air clean.”


“Passenger rail doesn’t just connect regional economies and create new jobs: it multiplies the benefits of already-existing transportation assets, like airports, public transportation, and highways, by connecting more people to more places,” said Beth Osborne, Director, Transportation for America. “We’re happy that Senator Markey is introducing this bill now so that a robust passenger rail network can play a major role in our economic recovery. The BRAIN TRAIN Act will help make this possible by increasing federal rail investments and making it easier for localities to receive this transformative funding.”


“Senator Markey’s innovative plan for passenger trains offers a clear path forward in the campaign to build a modern, efficient rail system in the U.S.,” said Jim Mathews, President of the Rail Passengers Association. “The BRAIN TRAIN Act would create an innovative new toolset for states. Critically, Sen. Markey’s plan offers workable solutions not just for coastal megacities, but for small towns looking to build better connections to essential services and economic opportunities for their citizens.”