Politics: Lawmakers pushing for MBTA to electrify Commuter Rail by 2035


State lawmakers are making another push for Commuter Rail electrification, now that a new governor is in office.

Legislation was filed in both the House and Senate that calls for the MBTA and its rail contractor, Keolis, to operate a fully electric Commuter Rail system by Dec. 31, 2035, and “ensure sufficient zero-emission infrastructure is in place” to meet that timeline.

Three lines that serve environmental justice populations — Newburyport/Rockport from North Station to Beverly, Fairmount from South Station to Readville and the entire Providence/Stoughton Line — would be electrified first, by Dec. 31, 2024.

“These types of projects check the box on a wide range of issues, in terms of ending our reliance on diesel vehicles, helping mobility in environmental justice communities and improving public health,” said state Sen. Brendan Crighton, who filed the Senate version of the proposed bill.

“I think we need to meet this urgency,” he added. “We need to get moving on this as quickly as possible. We can no longer afford to wait.”

The three lines prioritized in the new legislation were also designated for early electrification by the former MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board in November 2019. But there hasn’t been much movement since that time.

COVID-19 hit a couple months later, and last year’s focus was on safety and the Federal Transit Administration’s investigation of the MBTA’s subway system.

But Crighton, Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation, also noted that “there wasn’t the same sense of urgency felt by the previous administration,” something he expects will be different with Gov. Maura Healey in the corner office.

“I think the time is now and I think we have the support of the administration, municipalities, the federal government, and the Legislature,” Crighton said.

Healey’s press secretary, Karissa Hand, said “the governor has called for electrifying public transportation so that all modes operate on 100% clean power by 2040, starting with school and MBTA buses by 2030.”

“She looks forward to working with the Legislature and other partners to meet these goals,” Hand said. “She will review any legislation that reaches her desk.”

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