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Local public transit a priority

State transportation secretary addresses business leaders

Recorder/Anita Fritz
Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey talks with Franklin County Chamber of Commerce members Friday morning about projects throughout the county.

Recorder/Anita Fritz Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey talks with Franklin County Chamber of Commerce members Friday morning about projects throughout the county.

GREENFIELD — Transportation is about jobs and economic development, and Massachusetts plans to make an investment in transportation in Franklin County to bring and keep people here, local business leaders were told by the state’s top transportation official Friday.

“If we make an investment here, it will encourage private businesses to do the same,” said Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation and Chief Executive Officer of the state Department of Transportation Richard Davey.

He said the state is currently negotiating with Pan Am Railways to buy one of its lines so that Massachusetts can control its own destiny when it comes to rail service.

“Currently, we are working on bringing rail service north and south out of Greenfield,” said Davey. “We haven’t talked about bringing it east and west, yet, but we’ll be looking at that.”

State and local officials have said they hope rail service will be back in Greenfield within the next year or so.

Davey said he and Gov. Deval Patrick are dedicated to improving Franklin County roads and bridges, also.

He said the transportation finance bill will allow for the state to “invest wisely” in numerous projects — and not just in the eastern part of the state.

“There’s been a lack of investment in these types of projects nationwide,” said Davey. “There hasn’t been the political gumption we need to invest more in ourselves.”

Speaking at the monthly Franklin County Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting, Davey said that is changing in Massachusetts.

Davey said he and the governor are focused at this point on maintenance and investments in better transit systems. When asked, he said widening a highway, like Route 2, is not high on the list at this point.

“We have other things to do,” he said.

“We need to provide Tina with more resources, for instance,” he said, referring to Tina Cote, administrator for Franklin Regional Transit Authority, which hosts the town’s new bus and train transit center. “We need to find more resources to expand services of bus and rail.”

Davey said if the state can help in that way, then after making its initial investment, “people will come.”

He said increased transit options will increase tourism to Greenfield.

Davey promised members that some of their taxes will stay in western Massachusetts and, specifically, in Franklin County, to help repair and expand.

He said he understands that sometimes people in the western part of the state feel like they are funding projects in the eastern part.

“We all contribute to services we may never use,” he said. “An example would be fire or police.”

In the end, he said, everyone should get the services they need.

“I promise that governing doesn’t stop in Boston,” he said. “We aren’t going to leave the rest of the state behind.”

Davey said the big issues being discussed at the state level this year into next are transportation, education and tax policy.

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