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February 9, 2024

UMass Amherst alumnus to lead Mass. West-East Rail expansion project

Photo | Grant Welker Commuter rail passengers prepare for boarding a train to Boston at Worcester's Union Station.

There are still many steps on the path to a functioning West-East Rail system across Massachusetts, but the Healey administration took one key step Tuesday in naming a director for the project.

The administration turned to Andy Koziol, a University of Massachusetts Amherst graduate with nearly 16 years of transportation experience, as its new point person on stretching regular passenger rail service across the state from Boston to Pittsfield.

Koziol, a Massachusetts native who spent a dozen years working for the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, was announced as MassDOT's "director of west-east rail" by Gov. Maura Healey, Lt. Gov. Kimberley Driscoll and Transportation Secretary Monica Tibbits-Nutt. He had already worked in MassDOT's Rail & Transit Division since last June in a passenger rail-focused director position.

Congressman Richard Neal of Springfield lauded Healey's "commitment" to the rail line and said the governor was "taking significant steps to help bring this project to fruition."

"This announcement is a testament to that commitment, and I applaud Governor Healey for taking decisive action that brings us one step closer to making West-East Rail a reality. With the $108 million CRISI grant that I announced with Governor Healey at Springfield Union Station in September, the Commonwealth is well positioned to capitalize on an opportunity that will not avail itself again," Neal said in a statement.

The federal CRISI (Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements) grant has allowed MassDOT to start in on "undertaking the necessary trackwork to enable two daily Amtrak round trips between Boston and New Haven, Connecticut with a stop in Springfield, dubbed the Inland Route," according to the agency.

"We have never been closer to making West-East Rail a reality," Healey said in the announcement, "and I am pleased to see Andy take on this important role to continue building on our progress."

In addition to his UMass Amherst bachelor's degree, Koziol holds a master's in city and regional planning from Rutgers University. Out of college, he worked as a transportation analyst at the Cape Cod Commission. His dozen years in Rhode Island government included five years as assistant planning chief in the Office of Transit.

Kimberly Robinson of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission called the hire "a huge step forward in a project that has been a long time coming."

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