Massachusetts Senate bill mirrors House version on east-west rail, MBTA help | New

Senate bill mirrors House version on track

Top Democrats from both branches are now in agreement on a plan that would free up hundreds of millions of dollars for one-time safety funding for the MBTA and $250 million for a railroad expansion in western Massachusetts.

On Thursday, the Senate introduced its version of a nearly $10.4 billion infrastructure bond bill that, like legislation the House unanimously approved last month, would create a pot of $400 million that the T could leverage as the transportation agency works to address critical safety issues uncovered. by a blistering federal investigation, according to a summary of the bill.

The overhaul also reflects the House’s $250 million bond for the much-sought east-west rail project and creates a commission to investigate whether Massachusetts needs a new public agency to build the project and then operate it. a western rail segment.

Beacon Hill Democrats effectively snubbed both Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and U.S. Rep. Richie Neal, D-Springfield, by asking about controlling Western Rail expansion in a study. Baker and Neal, who as chairman of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee is one of Washington’s most powerful lawmakers, announced in April that they had agreed on a way forward for the rail project and said it would depend on the creation of a new authority. to oversee the service.

The MBTA’s current commuter rail network extends as far west as Fitchburg. The Senate Ways and Means Committee bill slated for debate on Thursday is more than half a billion dollars lower than the nearly $11 billion version approved by the House, but senators are likely to amend the bill with assignments for district projects.

COVID reports go from daily to weekly

Friday will be the last day the Department of Public Health will provide a daily update on COVID-19 measures in Massachusetts.

The agency announced Friday that it is moving to weekly reporting of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, deaths and more. When the pandemic began, DPH began providing new counts of infected residents, hospitalized patients, and deaths from COVID-19 seven days a week, allowing residents to track the spread of the virus and make informed decisions to to protect yourself.

A year ago, DPH reduced the provision of updates only on weekdays and next week will start updating its interactive COVID-19 data dashboard once a week on Thursdays.

“While we’ve all gotten used to checking the numbers every day, tracking trends over time is actually the most useful way to apply COVID-19 data,” said Dr Helen Boucher. , Acting Dean of Tufts University School of Medicine and Fellow. of the Governor’s Medical Advisory Board. “Given that Massachusetts has one of the best vaccination and booster percentages in the nation, these changes make sense at this point in our COVID-19 response.”

The DPH is also removing higher education-specific data sections from the dashboard “due to decreased surveillance testing in these settings”, and removing tabs on contact tracing and case clusters because ” due to changes in case investigation and contact tracing practices, this data is no longer representative of the current situation,” the agency said.

Also starting next week, DPH announced that it would release its weekly COVID-19 vaccination report on Wednesdays rather than Thursdays. As of Wednesday, there were more than 1.77 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts since February 2020 and the virus has killed around 21,000 people. The seven-day average positivity rate stands at 7.29%, which doesn’t count most of the increasingly popular rapid home tests.

– State House News Service

Norman D. Briggs