For years, elected officials and residents of western Massachusetts have longed for a high-speed passenger rail service that would provide a more efficient and easier way to travel between the two halves of the state. For the past two years the state’s DOT has spent $1 million studying three possible plans and, after several delays, a final report is due out by the end of this year.

The proposals range in cost from $2.4 billion to $4.6 billion, depending in the amount of new track that would have to be built and the realignments that would have to be made. The benefit-to-cost ratio of any of the plans is far below the minimum required for federal money, and without federal funding there is little chance the new line could be built.

Ridership is estimated to be between 280,000 and 470,000, which proponents claim is too low. They point to the success of the Downeaster — which runs between Boston and Portland, Maine and has doubled its initial ridership estimates. For Western Mass State Sen. Eric Lesser, the rail link is essential for the state to grow.

“The two most important issues are a lack of jobs in western Massachusetts and a lack of housing in eastern Massachusetts. Make it easier to commute and more folks will live here and work in Boston, boosting both economies.”