Celebrating the Valley Flyer

We Think the Time Has Come for Another Way to Travel

 

Please join Trains In The Valley

for

a very informal celebration of the

Launch of the Valley Flyer

 

Where
At the Northampton station platform
100 Railroad Avenue
Northampton, Mass.

 

When
Friday, August 30, 2019

from 5:45 am until 6:30 am
♦ The First Train ♦
Amtrak train 495, the Valley Flyer, departs at 6:10 am

and

from 7:30 am until 8:30 am
Amtrak train 471, the Valley Flyer, departs at 8:00 am

 

Strong coffee and donuts will be provided

 

Please note that the official ribbon cutting for the new Valley Flyer service will take place next month.

 

 


Further information

Amtrak and MassDOT Announce Start of New Valley Flyer Train Service in Western and Northern Massachusetts
Amtrak Press Release | August 28, 2019

Valley Flyer | Trains In The Valley

 

 

Image source
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. “Northampton (Massachusetts)” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47da-2ef8-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Rail News Roundup #28

 

Today’s Headlines

• Valley Flyer Service to Start Next Friday!

• East-West Rail Meeting Followup

• Western Mass Rail Coalition Formed

• New station planned for Windsor Locks

• Extending the Vermonter to Montreal… Still Waiting

• Birnie Road Crossing Update

• Western MA Transportation Forum Planned

• Trains In The Valley’s Work Featured

 

CALENDAR

Western Mass Transportation Forum
(further details below)
Fri. September 13, 2019 | 9 am – 12 pm
Northampton Center for the Arts
33 Hawley Street

New Windsor Locks station | Public Information Meeting
(further details below)
Thur. September 19, 2019 | 6 pm – 8 pm
Windsor Locks Town Hall
50 Church Street
Windsor Locks, CT

2019 Northeast Multimodal and Transit Summit
Mon. November 25, 2019 | 11:00 am to 7:30 pm
Yale University
New Haven, CT
registration link

 


Valley Flyer Service to Start Next Friday!

MassDOT says new service will start Friday, August 30th as planned

Tickets are now available on Amtrak.com

It is our understanding that there will be special 25% promotional discount available for travel during the month of September. Details to follow.

And here’s the new schedule —

Valley Flyer schedule (PDF) | MassDOT | released August 23, 2019

A couple of thing to keep in mind —

  • This schedule is subject to slight adjustments, based on the test runs that Amtrak is doing right now during the overnight hours
  • The Valley Flyer is, what MassDOT likes to call, a “pilot service.” Basically its a test to see whether there is really a market here in the valley for additional rail service. We fully expect that things, like the schedule, will be adjusted a bit as we learn what works and what doesn’t
  • The schedule is not perfect, but it does what it was meant to do — which is to provide a way for people in the Pioneer Valley to travel south, to New York City as example, by train in the early morning and return in the evening. The last time that was possible was back in 1967!
  • If we’re successful (meaning if enough people ride the new trains) we stand a good chance at getting additional trains. If we’re not successful then MassDOT has said simply that the Valley Flyer service will be discontinued.

 

We will post a more complete schedule, with the connections to/from Metro-North in New Haven, on our Valley Flyer webpage next week.

::

In other news —

Amtrak has been running test trains between Springfield and Greenfield during the overnight hours over the past few weeks in preparation for the launch of the new service. The test runs are fully familiarize the crews with the operation of the new trains on the north-south rail corridor.

We’ve heard that Amtrak’s crews may start running the new schedule as early as Monday on a test basis,  so don’t be surprised if you see a train in the station in Northampton (as example) at 6:10am and 8am next week.

::

Amtrak and local police have been working up and down the line to remind people that trespassing on the rail line is both dangerous and illegal.

Video | “Amtrak Police promoting track safety ahead of Valley Flyer service” (1:43)
WWLP-22 News | August 16, 2019

Amtrak PD is focusing on twenty known “hot spots” along the rail line where trespassing has been a problem over time.

The Greenfield Recorder has reported that recently a man parked his vehicle a little to close to the the tracks at the Highway Auto Salvage crossing in Northampton. An oncoming train then took off one of his side-view mirrors.

Because of this incident cement blocks have been placed at the location to prevent people from parking to close to the tracks.

::

Work continues on the new 362-foot high-level platform at Springfield Union Station, which is expected to partially opened before the new service is launched.

The new high-level platform, under construction | looking east
Springfield Union Station | August 15, 2019

And in Northampton and Greenfield, work on the expanded station platforms is now nearing completion.

Northampton station site | looking south | July 23, 2019

 

As soon we have further information about the service we will post it on our Facebook page and on our Valley Flyer webpage.

 

Further reading

“Expanded rail service for Springfield, Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield may begin Aug. 30; test trains running overnight this week”
By Jim Kinney | The Republican | August 15, 2019

“Amtrak promotes rail safety on eve of expanded train service”
By Michael Conners | Greenfield Recorder | August 16, 2019

“Northampton, railroad officials raise safety awareness ahead of stepped-up train service”
By Jacquelyn Voghel | Daily Hampshire Gazette | August 23, 2019

 


East-West Rail Meeting Followup

Here’s a video of the recent East-West Rail Study Advisory Committee, for those of you who could not attend the meeting.

The official written summary of the meeting can be found on this link

East-West Study Advisory Committee Meeting #2 Summary Notes (PDF)
MassDOT | July 23, 2019

Further reading

“East-west rail gains headway in western Mass.”
By Michael Connors | Daily Hampshire Gazette | July 26, 2019

“Berkshire delegation says east-west rail means trains, not slower, cheaper bus service”
By Jim Kinney | The Republican | July 30, 2019

 


Western Mass Rail Coalition Formed

Western Mass Rail Coalition – group shot
Springfield, Ma. | July 23, 2019

We are pleased to announced the formation of a new coalition of like-mined people and groups across Western Mass working together towards the expansion of passenger rail service.

The organization, which is called the Western Mass Rail Coalition, met for the first time as a group after the recent East-West Rail Advisory Committee meeting in Springfield.

The goal of the organization is to unite rail advocacy groups, and business, labor, and political leaders from across the four counties of western Massachusetts, in order to speak with a strong, collective voice in favor of a robust 21st century passenger rail system connecting the region and and neighboring states.

At this meeting were representatives of the the Train Campaign, Trains In The Valley, Citizens for a Palmer Rail Stop and the Chester Railway Station.

The group released the following op-ed after the meeting

“East-west rail study generating energy and enthusiasm”
Opinion | The Worcester Telegram | August 3, 2019

The op-ed was also published in the Berkshire Eagle and the Greenfield Recorder. It will be published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette later this week.

 


New station planned for Windsor Locks

The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) is moving ahead with plans to build a new train station in the town of Windsor Locks.

Windsor Lock station | August 2019

 

The new station, which would replace the current Amtrak-owned station at the south end of town, will be located just to the north of the historic station building on Main Street.

Early conceptual design for the new Windsor Locks station | September 2015

The new station is important for western Mass for two reasons —

  • Windsor Locks is the station of choice for people living in Agawam and Longmeadow, since driving north (to Springfield) to catch a train headed south doesn’t make much sense, and
  • This new station will be the transfer point for a new dedicated shuttle bus connection between the Hartford Line and Bradley Airport.

CTDOT will hold a public information meeting on Thur. September 19, 2019 from 6 pm until 8 pm at the Windsor Locks Town Hall, 50 Church Street, Windsor Locks, CT.

 

Its interesting to note that the Bradley Airport Authority has plans in the works to connect the airport to the new station in Windsor Locks by light rail line at some point in the future.

A study (linked below) was completed in 2016 and the airport is maintaining a protected right of way on their property for use in the future.

No funding has been identified yet for construction of the light rail line between the airport and the new Windsor Locks station, but one could imagine that it will be built at some stage.

 

Further reading

“DOT requesting $65M from Bond Commission for new Windsor Locks train station”
By Anthony Branciforte | Journal Inquirer | August 6, 2019

Hartford Line TOD Action Plan – Town of Windsor Locks (PDF)
October 20, 2016

Bradley Light Rail Feasibility Study (PDF)
March 2016

 


Extending the Vermonter to Montreal… Still Waiting

Central Station | Montreal, Quebec | June 14, 2013 (cropped and adjusted)
The original image was created by Wikimedia Commons user Jeangagnon

On August 15, 2019 the Department of Homeland Security, in partnership with Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada, announced that U.S. and Canada have brought into force the Agreement on Land, Rail, Marine, and Air (LRMA) Transport Preclearance between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Canada.

Bringing into force this agreement enables Canada and the U.S. to expand preclearance for travellers at land, rail and marine facilities in both countries, and in particular at Central Station in Montreal.

The next step is for the Ministère des Transports du Québec, the Government of Canada, and the owners of Montreal Central Station to develop a site plan and operation agreement for the long planned pre-clearance facility in the station.

In all likelihood nothing will happen until after the Federal election in Canada on October 21, 2019.

Lets hope that soon after the Federal elections that the parties involved will sit down and hammer out a plan to get the pre-clearance facility built so that the Vermonter can finally, after more than a decade of effort, be extended to Montreal.

When will the Vermonter by extended to Montreal you might ask? The best case scenario at this stage would be seem to be some time in 2021.

Further reading

Vermonter Extension to Montreal | Trains In The Valley

“Preclearance issues extend wait for rail service to Montreal”
By Alexandre Silberman | VTDigger.com | August 15, 2019

 


Birnie Road Crossing Update

Work continues at railroad crossing at Birnie Road in Longmeadow.

Bernie Road crossing | looking west
Longmeadow, Ma. | August 15, 2019

Amtrak has completed the installation of new active warning devices (lights, gates and bells) as can be seen in the image above.

Before the crossing can be reopened Amtrak forces must return to the site to reinstall the road surface across the tracks.

See also

Railroad Crossings of Note | Trains In The Valley

 


Western MA Transportation Forum Planned

A meeting has been planned to bring people together from across Western Mass to talk about the transportation issues that exist across the region.

The goal is to create out-of-the-box solutions to solve some of the problems that exist today.

It is also hoped that this forum creates a coalition among multiple sectors in the four western Mass counties to share best practices and bring a strong united voice to Boston to advocate for needed funding and support for transportation initiatives.

Meeting flyer (PDF)

The idea for this forum came from the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, which is working in all areas related to food insecurity — with access to transportation being an important one.

Tentative Schedule

9:00-9:30
Registration, breakfast, networking

9:30- 9:45
Opening remarks / Welcome

9:45-10:00
Keynote speaker – Eric Lesser

10:00-11:00
Lightning Rounds – 4-5-minute presentations. Two rounds of four presentations each, with time for questions after each round:

· Innovative/creative solutions in the four counties (i.e., Hilltown Easy Ride)

· Funding – how do we create an equitable transportation system

11:00-11:10
Break

11:10-11:40
Break into roundtables to brainstorm ideas

11:40-12:00
Report Out from each table

 


Trains In The Valley’s Work Featured

Northampton train station Friday afternoon | July 26, 2019
Carol Lollis/Daily Hampshire Gazette

“Getting more aboard: How Trains in the Valley is helping to boost local rail”
By Sarah Buttenwieser | Daily Hampshire Gazette | August 16, 2019

Great news! Trains In The Valley was featured in last Friday’s Hampshire Life section of the Daily Hampshire Gazette!

A lot has happened since we started the group back in the spring of 2016 for sure.

Many thanks to Mayor David Narkewicz, Representative Lindsay Sabadosa, and Tim Brennan of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission for their contributions to this article.

We’ll continue advocating for continued rail progress here in the Pioneer Valley and we hope you will too!

Rail News Roundup #27

Today’s Headlines

• New Greenfield Service Almost Ready to Roll

• Northampton Station Expansion Nears Completion

• East-West Rail Study Advisory Committee Meets

• The Case for a Station in Palmer

• Northern Tier Rail Study Moves Forward

• $10 Weekend Pass on MBTA Commuter Rail

 


New Greenfield Service Almost Ready to Roll

The southbound Amtrak Vermonter arriving in Holyoke, Ma. | Courtesy of WAMC

New England Public Radio reported last week that we could see new Amtrak service in the Pioneer Valley on the north-south rail line as as soon as August.

The new service, which will be in addition to the Vermonter, will consist of two weekday trains from Greenfield to New Haven in the morning and two trains north from New Haven to Greenfield in the evening. All of the new trains will have scheduled connections with both Amtrak and Metro-North service at New Haven Union Station.

On the weekend and holidays there will be just one new train in each direction.

In a presentation that was made to the MassDOT Board of Directors last week, the tentative date for the start of service was listed as Friday, August 30, 2019.

The same presentation said that the start of service was dependent on the following list of actions:

  • Expedited Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) approval, following extended Amtrak deliberations, on added safety features affecting freight as well as passenger operations
  • Completion of work on [the] new platform at Springfield Union Station
  • Acceleration of corridor work to minimize later disruptions
  • FRA approval of a revised exemption from the requirement for Positive Train Control

 

In related news, on July 10, 2019 members of the western Mass. delegation met with MassDOT Rail and Transit Administrator Astrid Glynn to discuss details related to the launch of the new service.

Meeting between MassDOT and the Western Mass Delegation
July 10, 2019 | Courtesy of Office of Sen. Comerford

In attendance was Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester), Sen. Eric Lesser (D-First Hampden and Hampshire), Rep. Natalie Blais (D-1st Franklin), Rep. Mindy Domb (D-3rd Hampshire), Rep. Paul Mark (D-2nd Berkshire), and Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa (D-1st Hampshire).

It’s both wonderful and amazing to see such large group of our elected officials engaged and involved with the effort to expand passenger rail service in our region.

And to round out the news related to the new Greenfield rail service, we are pleased to report that Sen. Comerford’s earmark for $250,000 to support marketing of the new Greenfield service was included in the FY2020 state budget that was approved by the legislature on July 22nd.

Further reading

New Greenfield-New Haven Service
Trains In The Valley

“North-South Expanded Western Mass. Rail Service Awaits Completed Passenger Platform”
By Sean Teehan | New England Public Radio | July 25, 2019

“Marketing money for Knowledge Corridor caps drive for extra train runs”
By Anita Fritz | The Recorder | July 25, 2019

 


Northampton station Expansion Nears Completion

Northampton station site | looking south | July 23, 2019

This recent image from the station site shows that Newport Construction, the contractor on the station expansion project, is nearing completion of the work at the site.

Remaining work on the project includes, among other things, the application of the top-coat of asphalt on the access road and the parking lots at the station, installation of a bike rack, and new signage at the station.

It is expected that all of the construction work at the station platforms in Greenfield and Northampton will be completed in the coming weeks.

Further reading

Northampton platform extension project
Trains In The Valley

 


East-West Rail Study Advisory Committee Meets

East-West rail meeting (1:59) | WWLP-22News via YouTube | July 23, 2019

MassDOT released six proposed alternatives for further study at the East-West Passenger Rail Study Advisory Committee meeting that was held in Springfield on July 23, 2019.

The proposed alternatives include these six options:

Alternative 1
Passenger Rail between Springfield and Worcester with Upgrades to Existing Track

Alternative 2
Passenger Rail to Springfield with Upgrades to Existing Track

Alternative 3
Passenger Rail to Pittsfield with Upgrades to Existing Track

Alternative 4
Passenger Rail with New Track in Existing Alignment

Alternative 5
Passenger Rail with New track in Existing Alignments and Priority Realignments

Alternative 6
High Speed Rail in I-90 Corridor with Direct Downtown Service

 

A detailed diagram for each of the proposed alternatives can be found in the meeting presentation, which is linked below:


East-West Study Advisory Committee Meeting #2 Presentation (PDF)

Generally speaking, most members of the advisory committee appeared to be impressed by the possibilities that were presented by MassDOT and its team of consultants at the meeting. It was clear that a real and significant effort had been made on MassDOT’s part to come to the meeting with well thought out proposals for the committee to consider.

But with that said, many members of the advisory committee (and members of the public at the meeting) expressed their displeasure with options 1, 2 & 5 because these options call for only a dedicated bus connection between Pittsfield and Springfield.

There was vocal support expressed at the meeting for station stops in both Chester and Palmer. Oddly missing from all of the proposals, and the discussion at the meeting, was any mention of a possible station stop in the Westfield (pop. 41,000) which is located 20 minutes by auto to the west of Springfield.

Many at the meeting expressed their real concern with MassDOT’s admission that they and their consultants had not yet involved CSX — the owner of the rail corridor between Pittsfield and Worcester — in the study process. It is our understanding that CSX was involved at the equivalent point in MassDOT’s previous study of East-West Rail in 2016.

For those looking for a brief overview of the proposal we would encourage you to watch Sen. Eric Lesser’s (D-First Hampden and Hampshire) excellent 5-minute summary of the six proposed alternatives —

 

The entire meeting was recorded by Focus Springfield Community TV. A link to the video can be found on our East-West Rail Study Information web page.

Further reading

East–West Passenger Rail Study (Official webpage)
MassDOT

East–West Passenger Rail Study Information
Trains In The Valley

“MassDOT: Boston-Springfield-Pittsfield passenger rail must balance speed, cost and convenience”
By Jim Kinney | The Republican | July 23, 2019

Radio | “Six Options Being Evaluated For East-West Passenger Rail” (3:34)
By Paul Tuthill | WAMC Northeast Public Radio | July 24, 2019

“Keep buses out of east-west rail plan, lawmaker says”
By Larry Parnass | The Berkshire Eagle | July 23, 2019

 


The Case for a Station in Palmer

The Case for Palmer (PDF)
Towards a Passenger Rail Station on the East-West Massachusetts Train Line
UMass Amherst Center for Economic Development | June 1 2019

::

Recently released UMass Amherst led study makes strong case for a new train station in Palmer.

The study, which was carried out by a team from the University of Massachusetts Amherst Center for Economic Development, examined the the feasibility of the town of Palmer becoming a passenger stop on the proposed East-West passenger rail line.

The report concluded — based on interviews with members of the business community, team leaders, a community wide charette and a review of quantitative data focusing on the Lower Quabbin Region of twenty-one towns — that a strong case can be made for a station in Palmer, for the following reasons:

  • Palmer provides the best intermediate location between Springfield and Worcester.
  • Palmer has ample and appropriate infrastructure for a stop, including several available sites in the downtown area.
  • A Palmer stop will open up an underserved region to passenger rail service and will expand the commuting capabilities for those working in eastern locations wishing to purchase an affordable home.
  • A Palmer stop will increase rail access for Five College students. (in particular UMass Amherst and Amherst College)
  • A Palmer stop is strongly supported by the townspeople and the local government.

 


Northern Tier Rail Study Moves Forward

Proposed Northern Tier Rail Corridor
Map courtesy of MRG, Inc.

Sen. Jo Comerford’s (D-Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester) proposal to study East-West passenger rail along the so-called Northern Tier Route has been adopted by both houses of the state legislature.

The planned study would look at the feasibility of restoring passenger rail service between North Adams, Greenfield and Boston along the existing rail corridor that links these localities.

The wording for the study was included as Section 84 of the FY2020 state budget which was approved by the legislature on July 22, 2019.

The Governor now has 10 days (from July 22nd) to review the budget and take action to either approve or veto the budget. The Governor may approve or veto the entire budget, veto or reduce specific line items, veto outside sections or submit changes as an amendment to the budget for further consideration by the Legislature.

Assuming that the governor does not veto Section 84 of the budget, work on the one-year study will start in June 2020.

Further information

Northern Tier Rail Study Information
Trains In The Valley

“Massachusetts study for east-west rail on track”
By Anita Fritz | The Recorder | July 25, 2019

 


$10 Weekend Pass on MBTA Commuter Rail network

Outbound Framingham/Worcester Line train 519
Courtesy of the MBTA

The $10 weekend rail pass on the MBTA Commuter Rail system is now permanent.

The pass allows for unlimited travel all day Saturdays and Sunday on all MBTA commuter rail lines and zones. The MBTA made the pass permanent after two six-month trials.

The $10 all-weekend fare is available on the mTicket app, onboard trains (cash or credit card from conductors), and at ticket windows at North, South, and Back Bay stations. The special fare applies to customers age 12 and above; the weekend fare allows adults to travel with two children under 12 at no additional cost.

::

If you are traveling from western Mass to Boston by train using the MBTA Framingham/Worcester Line we recommend that you us one of these two stations:

Worcester Union Station | MBTA
2 Washington Sq, Worcester, MA | Parking from $4 – $16/day

Grafton station | MBTA
1 Pine St, North Grafton, MA | Parking is just $4/day
This is the next station east of Worcester. Using this station, which is only 4 miles further drive, will save you about 10 minutes in travel time in each direction — since you won’t have to travel into/out of Worcester.

::

If you are traveling from western Mass to Boston by train using the MBTA Fitchburg Line you’ll want to travel from this station:

Wachusett station | MBTA
55 Authority Dr, Wachusett, MA | Parking from $3/day

::

Further information

$10 Commuter Rail Weekends
MBTA

Beginner’s Guide to the Commuter Rail
MBTA

 

 

Post updated: July 31, 2019