Rail News Roundup #8


Today’s Headlines

• Trains In The Valley Event | Dec 13th

• Rail Advocacy Matters

• Survey Reveals Wide Support for East-West Rail

• Will Western Mass Ever Get High-Speed Rail

• Proposed Schedules for the Hartford Line

• Town Centers on the Hartford Line Reinvigorated

• Northampton Underpass Opens

• New “Vermont By Rail” Brochure

• MassDOT Applies for Grant to Upgrade NECR Line

• Visualizing Public Transit Data



The Hartford Line – Coming Soon (DETAILS BELOW)
with John E. Bernick, P.E., CTDOT
We. December 13, 2017 | 6 pm – 7:30 pm

Central Library Community Room
Springfield Central Library
220 State Street Springfield, MA

Registration link:


Trains In The Valley Event | Dec 13th

We are pleased to announce the first in a series of free rail related events that Trains In The Valley will be hosting in the Pioneer Valley.

Please join us in Springfield on December 13th, 2017 to hear John Bernick, Asst. Rail Administrator for the Connecticut Department of Transportation, talk in detail about the new CTrail Hartford line service which will launch in May 2018.

Source: https://pvraildotorg.files.wordpress.com/2017/11/tiv-dec-2017-event-flyer.pdf


You may register for this event on this link

The next event in this series will be in Greenfield on February 1, 2018. (details to follow)


Rail Advocacy Matters

East-West rail supporters in front of the State House with Senator Lesser
Dan Glaun | MassLive | October 24, 2017

On the morning of October 24th, 2017 a hearing was held before the Joint Committee on Transportation in Boston.

The agenda for this hearing included discussion related to Bill S.1935, An Act to study the feasibility of high-speed rail access between Springfield and Boston.

Attending this hearing was a group of citizens — pictured in the image above — who gave up their day to ride a charter bus from Springfield to Boston to testify in support of expanded rail service between Springfield in Boston.

These were people like you and me. People who want to be able to step on a train and travel across our state without dealing with traffic on the Mass Pike.

Senator Eric Lesser deserves a great deal of credit for sponsoring the bus that transported these citizens on this chilly October day.

But the real credit goes to the people who took the time to take the bus — who took the time to speak up in support of this issue and this cause.

For those citizens, we say THANK YOU.


Here is a listing of people and organizations (as of October 31, 2017) who testified in support of expanded passenger rail service between Springfield and Boston:

35 citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (pictured above)


Tom Ryan | A Better City
Peter Vi | Amherst Chamber of Commerce
Nathaniel Karns | Berkshire Regional Planning Commission
James Rooney | Boston Chamber of Commerce
Mayor Bronin | City of Hartford, CT
Mayor Sarno | City of Springfield
Governor Michael Dukakis
Representative Ashe
Representative Decker
Representative Farley-Bouvier
Representative Gonzalez
Representative Kocot
Representative Mark
Representative Pignatelli
Representative Smola
Representative Tosado
Representative Williams
Senator Barrett
Senator Chandler
Senator Cyr
Senator Fattman
Senator Friedman
Senator Gobi
Senator Hinds
Senator Humason
Senator Lewis
Senator O’Connor
Senator Welch
Ed Zemba | East of the River Chamber of Commerce
Ben Hellerstein | Environment Massachusetts
Thomas Lachiusa | Longmeadow Select Board
Marc Draisen | Metropolitan Area Planning Council
Clint Richmond | Massachusetts Sierra Club
Roger Crandall | MassMutual
Matt Casale | MassPIRG
Seth Stratton | MGM
Joe Aiello | National Association of Railroad Passengers
Tim Brennan | Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
Kenneth Shea | Springfield City Council
Nancy Creed | Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce
Rebecca Townsend | Trains In The Valley
Charlie Ticotsky | Transportation for Massachusetts
Congressman Neal | US House of Representatives
Robin Wozniak | West of River Chamber of Commerca

Further reading

Testimony before the Joint Committee on Transportation (PDF)
Rebecca Townsend | Founding member of Trains In The Valley
October 24, 2017

“Sen. Eric Lesser busing constituents from Springfield to Boston for rail hearing”
By Shira Schoenberg | The Republican | October 18, 2017


University Survey Reveals Wide Support for East-West Rail

Source: http://www1.wne.edu/news/2017/11/highspeed-rail-tables.pdf (page 2)

From the Press Release linked below

Establishing high-speed rail service between Springfield and Boston has significant support across the state, according to a recent survey from the Western New England University Polling Institute.

The telephone survey of 468 adults, conducted Oct. 24 through Nov. 7, found that 74 percent supported the idea, while 10 percent were opposed, 15 percent were unsure, and 1 percent declined to answer. The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Support was greatest in Western Massachusetts, where 87 percent of survey respondents endorsed the concept, but large majorities in other parts of the state also backed the proposal. Eighty percent of residents surveyed in Central Massachusetts supported the idea, as did 73 percent in Boston and surrounding suburbs, and 68 percent on the North and South Shores.

Backing for the idea also crossed party lines, with 80 percent of Democrats and 80 percent of Republicans expressing support, along with 68 percent of unenrolled voters.

The sample includes 437 residents who said they are registered to vote, and the margin of error for the sub-sample of registered voters is plus or minus five percentage points.

Survey respondents who expressed support for or opposition to high-speed rail had an opportunity to explain why in their own words. The most common reasons for supporting high-speed rail were the need to reduce traffic on the Massachusetts Turnpike between Springfield and Boston, the environmental benefits of having fewer cars on the road, and improved access to jobs in Boston and affordable housing in Western Massachusetts.

Other respondents said that high–speed rail would create a greater sense of parity between Western and Eastern Massachusetts.

Further Reading

University Survey Finds Strong Support for Springfield-Boston High-Speed Rail Service
Press Release | Western New England University Polling Institute | November 13, 2017

Survey Results (PDF)


Will Western Mass Ever Get High-Speed Rail?

“Will Western Mass Ever Get High-Speed Rail?”
By Chris Goudreaue | Valley Advocate | October 23, 2017
Source: http://valleyadvocate.com/2017/10/23/will-western-mass-ever-get-high-speed-rail/

“Will Western Mass Ever Get High-Speed Rail?”
By Chris Goudreaue | Valley Advocate | October 23, 2017

Those interested in the topic of expanded rail service on the Boston – Springfield – New Haven Corridor should read this article by Chris Goudreau.

It’s a nice piece, with a lot of great reporting on the topic — including details of Peter Pan’s 3-hour run to Boston, which departs at 5.15 am from Springfield Union Station.


Proposed Schedules for the Hartford Line

Last week the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) released a preliminary set of schedule for the CTrail Hartford Line service.

Keep in mind that these schedules are subject to change.

Source: http://www.ct.gov/dot/lib/dot/CTrail_Hartford_Line_Proposed_Weekday_Schedule_Poster.pdf
Source: http://www.ct.gov/dot/lib/dot/CTrail_Hartford_Line_Proposed_Weekend_Schedule_Poster.pdf

The proposed schedules appear very comprehensive, but there is a significant omission.

The weekday schedule does not include any service that would allow someone in Connecticut to commute to Springfield and start work between 8 am and 9 am (the normal start time for many businesses.) The only northbound weekday train to Springfield (in the proposed schedule) arrives at 6.20 am which is simply too early for most people.

Also of note — the proposed schedule removes about 20 minutes of time in the Vermonter’s scheduled run between Springfield and New Haven. (this is a good news.)


CTDOT hosted Fare Hearings in New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield last week. The hearing in New Haven was the subject of an interesting and detailed news report which is linked below.

Please note that there is still time to submit comments to CTDOT regarding the proposed fares and service for the Hartford Line.

To provide a comment follow the instructions on this link http://www.ct.gov/dot/hartfordlinecomments

Note that public comments on the proposed fares and service must be received by November 27, 2017.

Further Reading

“Next Stop: Springfield! 12 Times A Day”
By Thomas Breen / The New Haven Independent | November 14, 2017


Town Centers on the Hartford Line Being Reinvigorated

Cloe Poisson | Hartford Magazine

“Communities On The Line:
Town Centers With Hartford Rail Stops Are Being Reinvigorated”
By Leonard Felson | Hartford Courant | November 6, 2017

The writer looks at the economic development impacts that are already being felt in towns and cities along the CTrail Hartford line, even before its planned opening in May 2018.

It also speaks to a fundamental problem Michael Gallis, a Charlotte, N.C.-based consultant, identified in a 1999 report on how the state can compete in a global economy.

Without improved and frequent rail service, the capital region is effectively rendered a transportation cul-de-sac, cut off from New York, the most powerful economic engine in the Northeast, if not the U.S.

That changes with the Hartford Line, something Gallis applauds, though he says high-speed rail would be an even greater game-changer.


Please note that the statement in the article about future rail service from Hartford to Boston is not totally correct.

The draft State Rail Plan Update for Massachusetts has not yet been released and we would be surprised if the soon-to-be-released draft plan did not outline some sort of path forward for connecting the New Haven–Hartford–Springfield passenger rail corridor to Boston.


Northampton Underpass Opens

The long talked about bike/pedestrian underpass in Northampton — under the Connecticut River Main Line — was officially opened November 9, 2017.

Amtrak train 57 — the southbound Vermonter — passing over the new underpass
Northampton, Ma. | November 12, 2017

MassDOT opened the underpass to the public after declaring that the project was substantially complete.

Additional images can be found on the link below.

See Also

Infrastructure > Current Projects > Northampton Underpass


New “Vermont By Rail” Brochure

The Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing has published a new 3-page brochure [ Vermont By Rail (PDF) ] to highlight travel to the Green Mountain State.

You can find this brochure at the Olver Transit Center in Greenfield and on the platform in Northampton. We are also in the process of distributing copies of the brochure to local Chambers of Commerce in the Pioneer Valley.


MassDOT Applies for Grant to Upgrade NECR Freight Line

NECR 722

New England Central Railroad at Palmer, Mass. | Derek S/Flickr

MassDOT has recently applied for a federal Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant to upgrade the Massachusetts portion of the New England Central Railroad (NECR) rail line.

This project would upgrade more than 31 miles of track and twenty bridge structures on the NECR route. The work in Massachusetts would close a “gap” in the “286k-lb. rail network” that is being built in Vermont and Connecticut. The current industry-standard for heavy axle rail freight cars is 286,000 gross lbs. and these cars cannot be handled on many parts NECR’s rail line in Massachusetts at the moment.

Presumably this federal money, if granted, would be used along with the $9 million allocated for this project in the 2018-2022 MassDOT Capital Investment Plan and funds provided by NECR’s parent company Genesee & Wyoming Inc.

Further Reading
MassDOT seeks federal grant for New England Central Railroad project
Progressing Railroading | November 13, 2017


Visualizing Public Transit Data

TRAVIC | Transit Visualization Client (screen shot)
Massachusetts | November 16, 2017 } 4:32 pm EST

Every now and then we come across something really neat that is a little off-topic. This is one of those cases.

If you click on the map above you will find your way to a TRAVIC, a Data Visualization Client that provides movement visualization for public transit data.

The map shows the movement of trains, trams, buses, subways, and other transit vehicles based on combination of static schedule data and real-time data. The data is sourced from 673 data feeds, 62 of which show real-time information.

Things to try —

  • Zoom in on the Springfield and look at the movement of the PVTA bus fleet.
  • Zoom in to New York City and see what a dense network of subways, buses and commuter trains looks like.
  • Zoom in on Germany and see what a rail network with nearly 15 million departure events a day looks like.

Yes, its amazing.

Rail News Roundup #7


Summary of Today’s Roundup of Rail News

• Proposed Fares for Hartford Line Service Released

• Knowledge Corridor Transportation Conference Recap

• Sen. Eric Lesser Continues Push for East-West Rail

• Planned Pioneer Valley Railroad Bridge Repairs

• New Turnout in East Northfield

• Northampton Underpass Status



Joint Committee on Transportation Hearing
Tu. October 24, 2017 | 10 am to 12:30 pm
Hearing Room A-1 | State House, 24 Beacon St, Boston, MA
(The agenda includes discussion of Sen. Lesser’s and Rep. Kocot’s proposed bills in support of East-West rail service)

CTrail Hartford Line Fare Hearing
We. November 15, 2017 | 5:30 to 8:30 pm
Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
60 Congress St, Springfield, MA


CTDOT Releases Proposed Fares for CTrail Hartford Line Rail Service;
Launches a 35-day Public Comment Period

Proposed fares for the new CTrail Hartford line service were released earlier today.

CTDOT Press Release | October 23, 2017
Source: http://www.ct.gov/dot/cwp/view.asp?a=1373&Q=597212&PM=1

We have not had much time to study the fare offering but it would appear that the proposed fares are basically in-line with fares on CTrail’s Shoreline East service and Metro-North’s intra-state (CT) service.

Public Hearings to review and discuss the new proposed fares will be held in New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield over the next few weeks.

The Springfield hearing will be held on Wed. November 15, 2017 between 5:30 to 8:30 pm at the offices of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, 60 Congress St, Springfield, MA

Further Reading

Hartford Line Fare Hearings
CTDOT Press Release | October 23, 2017


Knowledge Corridor Transportation Conference Recap

Link to Video


Here’s a quick recap of the Knowledge Corridor Transportation Conference that was held at Springfield Union Station last week.

The highlight of the event was the speech by Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy.

“Quite frankly, one of the things Massachusetts needs to do is get a rail line between Boston and Springfield to connect to the rail line we are building in Connecticut,” Malloy said to applause from the 300 or so people in the audience at the conference.

Malloy has long been a strong advocate in his state and our region for expanded and improved public transportation. One only has to look at the success of the CTFastrak bus rapid transit system and the coming CTrail Hartford Line rail service to know that Connecticut is focused on the future.

The video recording of the conference is just over three hours long so we’ve created a list of “start points” so that you can jump to sections that might interest you.

Anyone interested in the future of transportation in our region is encouraged to have a look at the video. Conferences like this, with speakers like this, are few and far between.


Video start points for key speakers:

5:30 | Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno

21:50 | Congressman Richard Neal (MA-1)
29:55 | Governor Dannel Malloy (CT)

1:04:00 | Robert Puentes (Eno Center of Transportation)

1:27:50 | Panel 1
Congressman Richard Neal (MA-1)
Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-2)
Congresswomen Elizabeth Esty (CT-5)

2:11:00 | Panel 2
Kevin Kennedy, Springfield Redevelopment Authority
Rep. Aaron Vaga (MA-5th Hamden)
Rep. Chris Perone (CT-137th District)
Kevin Dillon, Connecticut Airport Authority

Further Reading
“Malloy Calls For Boston-Springfield Rail Connection To Hartford Line”
By Paul Tuthil | WAMC | October 18, 2017

“Malloy: CTfastrak Proves Rail Service Will Transform ‘Knowledge Corridor’ “
By Dan Stacom | Hartford Courant | October 17, 2017


Sen. Eric Lesser Continues his Push for East-West Rail

On October 17th Sen. Eric Lesser launch a website highlighting stories that have been submitted to his office in support of passenger rail service between Springfield and Boston.

Rail Matters | Office of Senator Eric Lesser
Source: http://www.senatorlesser.com/RailMatters


On Tuesday morning at 7.30 am a chartered bus will be departing from Springfield for the Statehouse in Boston.

The bus, which is being sponsored by Sen. Lesser’s office, will be transporting people from our region who will offer testimony before a hearing of the Joint Legislative Committee on Transportation.

Rebecca Townsend, a founding member of Trains In The Valley, will be on Sen. Lesser’s bus and she will be offering testimony to the committee. (further news on this on Tuesday afternoon.)

If you are not planing to attend the hearing — but you wish to offer testimony in support of Springfield-Boston rail service — please send your testimony to Samantha.Kelly@MAsenate.gov. Samantha Kelly is Sen. Lesser’s legislative aide. She will see that it finds its way to the committee.

See Also

Get Involved > Rail Bills | Mass. Legislature

Further Reading

Joint Legislative Committee on Transportation


Planned Pioneer Valley Railroad Bridge Repairs

Curved open-deck bridge | Pioneer Valley Railroad
Near South Canal & Cabot streets | Holyoke, Ma | October 12, 2017

Earlier this month the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) announced that it had awarded the Pioneer Valley Railroad a grant of $495,000 to assist with the cost to repair of an out-of-service rail bridge in downtown Holyoke. The grant was one of eight recent grant awards made under MassDOT’s Industrial Rail Access Program.

The Pioneer Valley Railroad operates a network of rail lines in Holyoke and Westfield. The open deck bridge that will undergo repair, which is shown in the image above, will have both steel and masonry work performed on the structure.

The re-opening of this bridge, which was last used in 2013, will allow the Pioneer Valley Railroad to interchange freight rail cars with the Pan Am Southern railroad company which operates the north-south rail line through Holyoke.

The re-opening of the interchange with Pan Am Southern should allow some freight rail customers on Pioneer Valley’s rail network to improve the routing of certain rail cars to and from other rail networks, e.g., Norfolk Southern and railroads in Canada.

See also

Freight Rail > Industrial Rail Access Program


New Turnout in East Northfield

NECR connection with Conn River Line | East Northfield, Ma. | October 13, 2017
By Bruce Nelson | Source: http://photos.nerail.org/s/?p=240633

It has been reported that the turnout on the New England Central Railroad’s Main Line that allows rail traffic to diverge (to the right in the image above) onto the MassDOT owned Connecticut River Main Line has been replaced. The report, which appears in the caption attached in this image, indicates that a new #20 turnout was recently installed at this location.

Why does this matter? The short answer is that the turnout at this location has been in need of replacement for some time. Amtrak’s Vermonter all to often in recent years has had to crawl across this switch at speeds as low as 10 mph. The new turnout should allow the Vermonter to pass over this turnout at a speed of 40 mph.


Northampton Underpass Status

A view of the east entrance to the new bike/pedestrian underpass
Woodmont Road | Northampton, Ma. | October 18, 2017 / 6.49 pm

National Grid established electric service at the site of the bike/pedestrian work site a few days ago.

From the look of things at the site MassDOT should be ready to take down the temporary fencing and cut the ribbon on this long awaited project very soon.

See also

Infrastructure > Current Projects > Northampton Underpass