2018 State Rail Plan Update

 

UPDATE
Pop-Up State Rail Plan Advocacy Meetings Announced
Your chance to learn more about the draft Rail Plan and how to submit comments

  >> click here to jump to the details at the end of the post <<

 


UPDATE | 2/6/2018 | MassDOT announced today that the comment period for the Rail Plan has been extended to March 2nd.

 

In this posting we’re going to take a look at draft 2018 State Rail plan that was released by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) on Friday, January 26th.

Before we go any further we want people to understand that MassDOT is currently seeking written public comments on the draft plan.

If you are interested in the long-term plan for passenger rail service in the Commonwealth — in the Pioneer Valley in particular — we encourage you to review the draft plan and then send your comments to MassDOT.

This will be the only chance to comment on the State Rail Plan until the next update in 2023.

Written comments should be sent via email to Planning@dot.state.ma.us or they can be mailed to this address:

Massachusetts Department of Transportation
Attn Jennifer Slesinger – State Rail Plan
10 Park Plaza – Suite 4150
Boston, MA 02116

Comments must be submitted by February 19th March 2nd.

 


2018 State Rail Plan

The 129-page draft 2018 State Rail Plan can be found on this web page

Rail Plan (Mass.gov)

To meet Federal Railroad Administration requirements, the 2018 State Rail Plan provides an overview of:

  • The existing rail system
  • The system’s overall role in the transportation network
  • How the system is financed
  • Near term priorities
  • A long-term investment strategy

Note that the State Rail Plan does not include policy decisions regarding specific MBTA Commuter Rail investments, given several ongoing studies pertaining to the future of Commuter Rail.  These studies include Focus40, the long range investment plan for the MBTA — and the MBTA Commuter Rail Vision study.

As you read along please keep in mind that these comments, for the most part, only focus on our region.

We encouraging all interested parties and stakeholders to have a close look at the draft State Rail Plan and to provide MassDOT with comments and feedback. This is the time for your voice to be heard.

 


Passenger Rail (in the Pioneer Valley Region)

To get started we suggest that you look at the map below.

Draft State Rail Plan | Page 3

This map shows the existing passenger rail network in the Commonwealth. The problem with this map is that it doesn’t show you the frequency of service (i.e. the number of trains operating) on each line.

As example, the map shows that there is service from Boston all the way to Albany, but what the map doesn’t show is that this service consists of a single long-distance Amtrak train in each direction.

The map though does give the reader an idea of which rail lines are currently being used for passenger service.

Now lets look at the  draft recommendations from the plan.

Long-term projects in the plan have been grouped into three tiers:

• Tier 1 Projects| Priority for Implementation

• Tier 2 Projects | Warrants further study

• Tier 3 Projects | No action recommended at this time

 


Tier 1 Projects | Priority for Implementation (Passenger rail)

Draft State Rail Plan | Page 10

New Haven – Springfield Service

This is MassDOT’s support for the CTrail Hartford Line service which is scheduled to start service in May 2018.

Long-term plans for this service should include the upgrade of the line from CT-MA border into Springfield (e.g., at grade crossings), renewal of the track-level infrastructure at Springfield Union Station, and creation of a proper layover yard for CTrail and Amtrak trains in Springfield. For reasons that are not clear the draft plan is silent on all of these projects.

We encourage people to fully support expanded passenger rail service between Springfield and New Haven.

 

Springfield to Greenfield Passenger Service

Clearly this is very exciting news for people living north of Springfield.

The proposed pilot service, as we understand it, would effectively provide for two trains from Greenfield to New Haven in the early morning and two trains from New Haven to Greenfield in the early evening. These trains would be timed to connect with Metro-North, Amtrak and Shore Line East service in New Haven.

The proposed trains would stop in Greenfield, Northampton, Holyoke, Springfield and all Hartford Lines stations in Connecticut.

If the near-term pilot moves forward and were to be successful, added intercity rail service could be achieved as an extension of the CTrail Hartford Line creating continuous service from New Haven, Connecticut to Greenfield.

This service would improve access for the institutions and residents of this corridor and would leverage the investment that the Federal government and the Commonwealth have already made in the Knowledge Corridor.

Expanded passenger service along the Knowledge Corridor would also support transit oriented development opportunities along the corridor.

We encourage people in our region to let MassDOT know that they support this service.

 


Tier 2 Projects | Warrants further study (Passenger rail)

Draft State Rail Plan | Page 12

On the one hand it is very unfortunate that MassDOT has decided to further delay the solid recommendations that came out the two-year Northern New England Intercity Rail Initiative study that was completed in 2016.  i.e., the extension of New Haven – Hartford – Springfield passenger rail service to Boston.

On the other hand we are pleased to see that MassDOT has proposed a study that has the potential for looking at a very broad set of possible passenger rail service offerings in our region, including

Boston – Springfield (- New Haven, CT)
Boston – Springfield – Pittsfield (- Albany, NY)
Boston – Springfield – Greenfield (via the Connecticut River Line)

Boston – Palmer – Amherst (UMass) (- Brattleboro, VT)

Boston – Fitchburg – Greenfield – Williamstown

We would be surprised to hear that MassDOT supports all of these options in the proposed Western Massachusetts to Boston Passenger Rail Service Study, but they should all be looked at since none of them would require any new railroad right of way.

At a minimum we strongly support moving forward with the establishment of a passenger rail corridor that would connect the CTrail Hartford Line service (New Haven — Springfield service) with Boston — with appropriate intermediate stops.

If passenger rail service between Western Massachusetts and the Boston Metro area is important to you we recommend that you let MassDOT know this in your comments on the draft State Rail Plan.

 


Tier 3 Projects | No action recommended at this time (Passenger Rail)

Draft State Rail Plan | Page 13

Palmer station

The Northern New England Intercity Rail Initiative study that was completed in 2016 recommended the establishment of a passenger rail station in Palmer when service is established on the corridor between New Haven, Springfield and Boston.

We continue to support the establishment of a properly located station in the town of Palmer when expanded passenger service is established along this corridor.

 


Freight Rail (in the Pioneer Valley Region)

We are pleased to see that MassDOT has identified the need to upgrade key freight rail lines in Massachusetts to accommodate 286,000 lbs. gross weight freight rail cars as a Tier 1 Priority Project — in particulate on the New England Central Railroad (NECR) corridor that runs through the Pioneer Valley.

We are aware of a number of freight customers along the NECR line who are eager for the upgrade of this rail corridor to be completed.

 


State Rail Plan Timeline

September 2010 | 2010 Massachusetts State Rail Plan issued (Final version)

April 22, 2015 | Bids open for “Request for Response, State Rail Plan Five-Year Update”

June 14, 2016 | State Rail Plan Update public meeting | Worcester, Ma.

November 9, 2016 | State Rail Plan Update public meeting | Springfield, Ma.

November 21, 2016 | State Rail Plan Update public meeting | Attleboro, Ma.

January 26, 2018 | Draft 2018 State Rail Plan released to the public on the Mass.gov website & Opening of the public comment period

January 29, 2018 | State Rail Plan public meeting | Worcester, Ma.

February 2, 2018 | State Rail Plan public meeting | Springfield, Ma.

February 19, 2018 | Public comment period ends

to be announced | State Rail Plan finalized

 


A few final points

  1. The State Rail Plan should have been finished back in late 2015/2016 rather then delayed until 2018. Why the delay? We don’t know.
  2. For reasons that we don’t know the draft 129-page draft version of the plan was not released until 4 pm on the  Friday afternoon (January 26th) before the planned public information meeting in Worcester on Monday, January 29th — leaving people with little time to review the document before the meeting. On a more positive note, many were pleased that MassDOT agreed, after the first public meeting, to add a second public meeting on Friday, February 2nd in Springfield.
  3. MassDOT needs to publish a postal mailing address so that people can submit comments by letter. (at the moment only an email address is listed on the Rail Plan web page.) Not all residents in Massachusetts have access to the Internet, a computer, and/or an email address. (This was has been done now.)
  4. We hope that when MassDOT completes the final plan that they will also release a redline version so that interested readers can see exactly what changes were made, between the draft and final version of plan.
  5. We would also hope that MassDOT will post a summary of the comments that are received, as they did with the 2017-2021 Capital Investment Plan.

 


How to Comment on the Draft 2018 State Plan

If you are interested in the long-term plan for passenger rail service in the Commonwealth — in the Pioneer Valley in particular — we encourage you to review the draft plan and then send your comments to MassDOT.

This will be the only chance to comment on the State Rail Plan until the next update in 2023.

Written comments should be sent via email to Planning@dot.state.ma.us or they can be mailed to this address:

Massachusetts Department of Transportation
Attn Jennifer Slesinger – State Rail Plan
10 Park Plaza – Suite 4150
Boston, MA 02116

Comments must be submitted by February 19th  March 2nd.

 


Further Information

Massachusetts State Rail Plan (official site)

Minutes of the State Rail Plan Information Meeting (PDF) [NEW]
Springfield, MA | February 2, 2018

Testimony of Mayor David J. Narkewicz (PDF) [NEW]
Rail Plan Meeting | Springfield, MA | February 2, 2018

State Rail Plan Guidance
Federal Railroad Administration

“East-west passenger service urged among state rail priorities”
By Cyrus Moulton | Worcester Telegram | January 29, 2018

“MassDOT 2018 rail plan includes possible study on rail service between Springfield and Boston” (1:49)
Video | WWLP-22News | January 29, 2018

“Glimpses of East-West Rail, or a Position to Not Look Too Close…?” [NEW]
Western Massachusetts Politics & Insight | February 6, 2018

 

Pop-Up Rail Plan Advocacy Meetings Announced

Local rail advocacy groups Trains In The Valley, Citizens for a Palmer Rail Stop and The Train Campaign announce plans to hold pop-up meetings across the region.

Join us an informal drop-in meeting to learn more about the now-in-draft 2018 Massachusetts State Rail Plan. Get your questions answered by local rail advocates and learn how to make your opinions count by submitting comments to MassDOT.

Here’s a listing of the meetings that have been scheduled so far.

AGAWAM | Agawam Public Library, 750 Cooper St
Mo. February 26, 2018 | 11 AM – 1 PM
[registration/info link]

HOLYOKE | Holyoke Public Library, 250 Chestnut St
Tues. February 27, 2018 | 11:00 AM – 1 PM
[registration/info link]

NORTH ADAMS | North Adams Public Library, 74 Church St [NEW]
Wednesday, February 21th | 3:30 PM – 4:30 PM
[registration/info link]

PALMER | Palmer Public Library, 1455 North Main St [NEW]
Sat. February 24th | 10 AM – 2 PM
[registration/info link]

PITTSFIELD | Pittsfield Public Library, 1 Wendell Ave
Wed,, February 28th | 5:30 PM – 7 PM
[registration/info link]

WEST SPRINGFIELD | West Springfield Public Library [NEW]
Wed. February 21st | 11 AM – 12:30 PM
[registration/info link]

WEST STOCKBRIDGE | West Stockbridge Library, 21 State Line Rd [NEW]
Wednesday, February 28th | 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM
[registration/info link]

WILLIAMSTOWN | Williamstown Public Library, 1095 Main St
Wednesday, February 21st | 5:30 PM – 7:00 PM
[registration/info link]

 

Past Meetings

AMHERST | Jones Library, 43 Amity St
Thurs. February 8th | 4:30 PM – 6:30 PM

EAST LONGMEADOW | Public Library, 60 Center Sq
Mon. February 12th | 6.30 PM – 7:30 PM

GREENFIELD | Greenfield Public Library, 402 Main St
Thur. February 15th | 11 AM – 1 PM

GREAT BARRINGTON | Mason Public Library, 231 Main St
Thur., February 15th | 4 PM – 5:30 PM

LEE | Lee Library, 100 Main St
Tues. February 13th | 6 PM- 7:30 PM

MONSON | Monson Free Library, 2 High St
Sat. February 10th | 11 AM – 1 PM

NORTHAMPTON | Forbes Library, 20 West St
Fri. February 9th | 11:30 AM – 1 PM

SHEFFIELD | Sheffield Library, 48 Main St
Friday, February 16th | 4 PM – 5:30 PM

SPRINGFIELD | Sixteen Acres Branch Library, 1187 Parker St
Fri. February 16th | 3 PM – 5 PM

WHATELY | S. White Dickinson Memorial Library, 202 Chestnut Plain Rd
Sat. February 17th, 1 PM – 2:30 PM

 

Meetings will also posted on Eventbrite and then shared via Facebook.

If you would like to a meeting at your library please drop us note using this contact form.

 

 

Post last updated: February 17, 2018