Rail News Roundup #20


Today’s Headlines

• East–West Rail Study Committee to Meet

• Greenfield | New Train Status Display

• Windsor Locks | Ticket Vending Machine Installed

• NECR Rail Line Upgrade Project Funded

• Holyoke | PVRR Bridge Work Complete

• Franklin County | Transportation Plan Update

• Pioneer Valley | Transportation Plan Update

• Meanwhile, Up in Vermont…



East–West Passenger Rail Study Advisory Committee | Meeting 1
Tue. December 18, 2018 | 1 pm – 3 pm
Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
2nd Floor Conference Room
60 Congress Street, Springfield, MA


Regional Transportation Plan Public Input Meetings
Franklin Regional Council of Governments

Tues. January 8, 2019 | 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
Erving Senior Center
1 Care Drive, Erving, MA

Wed. January 9, 2018 | 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
Olver Transit Center, 1st Floor Meeting Room
12 Olive Street, Greenfield, MA

Wed. January 16, 2019 | 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
Sunderland Library
20 School Street, Sunderland, MA


East–West Passenger Rail Study Advisory Committee To Meet

MassDOT will publicly kick-off the East-West Passenger Rail Study tomorrow with the first meeting of the East-West Passenger Rail Advisory Committee.

Long awaited by many, this study will assess passenger rail service alternatives along the Boston–Worcester–Springfield–Pittsfield corridor.

Time / Date
Tue. December 18, 2018 | 1 pm – 3 pm

Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
2nd Floor Conference Room
60 Congress Street, Springfield, Ma.

Note that this meeting is open to the public.


East-West Passenger Rail Advisory Committee Mtg 1 Agenda (PDF)


A roster of 33-member Advisory Committee is available on this link:
East-West Passenger Rail Study Advisory Committee | MassDOT


We will pass along links to the noteworthy media reports via the Trains In The Valley Facebook page with a longer report on the meeting which will appear in the next edition of the Rail News Roundup.


In related news, the Town of Palmer this week appointed a 13-member “Rail Stop Steering Committee” to monitor and act on developments as MassDOT’s East–West Passenger Rail Study gets underway. (a list of members can be found on the link below.)

It will be interested to see if other communities along the east–west rail corridor appoint similar committees to focus local attention to this important study.

Further reading

East-West Passenger Rail Study | MassDOT

East-West Passenger Rail Study | Train In The Valley
Our landing page for this topic

“Palmer Town Council appoints 13-person Rail Stop Steering Committee”
By Jim Russell | The Republican | December 11, 2018


Greenfield | New Train Status Display

Train information display screen
Olver Transit Center | Greenfield, Ma. | December 31, 2018

A train information display screen has been installed in the Olver Transit Center in Greenfield in the main waiting area.

The layout of the information on the screen is meant to look like the slit-flap display screens that were once common at major Amtrak stations. The display information is provided by the firm Dixieland Software, at no cost.

Clearly there is lots of room for more trains on this display screen.

Last we checked the responsible parties at Springfield Union Station are still working to get the Amtrak train information added to the display screens in the main waiting room. We remain hopefully that this will happen before too long.


Windsor Locks | Ticket Vending Machine Installed

New CTrail TVM at Windsor Locks station
Courtesy of CTDOT | November 17, 2018

Good news for people taking the train from Windsor Locks, CT — a new Ticket Vending Machine is up and running, as of November 16, 2018.

Tickets purchased from this machine are good for travel on any train (Amtrak or CTrail) between Springfield and New Haven — with the exception of the Vermonter. Note also that you can purchase tickets from this machine for travel on Metro-North trains, if your journey involved travel past New Haven.

Further information

Windsor Locks station | Trains In The Valley


New England Central Rail Upgrade Project Funded

Senators Edward J. Markey and Elizabeth Warren, and Representatives Richard E. Neal and Jim McGovern have announced the release of a $10.8 million Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant to upgrade the 55-mile New England Central Railroad (NECR) main line through western Massachusetts.

This $10.8 million BUILD grant will be combined with $9.6 million in already approved state funding from MassDOT’s Capital Investment Plan, and $9.6 million from the New England Central Railroad.

The NECR line, which is owned by Genesee & Wyoming, runs from East Alburg, Vt. (on the Canadian border) to the port of New London, Ct. and passes through western Massachusetts along a rail corridor that runs north to south through Millers Falls, Amherst, Belchertown, Palmer and Monson.

The planned upgrades to the line include the installation of 31 miles of new rail and 20,000 new crossties. Additionally, 20 bridges along the line will be rehabilitated and strengthened.

Once this work is complete the western Massachusetts portion of the NECR line will be certified for the movement of 286,000 lb. gross-vehicle-weight (GVW) rail cars.

At present the line can only handle non-standard 263,000 lb rail cars. This limitation prevents the movement of many rail shipments along this rail line today.

Our understanding is that the NECR line in Vermont and Connecticut has already, or soon will be, be rated to handle 286,000 lb. GVW rail cars.

Further reading

“Cargo rail line running through Western Mass. gets $10.8M from feds, $9.6M from state for modernization”
By Jim Kinney | The Republican | December 10, 2018

2018 $1.5 Billion in BUILD Transportation Grants Announcement
Press Release | U.S. Dept. of Transportation | December 11, 2018


Holyoke | PVRR Bridge Work Completed

The Pioneer Valley Railroad (PVRR) and its contractors have completed the rehabilitated of the curved open deck bridge in Holyoke that carries the PVRR over the Third Level Canal near Cabot Street.

This work was partially funded by a grant of $495,000 from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT). The grant was one of eight grant awards made in 2017 under MassDOT’s Industrial Rail Access Program.

The re-opening of this bridge, which was last used in 2013, will allow the PVRR to interchange freight rail cars with the Pan Am Southern (PAS) railroad which provides freight rail service on the north-south rail line through Holyoke.

Curved open-deck railroad bridge | looking northeast from Cabot St
Near South Canal & Cabot streets | Holyoke, Ma. | November 16, 2018


The diagram below, from the rail industry journal Atlantic Northeast Rail & Ports (ANR&P), provides a nice overview of the area area in and around the bridge.

Source | Atlantic Northeast Rail & Ports – Issue #18-11 | December 7, 2018
Used with Permission


ANR&P’s December 8, 2018 edition reported that the PVRR/PAS Holyoke interchange is expected to reopen in early 2019 with the first traffic destined to the James Hardie Building Products, a major new customer for the PVRR.

The James Hardie 237,000 sq-ft facility is located on the site of the former National Envelope Co. property at 70 Turnpike Industrial Road, Westfield — a site which was leased because of its proximity to the PVRR and the planned re-opening of the Holyoke interchange between the PVRR and PAS railroad lines.

Further reading

Former National Envelope plant in Westfield sold to James Hardie Building Products; 50-80 jobs expected
By Jim Kinney | The Republican | December 17, 2018


Franklin County | Transportation Plan Update

The Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) is currently updating the Regional Transportation Plan for Franklin County.  This plan is updated every 4 years and examines the current state of the transportation system in the region, including all modes of transportation – such as driving, walking, biking, and riding the bus or a train.

The plan will identify the long-term transportation needs of the region and prioritizes key projects and activities.

As part of the planning process, the FRCOG is seeking input from Franklin County residents and employees.

There are 3 upcoming public meetings to listen to feedback and comments on transportation needs and priorities.

If you are unable to attend a meeting, please take the survey to let the FRCOG know your thoughts:

We would also encourage people submitted using one of the addresses listed below.

Megan Rhodes
Franklin Regional Council of Governments
12 Olive Street
Greenfield, MA 01301
email | mrhodes@frcog.org


Further reading
Franklin County Regional Transportation Plan 2016


Pioneer Valley | Transportation Plan Update

The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission is in the process of updating the Region Transportation Plan for the Hampden and Hampshire County regions.

The Pioneer Valley Regional Transportation Plan outlines the direction of transportation planning and improvements for the Pioneer Valley through the year 2040.

Progress related to the 2020 Pioneer Valley Transportation Plan update can be viewed on the project site linked below.

Comments/question/input to the plan my be submitted using one of the addresses listed below.

Gary Roux
Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
60 Congress St
Springfield, MA 01104
email | gmroux@pvpc.org


Further reading

2020 Regional Transportation Plan | Project site

Pioneer Valley Regional Transportation Plan 2016


Meanwhile, Up in Vermont…

“Man with a Plan” A quicker, cheaper way to build commuter rail”
By Julie Campoli | Sustainable Transportation Vermont | November 9, 2018

In this report, Julie Campoli of Sustainable Transportation Vermont, looks at efforts underway to bring additional passenger rail service to the Green Mountain State.

The plan being put forward by David Blittersdorf of AllEarth Rail relies on the use of refurbished rail diesel cars that his company recently acquired from the transit agency known as Dallas Area Rapid Transit. Until not so long ago these cars were in service on Trinity Railway Express line between Dallas and Fort Worth.

How this plays out is anyone’s guess at the moment, but its interesting to watch the many efforts in New England to re-establish or expand passenger rail service.