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Springfield is at a crossroads, both literally and figuratively. From the remodeled Union Station to the under-construction MGM Casino, major investments are being made in Springfield’s civic and economic growth. And geographically, Springfield is a key connecting point between the Boston area and upstate New York, as well as between Western Connecticut and Vermont.
Join us as we discuss the role of passenger rail in connecting these regions and the economic development that inevitably follows such investments.
Among other issues, we’ll discuss the need to extend the MBTA’s commuter rail west from Worcester to Springfield, as well as the need to run more frequent service north and south along the “knowledge corridor” between Springfield and Greenfield via Holyoke and Northampton.
A Connected New England benefits the entire region, and Springfield is key.
Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
National Association of Railroad Passengers
Meeting Program Includes A Complete Hot Lunch Buffet
Early Regular Attendee Registration
$45.00 If Paid In Full By August 11
Late Attendee Registration
$50.00 If Paid After August 11 or At Door
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy has announced that the “Hartford Line” commuter rail service – between New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield, Ma. – will start in May 2018.
When the Hartford Line service launches, a total of 17 roundtrip trains between New Haven and Hartford will operate each weekday, with 12 of those roundtrip trains continuing to Springfield. On weekends, a total of 13 roundtrip trains will operate between New Haven and Hartford, with 9 of those trains continuing onto Springfield.
Amtrak operated an inspection train from St. Albans, Vt. (SAB) to Montreal (MTR) on Tuesday, July 18, 2017 – another clear signal that plans are progressing to extend the Vermonter north into Canada.
In this image the inspection train is seen crossing the upper part of Lake Champlain on the New England Central railroad (NECR) trestle at East Alburgh, Vt. Various reports suggest that Amtrak President & CEO Wick Moorman was on the train along with other U.S. and Canadian officials.
People who remember taking Amtrak’s former overnight train – the “Montrealer” – north may recall that crossing this trestle was the indication that the train was just moments away from entering Canada.
Mark your calendar for the special half-day conference, “Leveraging the Knowledge Corridor’s Transportation Assets and Investments to Drive Economic Progress.”
Date and time | Wednesday, October 18, 2017 / 8 am – 11.45 am
Venue | Springfield Union Station
The keynote speaker will be Robert Puentes, President/CEO of the Eno Center for Transportation. Panelists will include five members of Congress from the region: Richard Neal and James McGovern from Massachusetts and John Larson, Rosa DeLauro, and Elizabeth Esty from Connecticut.
The meeting agenda also includes plans for talks by Connecticut Commissioner of Transportation James Redeker and his counterpart in the Bay State, Stephanie Pollack, Secretary/CEO of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
Further details to follow
Central Corridor Passenger Rail Study Released by MassDOT
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has posted a copy of the recently completed Central Corridor Passenger Rail Feasibility Study on their website. The study, which apparently has been in the works since 2014, examines the implementation and operation of intercity passenger rail service along the Central Corridor.
The Central Corridor is a freight rail line running north-south approximately 100 miles between Brattleboro, Vt. and New London, Ct., including the communities of Amherst and Palmer, MA. MassDOT conducted the feasibility study to examine potential for intercity passenger rail service along the Central Corridor.
It is unclear at this time what if anything MassDOT plans to do now that this study is complete.
Rebooting New England | UPenn Graduate Planning Studio
Rebooting New England, a Fall 2016 graduate planning studio convened by the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design, sets forth a strategy to rebuild the economy of New England’s cities, which have been bypassed economically and physically for decades.
This strategy is underpinned by a modern high-performance rail network between New York and Boston that would link all of New England’s urban centers with these two global cities and with each other.
The 184-page report, which is audacious in its scope, looked closely at the UK initiative known as the “Northern Powerhouse”, an economic revitalization plan for the North of England and its older industrial cities. Underlying this strategy is the $52 billion high-speed rail project, which will link London with Manchester and Leeds. Another planned line will create a network that links all of the major cities in the North of England with each other.
On Wednesday, July 19th, the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority Advisory Board will meet to considering significant cuts to the PVTA route network in Hampden and Hampshire counties.
The possible cuts in service (detailed below) are driven by the need to address an operating budget deficit at the PVTA of up to $1.2 million for the coming fiscal year.
We can’t speak to the details of the PVTA’s FY2018 operating budget but we can speak to the importance of the overall service provided by the PVTA in our region.
The PVTA is the largest regional transit authority in the commonwealth. During the last fiscal year their fixed-route network carried in excess of 12 million passengers.
Simply put — the services provides by the PVTA are absolutely critical to our region.
The PVTA’s fixed-bus network network of fixed-buses
• are often the only transport option for people who don’t drive, can’t drive, or have disabilities
• are flexible, fast, green and clean
• play an important role in social cohesion, helping people, especially those on low incomes, access education, work and healthcare
• play a crucial and expanding role in connecting different modes of transit (in particular passenger rail)
And with minimal investment, new routes – across town or the region – can be launched.
In particular, we are naturally very concerned about the possible elimination of M40 express route between UMass Amherst and Northampton since we know that there are aware of many UMass students who use this bus to travel to/from the train station in Northampton.
We would encourage the PVTA Advisory Board to find other ways to cut costs and enhance their passenger revenue streams before cutting major routes.
On a more positive note it must be mentioned that Franklin Regional Transit Authority (FRTA) has no plans to cut any of their major routes and instead will be adding two new routes starting in September.
Unfortunately though the FRTA fixed-network continues to be one of the only two regional transit authorities in the commonwealth that do not provide service on Saturday, Sundays and holidays – despite the continued efforts of the advocacy group Transportation Justice for Franklin County Mass.
Just to say it one more time – buses are important for the Pioneer Valley.
Next time you take the train ask yourself, “can I take the bus to the station instead of a car?” Chances are, the answer is yes.
> Updated on July 20, 2017 at 8 a.m. <
“The PVTA Advisory board voted Wednesday to eliminate or cut bus service on 20 routes, saving $838,000 in the coming year on the way toward closing a $1.38 million gap in its total budget of $48.21 million.”
A full news report from the meeting can be found on this link:
The new wording, quoted below, was adopted at the quadrennial platform convention that was held in Worcester on June 3, 2017.
“Investment in transportation infrastructure that links communities to each other and to jobs across the Commonwealth, including: increasing the expansion of capacity and reach of the MBTA, including the Green Line Expansion; the construction of the North-South Rail Link to unify north-side and south-side commuter rail systems and to extend the Northeast Corridor; building high speed rail along the East/West route between Springfield, Worcester, and Boston; and construction of the South Coast Rail Project.”
Strong Vermonter Ridership in Northampton Reported
Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz announced on June 23, 2017 the follow news regarding passenger rail service in the city.
• Northampton station has become the 3rd leading station for passenger traffic on the Amtrak Vermonter line since rail service resumed in the city on December 29, 2014
• Northampton ridership has increased to over 18,000 people annually which is 20% of the Vermonter’s total rail ridership of 88,006.
• Travel between Northampton and New York’s Penn Station is the leading travel “pair” for passenger arrivals and departures.
• Unofficial ridership data for April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2017 shows that Northampton ridership is up 20% with 15,781 passengers in 2016 to 18,980 for 2017.
• The 2009 HDR Knowledge Corridor Study projected that realignment of the Vermonter to its original CT River corridor would result in 28 riders per day in Northampton. In 2015, Northampton station averaged 44 riders per day and in 2016 that increased to 50 riders a day.
Design for Expanded Northampton Station Platform Released
It has been announced that the passenger station platform in Northampton will be be expanded to a length of 120-feet by the end of the year.
The expanded station platform will allow for two pairs of passenger car doors to be opened on the platform, which would basically double the speed of boarding (and deboarding) passengers in Northampton.
The platform expansion project will go out to bid soon and if all goes well the project should be completed by the end of 2017.
Vermonter Extension to Montreal Takes Another Step Forward
On June 21, 2017 the House of Commons of Canada adopted Bill C-23, the “Preclearance Act, 2016″, which among other things would allow for establishment of a preclearance facility in Central Station in Montreal. The passage of this bill is is one of the many things that must happen before Amtrak’s Vermonter service is extended to north to Montreal.
The bill has been sent to the Senate of Canada, where it will sit until the Senate returns to session on September 19, 2017.
New pieces of continuously welded rail have been laid along portions of the MassDOT owned Connecticut River Main Line over the past two weeks.
In the image above, new rail has been dropped next to the so-called Deerfield Siding. Presumably this siding will be rebuilt, with new ballast, ties and new rail, in the near future.
Track Washout in Vermont Affects Vermonter Service
> Updated on July 5, 2017 at 4 p.m. <
Amtrak’s Vermonter was temporary replaced with bus service between stations north of Springfield, Ma. from Sunday, July 2nd through to the morning of Wednesday, July 5th.
WCAX in Burlington reported that about 800 feet of New England Central Railroad’s track in West Hartford, Vt. had been “compromised” after heavy rain on Saturday, July 1st caused an embankment to become unstable from the saturated ground.
Amtrak service was restored when the northbound Vermonter (Train 56) departed Springfield on Wednesday afternoon, July 5th. It is expected that the Vermonter will operate normally in both directions tomorrow.
Continued progress at the CRRC rail factory in Springfield.
“At 204,000 square feet, the $95 million factory at the old Westinghouse site in East Springfield is the largest industrial investment in greater Springfield in generations. The factory building is about 300 by 700 feet, with room inside for three and a half football fields.”
“CRRC, also known as China Railway Rolling Stock Corp., plans a grand opening celebration at the plant in October or early November, with production on new MBTA subway cars to begin early in 2018.”
Monday, June 19th
Senator Eric Lesser travels from Boston to Springfield, with stops in Framingham, Worcester, Palmer and Springfield, on a ‘whistle-stop’ tour to promote expanded East-West passenger rail service.
Here’s a summary of Monday’s westbound-only schedule.
9:00 am in Boston – Press conference with Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry and Sen. Joe Boncore
11:00 am in Framingham – Press conference at Framingham MBTA commuter rail station with Sen. Karen Spilka and local elected officials to discuss the regional and state-wide importance of modern rail infrastructure and concerns about the Framingham at-grade rail crossing.
12:30 pm in Worcester – Meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler and the Editorial Board of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette to discuss how expansion of MBTA rail service to Worcester has transformed the city.
3:30 pm in Palmer – “Rally for Rail | Palmer” event and meeting with Sen. Anne Gobi and local business leaders at Palmer’s Steaming Tender Restaurant to discuss Transit Oriented Development opportunities for the town and region.
5:30 pm in Springfield – “Rally for Rail | Springfield” event at Springfield Union Station hosted by Sen. Lesser and other local elected officials. (You can park for free inside the new Union Station parking garage.)
The rallies in Palmer and Springfield are open to the public and we would encourage people to attend.
Tuesday, June 20th | 6 pm – 7:45 pm
A special evening program at Sixteen Acres Branch Library, 1187 Parker St, Springfield, on the long-awaited grand reopening of the Springfield Union Station.
Sunday – June 25th | 12 Noon to 2 pm
Official Public Open House for Springfield Union Station
• Guided tours by the designers of the new murals in the station
• “Saving Union Station” Book Signing
• Model Train Exhibit by Amherst Rail Society
• Amtrak Safety Display
• Antique Cars and Bus Displays, including historic Peter Pan buses from the past
• Little Hands on the Move – Explore the city streets and landmarks of the Springfield Cultural District using wooden cars and motorcycles on a giant carpeted map.
• Early Transportation Please Touch Table – Put on your white curator gloves and touch car parts from a century ago.
• Marble Run – Use plastic, wood, recycled, and even illuminated materials to create twists and turns to see how far you can get your marbles to roll.
• Make & Take: Union Station Themed Buttons – Color a train, bus or Union Station Grand Opening logo then have it made into a wearable button.
• Appearance by the Cat in the Hat – Meet and greet with the Cat from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
• Appearance by Springfield Thunderbirds “Boomer”
• WMAS FM
• Cupcakes and other sweets for sale
• Springfield Water Department Hydration Station
And yes, Trains in the Valley will be at this event with its own table. Please stop by and say hello!
Sunday – June 25th | 4:30 pm
The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) shifts its regional bus hub to Springfield Union Station.
Construction of the bike/pedestrian underpass in Northampton is moving forward, after a pause during the winter months.
During the past few weeks, MassDOT’s contractors have constructed a new section of rail line above the completed portion of the underpass. The new section of track was then cut in to the main line and the temporary shoofly track, that had been in place since late 2016, was removed.