Rail News Roundup #15


Today’s Headlines

• All Aboard for the Hartford Line!

• Final 2018 State Rail Plan Released

• Supporters Hope Hartford Line Will Help Upend Car Culture

• Springfield | New Parking Rates at Union Station Garage

• Northampton | Expanded Station Platform to Move Ahead?

• Northampton | Ceremonial Ribbon Cutting

• Greenfield | Parking Garage Update

• Freight railroads’ key role Western Mass

• WMassPI | Briefings: Baker Climbs aboard Rail Study…



June 16/17, 2018
Opening Weekend for the Hartford Line
All Hartford Line passenger rail service (CTrail and Amtrak) will be FREE this weekend.

For further information visit


Wed. June 20, 2018 | 6 pm – 8 pm
Exploring Transit-Oriented Development in Gateway Cities
Theodore’s BBQ | 201 Worthington St, Springfield
[information/registration link]

Free BBQ, a cash bar, networking with fellow smart growth advocates, and a chance to hear directly from the researchers on the possibilities of Transit-Oriented-Development (TOD) near Springfield Union Station


July 27–28, 2018
Northampton | Golden Spike 2018
The largest rails-to-trails conference of the year in New England.


All Aboard for the Hartford Line!

Ride for free from Union Station to Union Station this weekend!

Free service on the Hartford Line (CTrail and Amtrak trains) all weekend long.


And — there will be FREE parking at the Union Station Parking Garage (1755 Main St, Springfield) this weekend.


Making plans to ride the Hartford Line from Springfield?

Check out our new Hartford Line page


For those of you using the new Hartford Line, please keep in mind that this service is unique in many ways. In particular, the service is being provide by two distinct operators — CTrail and Amtrak — which as far as we know, is a first in this country.

All of the details have yet to be totally worked out, in particular a few issues related Hartford Line ticketing (CTrail vs. Amtrak).

Our Advice to You — if you are traveling between Springfield and New Haven on the Hartford Lineif possible, purchase your ticket from a CTrail ticket vending machine — not the Amtrak website.

Why? Because there are still a few open questions related to the use of Amtrak tickets on Hartford Line trains. In a nutshell — Amtrak-issued tickets are for a “reserved coach seat” on a specific Amtrak train on the Hartford Line, which implies that the ticket is valid only for a specific train.

The Hartford Line website does say that “valid” Amtrak tickets can be used on any CTrail train but we have yet to find out what the term “valid” means in this context.


If you have comments about the new service please let CTDOT know.


Final State Rail Plan Released

The final version of the 2018 Massachusetts State Rail Plan was released today.

The document can viewed by clicking on this link
2018 Massachusetts State Rail Plan (PDF)

The final plan includes a new chapter, Chapter 6, which details MassDOT’s public engagement effort and summarizes the updates to the plan from the draft version.

We note in particular MassDOT’s comment (in Chapter 6) that they received nearly 300 emails and letters during the public comment period, including an open letter signed by 667 high school students in Western Massachusetts on their support of a feasibility study for East-West rail.

We will have further comment on the Final version of the State Rail Plan in a future edition of the Rail News Update.


Supporters Hope Hartford Line Will Help Upend Car Culture

“Supporters Hope Hartford Line Will Help Upend Connecticut’s Car Culture”
By Rebecca Lurye | Hartford Courant | June 10, 2018

An insightful look at what the coming Hartford Line might mean for the Springfield–Hartford–New Haven corridor.

“Some commuters say the new, $700 million rail line is their way out of a congested car culture that weighs heavily on their wallets, time cards and nerves. The state [Connecticut] Department of Transportation expects thousands of people to trade in driving for the convenience of the Hartford Line, which promises to make the 62-mile trip from Springfield to New Haven in about 80 minutes, and for less than traditional Amtrak tickets.”


Springfield | New Parking Rates at Union Station Garage

“Springfield Union Station offers commuter parking rate as CTrail service begins”
By Jim Kinney | The Republican | June 14, 2018

At long last, the City of Springfield offers a Commuter Rate for parking at the Union Station Garage.

Effective Mon. June 18, 2018 the commuter rate for parking in the garage will be $5.

Effective for July 2018 the monthy parking rate will be $65.

This is really significant news because until now the parking rate had been $20/day — which is a level which was simply not attractive to people in this area.

Thanks go out to Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno the executive leadership of the Springfield Redevelopment Authority for making this happen.


Northampton | Expanded Station Platform to Move Ahead?

Architectural rendering of planned expanded rail platform
Northampton, Ma. | June 2017

Late today we received word that the delayed project to expand the station platform in Northampton may finally be ready to move forward.

We don’t have the details yet, but as soon as we do we’ll be sure to let you know.

Further Reading
Infrastructure | Northampton | Trains in the Valley


Northampton | Ceremonial Ribbon Cutting

Northampton Underpass Ribbon Cutting
Mary C. Serreze | Special to The Republican | June 8, 2018

“Northampton celebrates completion of rail trail underpass”
By Hannah Nelson | Daily Hampshire Gazette | June 8, 2018

One June 8th MassDOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack joined Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, MassDOT staff, local leaders, and members of the public to celebrate the ceremonial ribbon-cutting for the new bicycle/pedestrian underpass beneath the MassDOT owned Connecticut River Line in Northampton.

This new $4.4 million underpass in the area of Woodmont Road and King Street connects the Mass Central Rail Trail – on the east side of the railroad tracks – with the Northampton Bike Trail on the west side of the railroad tracks.

It was a 43 years ago (i.e., in 1975) that the idea of a bicycle tunnel under the Connecticut River Rail Line was first floated, said Mayor David Narkewicz.

Specifications were first developed 25 years ago, and construction finally starting in 2016.

Further reading
Northampton Underpass | Trains In The Valley


Greenfield | Parking Garage Update

Pre-cast Traffic Route | Olive St Parking Garage | Greenfield, Ma.

The parking garage across from the Olver Transit Center is coming together.

Concrete pours for the footings and foundations have been completed. The crane (300-ton lift capacity) arrived on Mon. June 11th and the contractor began installing precast concrete panels on the site on Wed, June 13th.

The garage should be completed before the end of 2018.

Further Details on this link


Freight railroads’ key role Western Mass economy

CSX GE-ES44AC Locomotive #0948 on the headend of a Freight | Springfield, Ma.
By CORNELIUSSEON | Wikimedia Commons | License: Attribution 3.0 Unported

Freight railroads’ key role in moving the Western Mass economy
Opinion | By Tim Brennan | via MassLive | May 30, 2018

Tim Brennan, the Executive Director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, makes a strong case for moving more freight over an improved and modernized rail network in Western Mass.


WMassPI | Briefings: Baker Climbs aboard Rail Study…

Western Mass Politics and Insight | June 13, 2018

“Briefings: Baker Climbs aboard Rail Study…at Yorktown…”
Western Mass Politics & Insight | June 13, 2018

Western Massachusetts Politics & Insight this week took a fresh look at Senator Lesser’s four-year effort to get the state to study East-West rail. Their work is a masterful piece of political analysis.

As always, a must-read for people in the Valley who are following the ins and outs of this long running story of political intrigue.

Rail News Roundup #13


Today’s Headlines

• Hartford Line to Launch June 16th

• Draft MassDOT 2019-2023 Capital Plan Update Released

• The Vermonter, in the News

• Amherst Station Signage Removed

• News | Recent Rail Crossing Accidents

• Railroad Jobs in the Valley

• Northampton | ‘Golden Spike’ Conference



June 16th, 2018
Launch of the Hartford Line

July 27–28, 2018
Northampton | Golden Spike 2018
The largest rails-to-trails conference of the year in New England.


Hartford Line to Launch on June 16th

The Hartford Line is coming!

Dates to Note (Updated June 4, 2018)

Mon. June 11th | Expanded service on the corridor starts with the addition of three new Amtrak round-trips between Springfield and New Haven.

Fri. June 15th | Ribbon cutting at Hartford Union Station. Special trains, for invited guests, will operate from New Haven and Springfield to Hartford, and return.

Sat. June 16th | Hartford Line CTrail trains enter regular scheduled service today.

Sat./Sun. June 16-17 | All Hartford Line service (CTrail and Amtrak) will be FREE this weekend. 

Mon. June 18th | Hartford Line tickets now accepted for travel on Amtrak trains between Springfield and New Haven, except on the Vermonter.

Mon. June 18th | Hartford Line fares now in effect for all Amtrak tickets purchased for travel between Springfield and New Haven, except on the Vermonter. As example, the one-way adult price to travel between Springfield and New Haven on Amtrak will now be $12.50.

We will provide many additional details in a future posting, before the launch of service on June 16th.


In the meantime, please visit the newly refreshed Hartford Line website for further information.

In particular we suggest having a close look at the Rider FAQs section.

Further information

Hartford Line | Official website


Draft MassDOT 2019-2023 Capital Plan Update Released

MassDOT has released its draft Capital Investment Plan (CIP) Update for Fiscal Years 2019–2023.

The draft CIP is multi-billion dollar investment portfolio that includes all MassDOT highway and bridge projects, regional airports, rail and transit, including MBTA and Regional Transit Authorities as well as the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

To view the draft plan click on this link:
Draft 2019-2023 CIP Update


To view a summary of the proposed rail projects in our region click on this link:

Summary of CIP Rail Projects in the Pioneer Valley
Prepared by Trains In The Valley


Comments on the MassDOT’s draft CIP Update can be submitted by email using this address: masscip@dot.state.ma.us

Note that the deadline for comments is Friday, June 1, 2018.


Further information

Capital Investment Plan | MassDOT

Capital Program subcommittee | MassDOT Board of Directors


The Vermonter, in the News

The Vermonter stops at Brattleboro, VT | June 2013
By Beyond My Ken [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
“Amtrak services’ future still an open question”
By C.B. Hall | Vermont Business Magazine | May 1, 2018

Vermont Business Magazine, in a detailed article, looks at the future of Amtrak’s Vermonter service.

The situation is complicated. In a nutshell, Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson is concerned that there are no plans to install Positive Train Control (PTC) on some of the rail lines used by Amtrak’s trains in the U.S. — including the lines that are used by the Vermonter between Springfield and St Albans, VT.

The Vermont  portion of the line has been exempted from the requirement for PTC but the line between East Northfield, MA and Springfield has apparently fallen into a kind of PTC-limbo for various reasons.

Amtrak, for its part, is talking about the future of the Vermonter in noncommittal terms and is meanwhile conducting a safety analyses of its routes both here and across the country.

“In Vermont, Amtrak is just now beginning to undertake its safety review of routes such as the Vermonter and the Ethan Allen,” Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) noted in an email statement [to Vermont Business Magazine]. ‘It is premature to suggest that these reviews will lead to suspension of passenger service.’ ”

All parties are focused on dealing with the safety concerns but there is no assurances as to what exactly will happen as we move closer to the PTC deadline of December 31, 2018.

Rest assured, everyone we’ve spoken to is working diligently to keep the train running and is very focused on taking the necessary steps to enhance safety along the rail lines on the route.


Amherst Station Signage Removed

Signage at the site of the former Amherst station | January 29, 2018

The last Amtrak passenger train pulled out of Amherst on December 28th, 2014. Odd as it may seem, someone at Amtrak never got the memo.

In January (2018) we were asked why Amtrak’s signs were still standing in Amherst. After a couple of attempts to get the signs removed we reached out to the office of Congressman Jim McGovern in Northampton for help.

The congressman’s office contacted Amtrak and the signs were finally removed on May 3rd.


News | Recent Rail Crossings Accidents

Two serious accidents have occurred at railroad crossing in our region in the past few weeks.

The Republican reported that in the early morning hours of April 14th a vehicle struck the rear of a CSX freight train at the crossing on Memorial Drive in Springfield. Tragically, the driver of the vehicle lost her life in this accident.

Memorial Drive X CSX crossing | Springfield, Ma.

The crossing, shown above, is located at the end of a CSX rail line known as the Athol Industrial Track. The line ends at the Monson Paper warehouse — shown on the right in the image.

Accident records on file with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) indicate that the last accident at this crossing occurred in 1991.

: :

Western Mass News reported that on May 15th at about 2:30 pm a vehicle came in contact with a New England Central (NECR) freight train at the crossing on Stafford Road (a.k.a. Massachusetts Route 32) in Monson.

The three people in the vehicle were taken to Baystate Medical Center for treatment of what police said appeared to be non-life threatening injuries.

Stafford Road (MA-32) X NECR crossing | Monson, Ma.

The crossing, shown above, is located on NECR’s Palmer subdivision. The authorized speed for freight trains at this location is 25 mph and the speed limit on the state highway here is 45 mph.

Accident records on file with FRA show no reported accidents at this crossing as far back as 1975.


In related news, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission has been studying the safety of at-grade railroad crossings in our region. Their report is scheduled to be released in November 2018.

See also

Railroad Crossing Safety
Trains In The Valley

Further reading

“Woman killed in train collision identified as Springfield resident”
By Jeanette DeForge | The Republican | April 15, 2018

“Three hospitalized after train hits car in Monson”
By Ryan Trowbridge | Western Mass News | May 15, 2018

“Saving lives where road meets rail”
By Bruce E. Kelly | Railway Age | May 21, 2018


Railroad Jobs in the Valley

Ever thought about working for a railroad? Well, do we have the job for you.

By popular demand we’ve now added a new section on the website called [Railroad Jobs in The Valley] with information about available railroad jobs across our region.


Northampton | Golden Spike 2018 Conference

Are we a rail trail friendly rail advocacy group you might ask? Of course.

Unused rail lines need to be preserved and protected for public use today and the future.

Coming to Northampton on July 27-28th is “Golden Spike 2018″ — the largest rails-to-trails conference of the year in New England.

Event website



Post last updated: June 4, 2018