Rail News Roundup #19

 

Today’s Headlines

• CTDOT Adds Additional Service to Springfield

• Amtrak and CTDOT Work to Address Overcrowding

• East–West Rail — Post Election Update

• Greenfield | Olive Street Parking Garage Opens

• Bernardston | Stone Arch Bridge Re-decking

• Pan Am Railways Fined by Mass DEP

• Update from the Berkshires

 

Calendar

Mon. November 19, 2018 | 11:30 am – 7:30 pm
2018 Multimodal and Transit Summit
UConn Hartford
10 Prospect St, Hartford, CT
FREE for transit advocates and members of the community

 


CTDOT Adds Additional Hartford Line Service to Springfield

CTrail Hartford Line train | Wallingford, Ct. | June 2018
Courtesy of CTDOT

The new Hartford Line schedule, which goes into effect on Monday, November 12th, includes an extra morning trip to and from Springfield every day. On weekdays the new train arrives at 9:47 am and departs at 10:40 am on weekdays.

Another adjustment to the timetable is the earlier weekday departure for Amtrak Hartford Line train 451, which will now connect with Metro-North train 1529. This combination of trains will allow for an arrival in New York City (at Grand Central Terminal) at 8.35 am.

Improvements in the new schedule came as a result of the completed installation of a second main line track between Hartford and Windsor in Connecticut, as well as schedule adjustments by Metro-North and Amtrak.

The new schedule can be viewed on the page:
Hartford Line | Trains In The Valley

 

Printed copies of the new timetable have been shipped and should be available at locations in our region early next week.

For a listing of locations please follow this link — Printed Timetable Locations in the Pioneer Valley

Further reading

“Hartford Line adds trains to Springfield Union Station”
By Jim Kinney | The Republican | November 9, 2018

 


Amtrak and CTDOT Work to Address Overcrowding

As reported in the previous issue of the Rail News Roundup, the number of people showing up at some stations along the line is, at times, exceeding the number of available seats on some of the Amtrak-operated Hartford Line trains.

Why has this been happening? Because Amtrak only operates two-coaches on most of their Hartford Line trains.

It is our understanding that Amtrak has now added a coach to *one* of its train sets on the Hartford Line, which has for the moment, has eased over crowding on some runs.

On Friday November 11th Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) hosted a press briefing in New Haven to announce steps that he is taking to pressure Amtrak into adding seating capacity on its trains on Hartford Line trains.

On this Friday Blumenthal also released a copy of a letter that he has sent to Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson.

In response to Blumenthal’s public actions an Amtrak spokesperson issued this statement —

“While we never desire to restrict customer utilization of our trains, for the safety of our passengers and employees, crew members may ask passengers to wait for the next available train, instead of creating an unsafe condition, such as standing in the vestibule.

Amtrak and Connecticut DOT are working together to source additional equipment to help ease overcrowding and Amtrak has temporarily added some capacity on one of the New Haven-Springfield trains where we have experienced overcrowding.

The safety of our customers must continue to be our highest priority.”

 

Unfortunately the Amfleet coaches that Amtrak uses on the Hartford Line are stretched thin across Amtrak’s network. Any coaches added to Amtrak’s Hartford Line trains would most likely mean that coaches would need to be taken away from other Amtrak trains.

The long-term solution will be for CTDOT to procure additional train sets (engines and coaches) to meet the growing demand for service on the Hartford Line.

Many are hopeful that this issue will be high on Connecticut governor-elect Ned Lamont’s to-do list when he takes office in early January, since it was only ten days ago that Lamont made this statement — “within 100 days he [Lamont] would ‘launch a formal process’ to expand the Hartford Line train service between Springfield and New Haven.” (Source: Hartford Courant, November 2, 2018)

Further reading

“Blumenthal Calls On Amtrak To Add More Rail Cars”
By Christine Stuart | CTNewsJunkie | November 9, 2018

Letter from Sen. Richard Blumenthal to Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson (PDF)
November 9, 2018
Source: Official Twitter account of U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal

 


East-West Rail — Post Election Update

Many would argue that Tuesday’s election results have changed the political equation for moving East-West passenger rail forward.

The two critical players are now Representative Richard Neal (D-MA 1) and Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA 2). Neal’s district covers Springfield and the Berkshires, and McGovern’s district stretches from Worcester to Northampton.

Come January, Neal will be in line to become Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means and McGovern should become Chairman of the Rules Committee — two committees with significant power in the House.

Any spending bills, including the long-awaited infrastructure package, would go through Neal’s committee.

The Boston Globe reported¹ yesterday that, “Neal talked up East-West rail in a conversation with Governor Charlie Baker on Wednesday, the day after the Republican governor won reelection.”

Also from the Globe report, “[State Senator Eric] Lesser says he looks to the Neal–McGovern tag team, and sees a path to success:  Not since Tip O’Neill and Joe Moakley were in office has Massachusetts had a duo with such clout in Congress. Those two helped secure the federal funds that made the Big Dig possible.”

The Globe story also reported the news that MassDOT has selected the consulting firm WSP USA to carry out the planned Boston–Springfield–Pittsfield Passenger Rail Study.

¹”Momentum builds for Springfield-Boston rail service”, By Jon Chesto, The Boston Globe, November 10. 2018

Further reading

“How Mass. congressmen might wield new clout”
By Cyrus Moulton | Worcester Telegram and Gazette | November 8, 2018

 


Greenfield | Olive Street Parking Garage Opens

The Olive Street Parking Garage is now open!

People gather for for the opening of the Olive Street Parking Garage
By Paul Franz / The Recorder | November 9, 2018

“Greenfield garage opens, with promise of boost to downtown”
By Joshua Solomon | The Recorder | November 9, 2018

The 270-space, four-floor garage, which has been a decade in the making, adds significant parking capacity in the core of the downtown area of the city.

It also has the potential of becoming the parking location of choice for people who drive to Greenfield to take the train from Greenfield, since the Olver Transit Center is right across the street from the new garage.

Note that parking at the garage will be free until the end of December.

From January 1, 2019 the following rates will be in effect:

Free for the first hour, then
$ 1.00 / hour (Mon. – Fri., 8 am – 5 pm)
$ 0.25 / hour (all other times)

Daily maximum – $10
Weekly maximum – $60

At the moment it is not clear whether the city will continue to operate the Long-term Transit Parking area that is located in the surface lot on Hope Street, where you can park for just $5/day.

Further information
Olive Street Parking Garage | Town of Greenfield

 


Bernardston | Stone Arch Bridge Re-decking

Stone Arch Bridge on the Connecticut River Main Line | Bernardston, Mass.
Source: Construction Equipment Guide, November 7, 2018

In September 2018 MassDOT and its contractors completed a complicated project to re-deck the viaduct that carries the Connecticut River Main Line across the Fall River in Bernardston, Mass.

The historic viaduct, which is locally known as the Stone Arch Bridge, was built in 1846 by the Connecticut River Railroad.

Most of the work on the structure was performed during a scheduled five-day service outage that commenced on September 7, 2018.

Further information

“Crews Finish Bridge Rehabilitation in Massachusetts”
By Cindy Riley | Construction Equipment Guide | November 7, 2018
(the article include a nice set of images from the work site)

 


Pan Am Railways Fined by Mass DEP

Piles of old railroad ties in Holyoke in early 2017
By Dave Roback | The Republican | January 30, 2017

“Railroad companies fined $90,000 for failing to remove rail ties in Greenfield, Hatfield, and Buckland”
By Mike Plaisance | The Republican | October 29, 2018

Pan Am Railways and Boston & Maine Corp. have recently been fined $90,000 by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection for failing to remove piles of old railroad ties in the Pioneer Valley

The wooden ties that are the subject of these fines were removed along Pan Am lines lines in our region over the past few years.

 


Update from the Berkshires

Amtrak’s westbound Lake Shore Limited in PIttsfield Source: The Berkshire Edge

“Berkshire Flyer pilot rail service funded for 2020; passenger rail on Housatonic line remains a question mark”
By Terry Cowgill | The Berkshire Edge | October 30, 2018

This article provides an excellent overview of the many efforts underway to expand passenger rail service in the Berkshires – a region that today is only served by a single long distance train.

Note in particular the focus on “last mile” travel options in Pittsfield for people using the Berkshire Flyer service, which is to start in the summer of 2020.