Rail New Roundup #7

 

Summary of Today’s Roundup of Rail News

• Proposed Fares for CTrail Hartford Line Service Released

• Knowledge Corridor Transportation Conference Recap

• Sen. Eric Lesser Continues Push for East-West Rail

• Planned Pioneer Valley Railroad Bridge Repairs

• New Turnout in East Northfield

• Northampton Underpass Status

 

Calendar

Joint Committee on Transportation Hearing
Tu. October 24, 2017 | 10 am to 12:30 pm
Hearing Room A-1 | State House, 24 Beacon St, Boston, MA
(The agenda includes discussion of Sen. Lesser’s and Rep. Kocot’s proposed bills in support of East-West rail service)

CTrail Hartford Line Fare Hearing
We. November 15, 2017 | 5:30 to 8:30 pm
Pioneer Valley Planning Commission | 60 Congress St, Springfield, MA

 

CTDOT Releases Proposed Fares for CTrail Hartford Line Rail Service;
Launches a 35-day Public Comment Period

Proposed fares for the new CTrail Hartford line service were released earlier today.

CTDOT Press Release | October 23, 2017
Source: http://www.ct.gov/dot/cwp/view.asp?a=1373&Q=597212&PM=1

We have not had much time to study the fare offering but it would appear that the proposed fares are basically in-line with fares on CTrail’s Shoreline East service and Metro-North’s intra-state (CT) service.

Public Hearings to review and discuss the new proposed fares will be held in New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield over the next few weeks.

The Springfield hearing will be held on Wed. November 15, 2017 between 5:30 to 8:30 pm at the offices of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, 60 Congress St, Springfield, MA

Further Reading

Hartford Line Fare Hearings
CTDOT Press Release | October 23, 2017

 


Knowledge Corridor Transportation Conference Recap

Link to Video
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2amvAPK9SpA

 

Here’s a quick recap of the Knowledge Corridor Transportation Conference that was held at Springfield Union Station last week.

The highlight of the event was the speech by Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy.

“Quite frankly, one of the things Massachusetts needs to do is get a rail line between Boston and Springfield to connect to the rail line we are building in Connecticut,” Malloy said to applause from the 300 or so people in the audience at the conference.

Malloy has long been a strong advocate in his state and our region for expanded and improved public transportation. One only has to look at the success of the CTFastrak bus rapid transit system and the coming CTrail Hartford Line rail service to know that Connecticut is focused on the future.

The video recording of the conference is just over three hours long so we’ve created a list of “start points” so that you can jump to sections that might interest you.

Anyone interested in the future of transportation in our region is encouraged to have a look at the video. Conferences like this, with speakers like this, are few and far between.

 

Video start points for key speakers:

5:30 | Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno

21:50 | Congressman Richard Neal (MA-1)
29:55 | Governor Dannel Malloy (CT)

1:04:00 | Robert Puentes (Eno Center of Transportation)

1:27:50 | Panel 1
Congressman Richard Neal (MA-1)
Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-2)
Congresswomen Elizabeth Esty (CT-5)

2:11:00 | Panel 2
Kevin Kennedy, Springfield Redevelopment Authority
Rep. Aaron Vaga (MA-5th Hamden)
Rep. Chris Perone (CT-137th District)
Kevin Dillon, Connecticut Airport Authority

Further Reading
“Malloy Calls For Boston-Springfield Rail Connection To Hartford Line”
By Paul Tuthil | WAMC | October 18, 2017

“Malloy: CTfastrak Proves Rail Service Will Transform ‘Knowledge Corridor’ “
By Dan Stacom | Hartford Courrant | October 17, 2017

 


Sen. Eric Lesser Continues his Push for East-West Rail

On October 17th Sen. Eric Lesser launch a website highlighting stories that have been submitted to his office in support of passenger rail service between Springfield and Boston.

Rail Matters | Office of Senator Eric Lesser
Source: https://spark.adobe.com/page/WcZZVafFh26Fy/

::

On Tuesday morning at 7.30 am a chartered bus will be departing from Springfield for the Statehouse in Boston.

The bus, which is being sponsored by Sen. Lesser’s office, will be transporting people from our region who will offer testimony before a hearing of the Joint Legislative Committee on Transportation.

Rebecca Townsend, a founding member of Trains In The Valley, will be on Sen. Lesser’s bus and she will be offering testimony to the committee. (further news on this on Tuesday afternoon.)

If you are not planing to attend the hearing — but you wish to offer testimony in support of Springfield-Boston rail service — please send your testimony to Samantha.Kelly@MAsenate.gov. Samantha Kelly is Sen. Lesser’s legislative aide. She will see that it finds its way to the committee.

See Also

Get Involved > Rail Bills | Mass. Legislature

Further Reading

Joint Legislative Committee on Transportation

 


Planned Pioneer Valley Railroad Bridge Repairs

Curved open-deck bridge | Pioneer Valley Railroad
Near South Canal & Cabot streets | Holyoke, Ma | October 12, 2017

Earlier this month the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) announced that it had awarded the Pioneer Valley Railroad a grant of $495,000 to assist with the cost to repair of an out-of-service rail bridge in downtown Holyoke. The grant was one of eight recent grant awards made under MassDOT’s Industrial Rail Access Program.

The Pioneer Valley Railroad operates a network of rail lines in Holyoke and Westfield. The open deck bridge that will undergo repair, which is shown in the image above, will have both steel and masonry work performed on the structure.

The re-opening of this bridge, which was last used in 2013, will allow the Pioneer Valley Railroad to interchange freight rail cars with the Pan Am Southern railroad company which operates the north-south rail line through Holyoke.

The re-opening of the interchange with Pan Am Southern should allow some freight rail customers on Pioneer Valley’s rail network to improve the routing of certain rail cars to and from other rail networks, e.g., Norfolk Southern and railroads in Canada.

See also

Freight Rail > Industrial Rail Access Program

 


New Turnout in East Northfield

NECR connection with Conn River Line | East Northfield, Ma. | October 13, 2017
By Bruce Nelson | Source: http://photos.nerail.org/s/?p=240633

It has been reported that the turnout on the New England Central Railroad’s Main Line that allows rail traffic to diverge (to the right in the image above) onto the MassDOT owned Connecticut River Main Line has been replaced. The report, which appears in the caption attached in this image, indicates that new #20 turnout was recently installed at this location.

Why does this matter? The short answer is that the turnout at this location has been in need of replacement for some time. Amtrak’s Vermonter all to often in recent years has had to craw across this switch at speeds as slow as 10 mph. The new #20 turnout should allow the Vermonter to pass over this switch at a speed of 40 mph.

 


Northampton Underpass Status

A view of the east entrance to the new bike/pedestrian underpass
Woodmont Road | Northampton, Ma. | October 18, 2017 / 6.49 pm

National Grid established electric service at the site of the bike/pedestrian work site a few days ago.

From the look of things at the site MassDOT should be ready to take down the temporary fencing and cut the ribbon on this long awaited project very soon.

See also

Infrastructure > Current Projects > Northampton Underpass

Rail News Roundup #5

 

The latest regional rail news from Trains In The Valley

Today’s Reports

• Peter Pan and Greyhound Move to Union Station

• Hartford Line Update | New Meriden Station Garage Opens

• Planned Refresh of Amtrak’s Coaches

• Northampton | Missing Station Signage

• Northampton | New Bike Underpass  – Still Waiting for Power

• Dome Cars in the Valley

 

Trains In The Valley website page updates

About > About Us

 

Calendar

Knowledge Corridor Transportation Conference
Springfield Union Station
We. October 18, 2017 | 7:30 am – 11:40 am | Free
Meeting Agenda (PDF)
Eventbrite | registration link
Only a limited number of tickets are still available

 

Peter Pan and Greyhound move to Union Station

A view from the top of the Union Station Garage | looking east
Springfield, Ma. | September 13, 2017 | 4:15 PM

Peter Pan Bus Lines and Greyhound are the latest new tenants at Springfield Union Station. Peter Pan moved on September 5th and Greyhound made the move just a few days later, on September 11th. When Amtrak will move — from their historic station building at track level — into the renovate main waiting room is not clear at the moment.

The image above shows the state of affairs at Union Station on a weekday afternoon in mid-September. Seven Peter Pan coaches along with a single Greyhound coach can be seen parked in the intercity berths at the station.

On the right is the existing Amtrak portion of the station complex — with its three low-level boarding platforms and station building.

A single high-level boarding platform will be built to replace Platform C along with an elevator and stairs to connect the new platform to the concourse level below. The latest report suggests that the platform should be completed by mid-2018.

 


Hartford Line Update | New Meriden Station Garage Opens

Photo credit | The Record Journal

The Connecticut Department of Transportation opened a new three-level parking garage in downtown Meriden last week — an improvement that will make parking more convenient for CTrail Hartford Line Meriden station rail passengers and provide easy access to the City’s new transit-oriented development sites.

Parking costs $7 a day and $40 a month, with free parking on weekends and holidays. The garage will also offer discounted parking for riders on the Hartford line.

By comparison, the daily parking rate at the new Springfield Union Station garage is $20 a day and $90 a month.

Further reading
“Officials anticipate opening of downtown Meriden parking garage will create economic growth”
By Bryan Lipiner | Record-Journal | September 18, 2017

 


Planned Refresh of Amtrak’s Coaches

Rendering: Refreshed Coach Class seat cushions on board select Northeast, Midwest trains
Credit: Amtrak Media Center | August 23, 2017

Amtrak has announced its intention to overhaul the interior of their fleet of Amfleet I coaches over the next two years. The “refresh” will include new seat cushions, new carpeting, new LED reading lights, new bathroom flooring, upgraded wainscoting and bulkheads, new curtains in the Business Class cars and redesigned galleys in the café cars.

New interiors will roll out on the following routes that service the Pioneer Valley: Northeast Regional trains that serve Springfield, the Vermonter, and the Springfield Shuttles.

Further Reading
“We’re Enhancing the Customer Experience One Seat at a Time”
Amtrak Blog | September 2017

“Refreshing the Amfleet”
Amtrak History Blog | September 18, 2017
A historical look at the interior of Amtrak’s Amfleet passenger cars through the years.

 


Northampton | Missing Station Signage

Pleasant Street – looking North
Northampton, Ma. | September 24, 2017

In a recent letter to the Daily Hampshire Gazette a resident of Florence questioned why there was no signage to mark the entrance the Amtrak station on Pleasant Street in Northampton — as shown in the image above. (the entrance to the station is on the right in this image.)

The writer has raised an interesting question whose answer, at the moment, seems to be a mystery.

 


Northampton | New Bike Underpass – Still Waiting for Power

Looking at the west entrance of the new underpass
Northampton, Ma. | September 23, 2017

A recent check of the bike/pedestrian underpass work site in Northampton suggests that most of the finish work is now nearly complete — including the new signage and road surface marking.

The image above shows that an electric meter has not yet been installed in the panel to the left of the path — which means that electric service at the underpass site has not yet been established by National Grid. Without electric service there is no power for the lighting and surveillance cameras.

Further reading
Trains In The Valley > Northampton Underpass

 


Dome Cars in the Valley

“AAPRCO Private Passenger Car Special on PAN AM in Easthampton 9 17 17” | via YouTube | conrailSD40guy

Many people have reported sighting an odd looking Amtrak train in our area recently.

The special train operated northbound on the MassDOT’s Connecticut River Main Line through the Pioneer Valley on Sunday evening September 17th. The train, which was dubbed “The Green Mountain Flyer,” was operated by Amtrak for the American Association Of Private Railroad Car Owners as part of their 2017 Convention in Burlington, Vt.

In the YouTube video above you can see the special 18-car train passing through Easthampton, Ma. (near Route 5) on its way to Vermont. If you look closely you will see a total of four dome cars and an open platform observation car.

This is clearly not something that we see very often on the tracks in our area.

Further reading
“A slice of rail history at Rensselaer station”
By Eric Anderson | Times-Union | September 13, 2017

“What are those fancy railroad cars doing in Burlington?”
By C. B. Hall & Timothy McQuiston | Vermont Business Magazine | September 20, 2017

 


Trains In The Valley website page updates

About > About Us
To simplify things a bit, we’ve combined the “Purpose” and “Who We Are” pages into a single new page with the title “About Us”. This new page includes refreshed text and a few images.

Rail News Roundup #4

 

The latest regional rail news from Trains In The Valley

Today’s Reports

• Northampton Underpass Nears Completion

• Peter Pan Moving to Union Station on September 6th

• Updated Springfield Union Station Parking Rates

• Video | Hartford Line Track Construction Machine Makes Progress

• Transit Oriented Development on the Hartford Line

 

Trains In The Valley website updates

About > Transparency & Accountability

Safety > Railroad Crossing Safety

 

Calendar

Knowledge Corridor Transportation Conference
Springfield Union Station
October 18, 2017 | 7:45 am – 11:55 am | Free

 

Northampton Underpass Nears Completion

Construction progress image of the new bicycle/pedestrian underpass
Northampton, Ma. | Behind the Walgreens – looking South | August 20, 2017

Work on the new bicycle and pedestrian underpass in Northampton is nearing completion.

Last week the contractor was working on the final grading and hardscape work at the site. Paving of the access ramps on either side of the underpass would appear to be next.

It would appear that MassDOT and its contractor for this project Northern Construction are well on their way towards completing this project on-time.

Further reading

Infrastructure > Current projects > Northampton Underpass

 


Peter Pan Moving to Union Station on September 6th

Intercity bus bays at Springfield Union Station | June 25, 2017

Peter Pan Bus Lines has announced that they plan to move their regional hub to Springfield Union Station on Wednesday, September 6th, 2017.

On this date all Peter Pan and Greyhound bus services and ticket sales will move into the newly renovated Union Station complex.

In related news, Peter Pan has announced that it will end its 19-year partnership with Greyhound Lines on September 27th. According to this article in MassLive, “the move will allow Peter Pan to offer paperless boarding on all its routes, more express service and to be on-time more often.”

 


Updated Union Station Garage Parking Rates

People have asked about the cost to park at the new Union Station Garage in Springfield.

The parking rate is calculated as $1.50 for the first 30 minutes and then $2.00 for each additional hour — up to a maximum of $20 for the day. Longer term rates are also available.

The current rates are shown on these display screens on each parking kiosk at the garage.

Parking kiosk display screen 1
Union Station Garage | August 18, 2017
Parking kiosk display screen 2
Union Station Garage | August 18, 2017

Note that Ken’s Parking, at 73 Taylor Street, has a day rate that starts at $10.

Further reading

Passenger Rail > Amtrak Stations > Springfield Union Station

 


Track Construction Machine Makes Progress in Connecticut

In July 2017, the NHHS Rail Program captured the Track Construction Machine (TCM) in operation as it layed new track in Berlin, Connecticut. By utilizing an unmanned aerial vehicle, video crews were able to provide the public with a “bird’s-eye” view of the 250-ton machine, which can assemble up to 1,000 feet of track per hour in ideal conditions, totaling over one mile of track per day.

This summer the TCM layed ten miles of new track between Meriden and Newington. Later this fall, it will return to lay an additional four miles of new track between Hartford and Windsor.

The CTrail Hartford Line commuter rail service — which will operate between Springfield, Hartford and New Haven — is scheduled to open in May 2018.

Further reading

Passenger rail > Future Service > CTrail Hartford Line


Transit Oriented Development on the Hartford Line

“There is action near the station as development ramps up”
By Tom Condon | The Connecticut Mirror | July 27, 2017

Transit Oriented Development (TOD) projects take off near future CTrail Hartford Line stations in Connecticut.

Key takeaways from the article —

“Dozens of communities [in Connecticut] — Windsor, Windsor Locks, Wallingford, Branford, Stamford, Norwalk, New Britain, Westport and others — have TOD studies or projects underway.”

“Towns have to get the zoning right. Most communities that embrace TOD create overlay zones around stations to encourage mixed-use development.”

“Towns must get the parking right. A railroad station surrounded by acres of surface parking is not transit-oriented development…”

The area north of Springfield Union Station, with its many surface parking lots and single-story commercial structures, is an obvious location for TOD.

LINK TO STORY

“There is action near the station as development ramps up”
By Tom Condon | The Connecticut Mirror | July 27, 2017

 


Trains In The Valley website updates

Safety > Railroad Crossing Safety
This page was updated with the most current version of the “Public Highway-rail Crossings Ranked by Predicted Accidents report” for Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties (as of 12/31/2016).

The report shows that there were a total of four reported accidents at public railroad crossing in the Pioneer Valley during the five-year period from January 1, 2012 – December 31, 2016.

About > Transparency & Accountability
The page has been updated and refreshed. We have also added our 2Q2017 financial report.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

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.

The prime contractor, Northern Construction Services, has now commenced excavation work on the west side of rail line.

A few recent images of the active work site are shown below.

 

The eastern entrance to the new bicycle/pedestrian underpass
Northampton, Ma. | Woodmont Rd – looking West | May 14, 2017

 

The western entrance to the new bicycle/pedestrian underpass
Northampton, Ma. | Woodmont Rd – looking East | May 16, 2017

The image above shows the area that has recently been excavated on the west side of the active rail line. Newly constructed concrete forms (near the entrance to the underpass) can be seen.

Note the steel I-beam that runs through the center of the image. Apparently, the sole purpose of this I-beam is to support the fiber optic cable that runs along the railroad right of way.

 

Northampton, Ma. | Behind Walgreens – looking South | May 14, 2017

 


See also

Northampton Underpass

 

Recent website updates and additions

Safety > Railroad Crossing Safety (NEW PAGE)
A new page on the website which covers the issue of highway-rail crossing safety in the Pioneer Valley.

Passenger Rail > Vermonter Performance
The On-time Performance & Departure Delay spreadsheet for the Vermonter has now been updated with data through to the end of April 2017.

Infrastructure > Current Projects > Springfield Underpass
The page has recently been updated. In particular, the page now includes a link to this recent article from The Republican, “Cost up $2.4 million on planned underpass in Springfield’s North End”.

Construction of Northampton Underpass Starts

Work on the much talked about, and long-delayed, bike/pedestrian underpass in Northampton finally got underway when the contractor, Northern Construction Service of Palmer, mobilized its forces and equipment at the site last week.

Here are a few images from the area of the underpass work site from last Saturday —

img_1450

First, a little history —

On the south of the Walgreens property on King Street there is a concrete path (shown above) that runs perpendicular to railroad tracks.

This path — which at the moment dead-ends at the edge of the property — was designed as a bike path back in 2007 when the Walgreens was built.

The original plan (shown below) even called for the installation of a “bike path ends” sign near the tracks, since it was apparently clear even then that it would be some time before the railroad underpass was built.

 

24d-343-walgreen-rev-1b
Walgreens Site Plan w/bike path shown | July 6, 2007
(Source: Public File Cabinet | City of Northampton)

Note that all of the existing bike paths in the area of the underpass, including the Walgreens path, will be connected once the underpass project is complete in 2017.

 

Northampton, Ma. | behind Walgreens | looking south

Fast forward nine years.

Here we have a view of the site where the long-delayed underpass will finally be built.

Note the markers that have been placed in the ground by surveyors working on the project.

 

img_1436

This image shows markings on the ground (in orange) that would appear to indicate the location of where the actual underpass will be sited.

 

img_1462

Shortly before 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon a set of triangular color light signals along the rail line lite up. The signal indication gives the hint that the northbound Vermonter was approaching Northampton.

The next signal was the sound of two short blasts from the engine’s horn as the train pulled out of the station.

 

img_1467

At about 4:05 p.m. Amtrak’s Vermonter came around the curve to the  south and posed for this nice image.

Actually, the train was traveling at its maximum authorized speed of 30 m.p.h. — for this section of track — when it passed the work site.

Part of the reason the speed is limited to 30 m.p.h. here is because the jointed rail on this stretch of track has not yet been replaced with newer rail.

The jointed rail at this location will be replaced with new continuous welded rail (which can be seen laying in the weeds in this image) once the underpass is constructed.

 

img_1469

On the rear of the train was a surprise guest — a private rail car.

This car — known as the Yerba Buena — is owned and operated by the firm Rail Ventures. It is one of about 200 private rail cars in operation in the U.S., many of which are available for private excursions.

 

Further reading

Northampton Underpass

The American Association of Private Rail Car Owners

Privately-Owned Rail Cars (Amtrak)