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”.

New Grade Crossing Signals go up in Northampton

new-rr-crossing-at-pca-in-northampton-6-jan-2017
Packaging Corporation of America siding| looking south
Northampton, Ma. | January 6, 2017

This unremarkable image shows the siding that leads from the Connecticut River Main Line into the Packaging Corporation of America (PCA) plant off of Mount Tom Road (U.S. Route 5) in Northampton.

In the last few weeks, crews have installed flashing light signals on Mount Tom Road on both sides of this track. Additionally, a large cantilevered flashing light signal has been set up to warn vehicular traffic exiting the PCA site.

Presumably, these active signals were mandated after a car drove into a Pan Am freight train on this track on October 6, 2015.  At the time of the accident, this crossing had been protected by a set of passive signals known as crossbucks.

 


Further reading

Railroad-Highway Grade Crossing Handbook
Revised Second Edition
U.S. Department of Transportation | August 2007

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 —

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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.

 

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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.

 

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

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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)