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…

 

Calendar

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
TrainsInTheValley.org/ctrail-hartford-line

 

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
TrainsInTheValley.org/ctrail-hartford-line

 

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.
HartfordLine.com/customer-service

 


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
greenfield-ma.gov/index.cfm?p=p.330

 


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 #12

 

Today’s Headlines

• Hartford Line Controversy

• CTDOT Test Trains Running

• Springfield Union Station Platform C

• Images from Springfield Union Station

• Great News for Passenger Rail!

• Conn River Line Bridge Work Planned

• Northampton | Rt. 5 – Collision with Freight Train

• Sen. Lesser Talks About East-West Rail

• Westfield | Proposed Industrial Park

• Berkshire Scenic Acquires Historic Mt Tom Locomotive

 

Calendar

“New Train Travel in Western MA”
with Senator Eric Lesser

Tues. April 17th | 6 – 7:30 PM
Sixteen Acres Branch | Springfield Public Library
1187 Parker St, Springfield, MA

Senator Lesser will speak on the topic of expanded passenger rail service for our region.

This event has been organized by Sixteen Acres Branch Library as part of a series of events related to Earth Week.

Further details
Earth Week at Sixteen Acres Branch Library (PDF)

 


Hartford Line Controversy

CTrail Coach No. 527 | in New Haven, Ct. | April 2018

“Department Of Transportation Tells Lawmakers Leasing Of 30-Year-Old Rail Cars A Good Deal For State”
By Gregory B. Hladky | Hartford Courant | April 12, 2018

In Connecticut a controversy is swirling between the Hartford Courant, the Connecticut DOT, and the legislature over CTDOT’s decision to lease 16 former MBTA coaches from the Massachusetts DOT for the planned Hartford Line service.

The Hartford Courant, through their news and editorial pages, contend that CTDOT made an ill-advised decision when it decided to lease 30-year old coaches from MassDOT.

CTDOT, according to reporting in the Courant, said “they had planned to electrify the Shore Line East route and shift M-8 cars from Metro North’s New Haven Line to CTDOT’s Shore Line East service. That would have allowed the DOT to use CTDOT’s Shore Line East locomotives and cars on the new Hartford Line. But those plans fell through when it became clear that all the M-8 cars were needed to handle surging ridership on the New Haven Line.”

The Connecticut legislature has held meetings with the DOT Commissioner to discuss this issue and is considering public hearings on the topic.

Its important to remember that the older coaches used by some passenger railroads in this country are perfectly safe to operate as long as they are properly maintained and inspected. As example, the Amfleet I coaches used by Amtrak for its service between New Haven and Springfield are all over 40 years old.

As of last week, according to the Courant’s reporting, CTDOT has received four of the rehabilitated coaches at its yard in New Haven. Four other coaches were at a Rhode Island facility for painting and rebranding. Eight of the coaches were still in Massachusetts.

It is expected that Governor Dannel Malloy will formally announce the official start date for Hartford Line service when he cuts the ribbon at the new Meriden station on April 19th. At this event it should become clear how the State of Connecticut plans to move forward with the launch of this new service in May 2018, or not.

Further reading

Recent stories on the Hartford Line | Hartford Courant

 


CTDOT Test Trains Running

CTDOT test train | Windsor Locks, Ct. | March 11, 2018

The Connecticut Department of Transportation’s contractor for the CTrail Hartford Line service, TransitAmerica Services and Alternate Concepts, started running non-scheduled test trains between New Haven and Springfield in early March.

These trains serve as training for locomotive engineers and train conductors to learn the tracks and territory between New Haven and Springfield.

In a related development, CTDOT has indicated that an agreement is now in place so that Hartford Line tickets will be valid for travel on all Amtrak trains between Springfield and New Haven when the new service starts, with the exception of the Vermonter.

This means that with a Hartford Line ticket passengers will be able to board any Amtrak train on this line (except the Vermonter) without the need for a reserved Amtrak ticket.

 


Springfield Union Station Platform C

Earlier this month MassDOT released the long awaited bid solicitation for the project to construct a full-length high-level boarding platform at Springfield Union Station.

Site Logistics Plan excerpt | High Level Platform Project
Springfield Union Station | March 30, 2018

 

Platform C (on the left) – looking east
Springfield Union Station | March 6, 2017

The project will involve the removal of the existing low-level platform between tracks 4 and 6 (known as Platform C) at Springfield Union Station. In its place a full-length high-level platform will be constructed.

Passengers will access the new platform via a refurbished stairway (known as stairway 5) on the west side of the concourse level or via a new elevator from the center of the concourse level. The historic stairway on the east side of the concourse level (known as stairway 6) will not be reopened as part of this project.

 

Stairway 5 | Springfield Union Station | March 6, 2017

 

Bids for the project, which is valued at $6.5 million, are scheduled to be opened on April 18, 2018.

 


Images from Springfield Union Station

Here are two notable images from Union Station that we thought would be interesting to share.

Concourse level | Springfield Union Station | March 26, 2018

Some have asked, “what inside the gray boxes down at Union Station?” The answer — the ticket machines for the CTrail Hartford Line service. The machines are in place and wired up but will remain covered until the service launches.

The screen on the left will eventually show departure information for Amtrak trains (and we hope CTrail Hartford Line trains too) from this station.

 

Inside Springfield Union Station | looking North | February 23, 2018

We don’t have any information on what the arrangement was that allowed this Peter Pan Bus promotion to be placed on the back side of the information board in the main waiting hall. One would assume that Peter Pan is paying quite a lot of money for signage in such a prominent location.

 


 Great News for Passenger Rail!

Source: Rail Passengers Association Blog | March 22, 2018

“Great News for Rail Passengers in Fiscal Year 2018 Budget!”
Blog post | Rail Passengers Association | March 22, 2018

To make a long story short — the recently approved Federal Fiscal Year 2018 budget includes historic increases in funding for Amtrak, passenger rail, and transit at the federal level.

 


Conn River Line Bridge Work Planned

MassDOT has issued a bid solicitation for tie replacement and the installation of a second main line track on two bridges on the Connecticut River Main Line (CRML).

The first bridge (known as Bridge 34.82)¹ carries the CRML high above the Deerfield River and the second bridge (known as Bridge 34.95)¹ carries the CRML over the Pan Am Southern’s Fitchburg Main Line and the so-called Greenfield Running Track.

Both bridges are shown on the map and in the image below.

Locus map – CRML Bridge Project | Greenfield & Deerfield, Ma. | MassDOT

 

Connecticut River Main Line Bridges 34.82 and 34.95
Viewed from Hope St – looking south | Greenfield, Ma. | April 2018

The project calls for the installation of 1,650 new wood bridge timbers, structural modifications on each of the two bridges, installation of a retaining wall, construction of new track, and the installation of 1,500 track feet of continuously welded running rail and 3,600 linear feet of bridge guard rail over bridges 34.82 and 34.95.

Work will also include spot ditching, maintenance crossing installation, track surfacing and aligning, as well as removal and disposal of debris.

Bids for the project, which is valued at $3.1 million, were scheduled to be opened on March 29, 2018.

The project is expected to take 320 calendars days to complete once MassDOT issues a Notice to Proceed to the contractor.

 

¹These numbers indicate the milepost (a distance measured in miles) along the rail line. On The Connecticut River Main Line this distance is measured from Springfield.

 


Northampton | Rt. 5 – Collision with Freight Train

Vehicle collision with freight train | Northampton Ma.
Northampton Police image | March 16, 2018

“Holyoke man injured in Rt. 5 collision with train in Northampton; cited for drunken driving”
By Patrick Johnson | The Republican | March 16, 2018

The crossing is for a railroad siding that leads from the MassDOT-owned Connecticut River Mainline to the Packaging Corporation of America facility on Route 5 in Northampton.

Apparently the driver of the vehicle did not notice the flashing red warning lights at the crossing.

Active signals were installed at this crossing just over a year ago, after a similar accident.

Further reading

New Grade Crossing Signals go up in Northampton
Trains In The Valley | January 12, 2017

 


Sen. Lesser Talks About East-West Rail

Senator Eric Lesser spoke on WGBY-57’s program Connecting Point on March 14, 2018 on the topic of the future of East-West passenger rail service in our state.

Anyone interested in the idea of connecting eastern Mass. with western Mass. by rail should be encouraged by the political leadership on this issue that Sen. Lesser continues to offer to all of us.

 


Westfield | Proposed Industrial Park

Westfield MEPA Plan | Page 10
Source: https://ma-westfield2.civicplus.com/DocumentCenter/View/5833

The City of Westfield is moving forward with plans to develope a 66-acre industrial park on city-owned land between Turnpike Industrial Road and Cabot Road.

It has been reported that the design will include provisions for possible rail access into the property. If this were to happen the site would be served by the Pioneer Valley Railroad which already serves a number of freight rail customers in the vicinity of the proposed industrial park.

Further reading

“Westfield submits state paperwork to create industrial park”
By Hope Tremblay | The Republican | April 4, 2018

Westfield MEPA Plan presentation (PDF)
January 10, 2018

 


Berkshire Scenic Acquires Historic Mt Tom Locomotive

Boston & Maine SW-1 diesel locomotive
Former Mt Tom power plant, Holyoke, Ma.

“Scenic railway museum acquires historic locomotive”
By Tony Dobrowolski | The Berkshire Eagle | April 4, 2018

The Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum (Lenox, Ma.) has acquired a rare 1941 Electro-Motive Division locomotive from the now dormant Mt. Tom power plant located in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

The 77-year old locomotive (shown above) was picked up from the power plant site by Pan Am Railways in late February and is now resting at its new home in the Berkshire Scenic’s rail yard.