Rail News Roundup – No. 1

 

There’s a lot happening currently so we thought we should pause for a moment to review a few of the major news stories and highlight whats on tap for the coming week.

 

Recent Regional Rail News

“Plans revealed for $32 million transformation of Springfield’s Paramount Theater and Massasoit Block into boutique hotel”
By Peter Goonan | The Republican | June 15, 2017

$32 million redevelopment of the historic Massasoit Block and Paramount Theater on Main Street, just two blocks from Springfield Union Station.

This is very big news for Springfield, and the redevelopment of the area near Union Station.

 

 

“Canada-U.S. preclearance bill finally moves ahead, but privacy concerns mount over Trump’s ‘extreme vetting’
By Marie-Danielle Smith | National Post | June 15, 2017

Montreal Central Station / Pascal Normand
Montréal Central Station / Pascal Normand

The Canadian bill, which among other things, would allow for the establishment of a preclearance facility at Montreal Central Station.

With some luck the bill will be approved by Parliament this summer so that the long discussed plan to extend the Vermonter to Montreal can move forward.

Further Reading | Vermonter Extension to Montreal

 

“Track laid at CRRC subway car factory in Springfield”
By Jim Kinney | The Republican | June 16, 2017

Newly laid track at the CRRC factory in Springfield, Ma.
Dave Roback/ The Republican

Continued progress at the CRRC rail factory in Springfield.

“At 204,000 square feet, the $95 million factory at the old Westinghouse site in East Springfield is the largest industrial investment in greater Springfield in generations. The factory building is about 300 by 700 feet, with room inside for three and a half football fields.”

“CRRC, also known as China Railway Rolling Stock Corp., plans a grand opening celebration at the plant in October or early November, with production on new MBTA subway cars to begin early in 2018.”

 


Upcoming Events

Monday, June 19th

Senator Eric Lesser travels from Boston to Springfield, with stops in Framingham, Worcester, Palmer and Springfield, on a ‘whistle-stop’ tour to promote expanded East-West passenger rail service.

Here’s a summary of Monday’s westbound-only schedule.

9:00 am in Boston – Press conference with Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry and Sen. Joe Boncore

11:00 am in Framingham – Press conference at Framingham MBTA commuter rail station with Sen. Karen Spilka and local elected officials to discuss the regional and state-wide importance of modern rail infrastructure and concerns about the Framingham at-grade rail crossing.

12:30 pm in Worcester – Meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler and the Editorial Board of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette to discuss how expansion of MBTA rail service to Worcester has transformed the city.

3:30 pm in Palmer – “Rally for Rail | Palmer” event and meeting with Sen. Anne Gobi and local business leaders at Palmer’s Steaming Tender Restaurant to discuss Transit Oriented Development opportunities for the town and region.

5:30 pm in Springfield – “Rally for Rail | Springfield” event at Springfield Union Station hosted by Sen. Lesser and other local elected officials. (You can park for free inside the new Union Station parking garage.)

The rallies in Palmer and Springfield are open to the public and we would encourage people to attend.

 

Tuesday, June 20th | 6 pm – 7:45 pm

A special evening program at Sixteen Acres Branch Library, 1187 Parker St, Springfield, on the long-awaited grand reopening of the Springfield Union Station.

 

Sunday – June 25th | 12 Noon to 2 pm

Official Public Open House for Springfield Union Station

Activities include:

• Guided tours by the designers of the new murals in the station

• “Saving Union Station” Book Signing

• Model Train Exhibit by Amherst Rail Society

• Amtrak Safety Display

• Antique Cars and Bus Displays, including historic Peter Pan buses from the past

• Little Hands on the Move – Explore the city streets and landmarks of the Springfield Cultural District using wooden cars and motorcycles on a giant carpeted map.

• Early Transportation Please Touch Table – Put on your white curator gloves and touch car parts from a century ago.

• Marble Run – Use plastic, wood, recycled, and even illuminated materials to create twists and turns to see how far you can get your marbles to roll.

• Make & Take: Union Station Themed Buttons – Color a train, bus or Union Station Grand Opening logo then have it made into a wearable button.

• Appearance by the Cat in the Hat – Meet and greet with the Cat from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

• Appearance by Springfield Thunderbirds “Boomer”

• WMAS FM

• Cupcakes and other sweets for sale

• Springfield Water Department Hydration Station

And yes, Trains in the Valley will be at this event with its own table. Please stop by and say hello!

 

Sunday – June 25th | 4:30 pm

The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) shifts its regional bus hub to Springfield Union Station.

Details can be found on this link to the PVTA website.

 

Please follow our page on Facebook for the latest news and information | Facebook: Trains in the Valley

NEC FUTURE | Springfield Meeting

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has scheduled an Open House in Springfield for the purpose of providing information on the NEC FUTURE Tier 1 Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

The Open House will be held on Wednesday, January 25th from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. at the offices of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, 60 Congress St, Springfield, Ma.

Members of the public are welcome to come at any time during this session to view informational displays and talk with the NEC FUTURE team. Please note this is not a public hearing; rather it is a chance for the FRA to share information and answer questions in an informal setting. The open house will not include a formal presentation or an opportunity for public testimony.

nec-future-preferred-alternative-map

The NEC FUTURE plan is designed to create a framework for the future investments needed to improve passenger rail capacity and service on the Northeast Corridor through 2040.

The proposed alternatives in the Final EIS include significant upgrades to the route between New Haven and Springfield, above and beyond what is currently planned for the Hartford Line service which starts in early 2018.


Further Reading

NEC FUTURE
Federal Railroad Administration

Our Future on Track (PDF)
Highlights of the Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement
December 2016

Springfield Union Station – Coming Along

On Monday October 24th we took a tour of the soon-to-reopen Union Station building in Springfield to have a look at the progress to date.

The historic building, which has been vacant for many years, will start to return to service in January 2017 — as an intermodal rail and bus station.

As the images below show, a lot of progress has been made — but clearly, a lot of detail work still has to take place over the next few months before the historic station building can re-open to the public.

Thanks are due to Christopher Moskal, the Executive Director of the Springfield Redevelopment Authority, who led us on this tour.

 

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Looking East | the west side of the terminal building on a blustery October day

 

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Looking East |a few of the new intercity bus bays (on the right)

 

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Some of the bays that will be used by Pioneer Valley Transit Authority’s (PVTA) buses

 

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The north side of the new parking garage (on the right)
and some of the PVTA buses bays (on the left)

 

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A new covered walking path along the south side of the new parking garage (the path connects Main Street to the terminal building)

 

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A view of the main concourse inside the terminal building

 

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Looking south, from the second floor

 

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The main concourse and the passageway under the tracks | ca. 1970s
By Ed Malley | The Republican

 

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Unfinished space on the second floor — waiting to be fitted out for new office tenants

 

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Additional unfinished space on the second floor

 

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Unfinished rentable space on the main floor

 

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On the main floor | the future home of three retail shops

 

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Looking south | into the large passageway that leads under the tracks and to Lyman Street

 

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Looking north | from the passageway, back towards the main concourse
(Note the large set of steel beams supporting the railroad tracks above)

 

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An unfinished stairway leading to Platform C

 

Please note:
Due to the limited amount of time that was available for this tour we were unable to spend any time reviewing the current platform situation at track level. We will review this topic in a future posting.

 

 

Further reading

Springfield Union Station (Trains in the Valley)

Governor Asks for Changes to Proposed Springfield – Boston Rail Study

On Friday July 8th, Governor Baker formally requested that Senator Lesser’s budget amendment requiring a study to review the feasibility of a high-speed rail connection between Springfield and Boston be amended.

In his letter to the legislature, which can be found below, the governor has requested that a much broader study be conducted.

In particular, the governor has requested that the study instead focus on,

(a) the potential expansion and enhancement of several modes of transportation between the “Knowledge Corridor” and Springfield and Boston, including

(b) automobile, bus, passenger rail, freight rail, and other common carrier services.

 

The proposed study working group would include, but not be limited to a designee from the
– Secretary of Housing and Economic Development,
– elected officials from the state and federal legislative delegations,
– duly elected Mayors along the Knowledge Corridor,
– duly elected Mayors in the greater Springfield region,
– the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission,
– the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission,
– the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission,
– existing rail service stakeholders, including Amtrak, PanAm, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, private bus carriers and CSX Railways.

 

On Friday, July 8th Senator Lesser provided this update on his Facebook page:
“Senator Lesser’s East/West Rail Feasibility Study Signed into Law by Governor Baker”

On Monday, July 11th, Senator Lesser said that he anticipates that the House and Senate will approve the new language before the state’s legislative session ends July 31.

 

We will update this posting as soon as we have any additional information.

 


Further Reading

“Gov. Baker widens scope of Springfield rail study; narrows time frame”
By Jim Kinney | MassLive | July 12, 2016

 

Letter from Governor Baker to the Honorable House and Senate Representatives
Attachment Q – Amendment Letter Section 180
July 8, 2016

QUOTE

ATTACHMENT Q

July 8, 2016

To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives:

Pursuant to Article LVI, as amended by Article XC, Section 3 of the Amendments to the Constitution, I am returning to you for amendment Section 180 of House Bill No. 4450, “An Act Making Appropriations for the Fiscal Year 2017 for the Maintenance of the Departments, Boards, Commissions, Institutions and Certain Activities of the Commonwealth, for Interest, Sinking Fund and Serial Bond Requirements and for Certain Permanent Improvements.”

Section 180 would require the Department of Transportation to study the feasibility of establishing high-speed rail service between Springfield and Boston.  While I support studying ways to improve transportation between Springfield and Boston, several aspects outlined in Section 180 are already the subject of ongoing studies.  Moreover the proposed study focuses exclusively on high-speed rail, ignoring the potential benefits of improving and coordinating other modes of transportation including automobile, bus, passenger rail, freight rail, and other common carrier services.

Accordingly, I believe that we would be better served by convening a working group to identify and evaluate whether improvements to these various modes of transportation between Springfield and Boston would result in significant economic and cultural benefits to the greater Springfield region and the commonwealth as a whole.

For this reason, I recommend that Section 180 be amended by striking out the text and inserting in place thereof the following text:-

SECTION 180.  The Massachusetts Department of Transportation shall convene a working group, not later than October 1, 2016, for the purposes of identifying and evaluating the economic and cultural benefits and challenges to the greater Springfield region and the commonwealth as a whole, through the potential expansion and enhancement several modes of transportation between the “Knowledge Corridor” and Springfield and Boston, including automobile, bus, passenger rail, freight rail, and other common carrier services.  The working group shall include, but not be limited to a designee from the Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, elected officials from the state and federal legislative delegations and duly elected Mayors along the Knowledge Corridor and in the greater Springfield region, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission, the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, existing rail service stakeholders, including Amtrak, PanAm, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, private bus carriers and CSX Railways. The Secretary & CEO of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation shall designate a qualified individual to chair the working group.  The working group shall draw upon the findings and conclusions of the Transforming the Rail Network for Economic and Community Development Report (September 2012) and the Northern New England Intercity Rail Initiative Study to guide its evaluation and analysis. The working group shall submit its findings to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the Joint Committee on Transportation no later than March 3, 2017.

Respectfully submitted,

UNQUOTE

 

Massachusetts House Bill 4450
Section 180
as originally proposed by Senator Lesser (D-Longmeadow)

QUOTE

SECTION 180. Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation shall conduct a feasibility study relative to high-speed rail access between the cities of Springfield and Boston.

The study shall examine and evaluate the costs and economic opportunities related to establishing high-speed rail service between the cities of Springfield and Boston including, but not limited to: (i) the projected capital costs; (ii) the projected operating costs and revenue estimates; (iii) the projected ridership levels; (iv) the prospect of operating high-speed rail service on existing rights of way and other operational issues, including upgrades to the at-grade crossings in the towns of Ashland and Framingham; (v) the environmental and community impact estimates; (vi) the availability of federal, state, local and private sector funding sources; and (vii) the resulting economic, social and cultural benefits to the greater Springfield region and the commonwealth as a whole.

The department shall file a report with the clerks of the senate and house of representatives, the chairs of the house and senate committees on ways and means and the senate and house chairs of the joint committee on transportation not later than March 1, 2017.

UNQUOTE

Hartford Line on Target to Open in 2018

Connecticut Governor Malloy held a press conference today at the site of the new station that is being built in Wallingford, Ct. as part of the Hartford Line project.

Highlights from the press conference include:

  • The Hartford Line is still on target to open in January 2018.
  • More than 50% of the track work has been completed.
  • Eighty percent of train station foundations and platforms are in place and 100 percent of the steel beams and pedestrian bridges have been installed.
  • In September, Amtrak’s Track Laying Machine (TLM) will be brought in to lay down 10 miles of new track between North Haven and Meriden.
  • Ridership on the line, between Springfield and New Haven, is expected to more than double — from 300,000 to 750,000 passengers a year.

The Hartford Line will offer 17 daily round trips between New Haven and Hartford, and a dozen between Hartford and Springfield. Currently, Amtrak operates just six round trips on the route.

 


Further Reading

“Malloy: Hartford Line Trains Ready To Roll In 2018”
By Don Stacom | Hartford Courant | July 7, 2016

“Hartford Line Press Conference” (1:04)
Video | Hartford Courant | July 7, 2016

New Haven – Hartford – Springfield Rail Program (Official website)