Rail News Roundup #13

 

Today’s Headlines

• Hartford Line to Launch June 16th

• Draft MassDOT 2019-2023 Capital Plan Update Released

• The Vermonter, in the News

• Amherst Station Signage Removed

• News | Recent Rail Crossing Accidents

• Railroad Jobs in the Valley

• Northampton | ‘Golden Spike’ Conference

 

Calendar

June 16th, 2018
Launch of the Hartford Line

July 27–28, 2018
Northampton | Golden Spike 2018
The largest rails-to-trails conference of the year in New England.

 


Hartford Line to Launch on June 16th

The Hartford Line is coming!

Dates to Note (Updated June 4, 2018)

Mon. June 11th | Expanded service on the corridor starts with the addition of three new Amtrak round-trips between Springfield and New Haven.

Fri. June 15th | Ribbon cutting at Hartford Union Station. Special trains, for invited guests, will operate from New Haven and Springfield to Hartford, and return.

Sat. June 16th | Hartford Line CTrail trains enter regular scheduled service today.

Sat./Sun. June 16-17 | All Hartford Line service (CTrail and Amtrak) will be FREE this weekend. 

Mon. June 18th | Hartford Line tickets now accepted for travel on Amtrak trains between Springfield and New Haven, except on the Vermonter.

Mon. June 18th | Hartford Line fares now in effect for all Amtrak tickets purchased for travel between Springfield and New Haven, except on the Vermonter. As example, the one-way adult price to travel between Springfield and New Haven on Amtrak will now be $12.50.

We will provide many additional details in a future posting, before the launch of service on June 16th.

 

In the meantime, please visit the newly refreshed Hartford Line website for further information.

In particular we suggest having a close look at the Rider FAQs section.

Further information

Hartford Line | Official website

 


Draft MassDOT 2019-2023 Capital Plan Update Released

MassDOT has released its draft Capital Investment Plan (CIP) Update for Fiscal Years 2019–2023.

The draft CIP is multi-billion dollar investment portfolio that includes all MassDOT highway and bridge projects, regional airports, rail and transit, including MBTA and Regional Transit Authorities as well as the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

To view the draft plan click on this link:
Draft 2019-2023 CIP Update

 

To view a summary of the proposed rail projects in our region click on this link:

Summary of CIP Rail Projects in the Pioneer Valley
Prepared by Trains In The Valley

 

Comments on the MassDOT’s draft CIP Update can be submitted by email using this address: masscip@dot.state.ma.us

Note that the deadline for comments is Friday, June 1, 2018.

 

Further information

Capital Investment Plan | MassDOT

Capital Program subcommittee | MassDOT Board of Directors

 


The Vermonter, in the News

The Vermonter stops at Brattleboro, VT | June 2013
By Beyond My Ken [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
“Amtrak services’ future still an open question”
By C.B. Hall | Vermont Business Magazine | May 1, 2018

Vermont Business Magazine, in a detailed article, looks at the future of Amtrak’s Vermonter service.

The situation is complicated. In a nutshell, Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson is concerned that there are no plans to install Positive Train Control (PTC) on some of the rail lines used by Amtrak’s trains in the U.S. — including the lines that are used by the Vermonter between Springfield and St Albans, VT.

The Vermont  portion of the line has been exempted from the requirement for PTC but the line between East Northfield, MA and Springfield has apparently fallen into a kind of PTC-limbo for various reasons.

Amtrak, for its part, is talking about the future of the Vermonter in noncommittal terms and is meanwhile conducting a safety analyses of its routes both here and across the country.

“In Vermont, Amtrak is just now beginning to undertake its safety review of routes such as the Vermonter and the Ethan Allen,” Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) noted in an email statement [to Vermont Business Magazine]. ‘It is premature to suggest that these reviews will lead to suspension of passenger service.’ ”

All parties are focused on dealing with the safety concerns but there is no assurances as to what exactly will happen as we move closer to the PTC deadline of December 31, 2018.

Rest assured, everyone we’ve spoken to is working diligently to keep the train running and is very focused on taking the necessary steps to enhance safety along the rail lines on the route.

 


Amherst Station Signage Removed

Signage at the site of the former Amherst station | January 29, 2018

The last Amtrak passenger train pulled out of Amherst on December 28th, 2014. Odd as it may seem, someone at Amtrak never got the memo.

In January (2018) we were asked why Amtrak’s signs were still standing in Amherst. After a couple of attempts to get the signs removed we reached out to the office of Congressman Jim McGovern in Northampton for help.

The congressman’s office contacted Amtrak and the signs were finally removed on May 3rd.

 


News | Recent Rail Crossings Accidents

Two serious accidents have occurred at railroad crossing in our region in the past few weeks.

The Republican reported that in the early morning hours of April 14th a vehicle struck the rear of a CSX freight train at the crossing on Memorial Drive in Springfield. Tragically, the driver of the vehicle lost her life in this accident.


Memorial Drive X CSX crossing | Springfield, Ma.

The crossing, shown above, is located at the end of a CSX rail line known as the Athol Industrial Track. The line ends at the Monson Paper warehouse — shown on the right in the image.

Accident records on file with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) indicate that the last accident at this crossing occurred in 1991.

: :

Western Mass News reported that on May 15th at about 2:30 pm a vehicle came in contact with a New England Central (NECR) freight train at the crossing on Stafford Road (a.k.a. Massachusetts Route 32) in Monson.

The three people in the vehicle were taken to Baystate Medical Center for treatment of what police said appeared to be non-life threatening injuries.


Stafford Road (MA-32) X NECR crossing | Monson, Ma.

The crossing, shown above, is located on NECR’s Palmer subdivision. The authorized speed for freight trains at this location is 25 mph and the speed limit on the state highway here is 45 mph.

Accident records on file with FRA show no reported accidents at this crossing as far back as 1975.

::

In related news, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission has been studying the safety of at-grade railroad crossings in our region. Their report is scheduled to be released in November 2018.

See also

Railroad Crossing Safety
Trains In The Valley

Further reading

“Woman killed in train collision identified as Springfield resident”
By Jeanette DeForge | The Republican | April 15, 2018

“Three hospitalized after train hits car in Monson”
By Ryan Trowbridge | Western Mass News | May 15, 2018

“Saving lives where road meets rail”
By Bruce E. Kelly | Railway Age | May 21, 2018

 


Railroad Jobs in the Valley

Ever thought about working for a railroad? Well, do we have the job for you.

By popular demand we’ve now added a new section on the website called [Railroad Jobs in The Valley] with information about available railroad jobs across our region.

 


Northampton | Golden Spike 2018 Conference

Are we a rail trail friendly rail advocacy group you might ask? Of course.

Unused rail lines need to be preserved and protected for public use today and the future.

Coming to Northampton on July 27-28th is “Golden Spike 2018″ — the largest rails-to-trails conference of the year in New England.

Event website
gs2018.org

 

 

Post last updated: June 4, 2018

Rail News Roundup #11

 

Today’s Headlines

• Comment Period Ends for State Rail Plan

• Vermonter Service No Longer Under Threat of Suspension

• 2017 Vermonter Ridership Report

• Tree and Brush Clearing along the Line

• News Analysis | The Hartford Line

• Union Station Platform Work Delayed Again

• Westfield | Safety Improvements Planned for Rail Crossing

• CSX Line in Massachusetts Not for Sale

• Vermont Rail Action Network Launches New Website

• Then and Now

 


Comment Period Ends for State Rail Plan

The public comment period for the draft 2018 State Rail Plan closed on March 2, 2018.

We’d like to thank the many people across our region who actively participated in this process by submitting written comments to MassDOT, attended one of the Rail Plan Advocacy Pop-up meetings, reached out to friends to encourage others to submit their comments, or engaging in the advocacy process on-line using Facebook.

Here’s a selection of public comments that have crossed our desk:

Knowledge Corridor Partnership (PDF)

Mayor David Narkewicz | City of Northampton (PDF)

Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PDF)

Plan for Progress (PDF)

Ben Heckscher | Trains In The Valley (PDF)

Transportation for Massachusetts (PDF)

The Train Campaign (PDF) | Berkshire County

 

We will report further on this topic after MassDOT releases the final version of the 2018 State Rail Plan.

Further reading

“Glimpses of East-West Rail, or a Position to Not Look Too Close…?”
Western Massachusetts Politics & Insight | February 5, 2018

“East-west passenger service urged among state rail priorities”
By Cyrus Moulton | Telegram & Gazette | January 29, 2018

 


Vermonter Service No Longer Under Threat of Suspension

Source: Vermont Business Magazine | March 6, 2018

“Amtrak backs off from Vermont service suspension threat, apologizes”
By CB Hall | Vermont Business Magazine | March 6, 2018

Amtrak backed away from its earlier implied threat of suspension of service on the Vermonter at the recent meeting of the Vermont Rail Advisory Council meeting in Montpelier.

Concern for the future of the Vermonter was raised among many interested parties soon after Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson testified before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on February 15th.

During that hearing he said that Amtrak was “unlikely to operate on stretches [of track] that regulators have excluded from PTC [Positive Train Control] requirements” — which includes the route used by the Vermonter north of Springfield, Mass.

“I want to apologize to Vermont for all the angst caused,” he [an Amtrak spokesperson] addressed those on hand. In objecting to the prospect of a service suspension, he said, “You did the right thing. Looking ahead, he said that the company was now looking at mitigation of safety risks in more general terms, in cooperation with state partners.”

“Right now we have no plans to cease any service on any route,” Amtrak’s Bill Hollister told Vermont Business Magazine on February 28th.

Further Reading

Written Testimony of Richard Anderson, CEO of Amtrak (PDF)
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
February 15, 2018

 


2017 Vermonter Ridership Report

Amtrak has released Fiscal Year 2017 ridership numbers for the Vermonter — and we are happy to report that ridership at stations in our region looks good overall.

Here’s a chart that we prepared with a summary of the available data:

Source: Amtrak Vermonter FY2014-17 Ridership – 21 Feb 2018 (PDF)

Highlights from the data show that:

  • Approximately 29,000 passengers used the Vermonter in Western Mass. between October 1, 2016 and September 30, 2017 (Amtrak’s fiscal year 2017)
  • Ridership in Western Mass. increased 10% vs. FY 2016.
  • Northampton, with 19,588 passengers in FY 2017, is now the busiest Vermonter station north of Springfield.
  • Ridership from the four station stops in the Pioneer Valley account for about 1/3rd of the total ridership on the Vermonter.

 

Further reading

Amtrak Ridership – Greenfield | FY2017 (PDF)

Amtrak Ridership – Holyoke | FY2017 (PDF)

Amtrak Ridership – Northampton | FY2017 (PDF)

Amtrak Ridership – Springfield | FY2017 (PDF)

 


Tree and Brush Clearing along the Line

As many people have noticed, crews have been working through the winter to clear trees and brush from the rail line that is used by the Vermonter in the Pioneer Valley.

This rail line, which is now owned by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, is formally known as the Connecticut River Main Line.

Trees and branches are being cleared along the line to improve sight lines and to reduce the chance that a fallen tree will block the tracks.

The images below show some of the recent work.

Clearing Trees along the Connecticut River Main Line
along Route 5, Holyoke | looking east | March 2, 2018

In the image above a grapple crane is feeding brush into a wood chipper.

Look closely and you can see that both pieces of equipment are riding on the rails.

 

The Connecticut River Main Line | looking North
Chestnut Street crossing, Hatfield | March 4, 2018

This image shows a section of the recently cleared right-of-way in Hatfield.

Note the bundles of new railroad ties that have been dropped along the rail line. These ties will be used for a tie replacement project that we assume will start this spring.

 


News Analysis | The Hartford Line

Source: New Haven Independent | March 2, 2018

“Plan Flaws Mar New Train Line’s Promise”
By Sandy Johnston | New Haven Independent | March 2, 2018

An in-depth and detailed review of the CTrail Hartford Line project.

If you’re seriously interested in the planning details related to the Hartford Line then this article for you. The author covers everything — from the schedule, to the fares, to the infrastructure, to the costs, to the equipment — and more.

The author — Sandy Johnson — is a planner and program Manager for a regional transportation planning agency in Boston.

 


Union Station Platform Work Delayed Again

Source: MassLive | February 2, 2018

“Union Station platform work delayed again”
By Jim Kinney | The Republican | February 2, 2018

The never ending story of the delayed high-level platform at Springfield Union Station.

The article says that bid specifications for the new platform will be released this month. When the platform will be completed is unclear at the moment.

 


Westfield | Safety Improvements Planned for Rail Crossing

Source: WWLP-22 News | January 31, 2018

“Key safety upgrades coming to Westfield rail crossings”
By Matt Caron | WWLP-22 News | January 31, 2018

WWLP-TV News 22 reports on plans to updated three railroad crossing in Westfield.

The crossings to be upgraded are at three locations on the Pioneer Valley Railroad line in Westfield — where the railroad line crosses Lockhouse Road, Summit Lock Road, and Service Star Industrial Way.

When the work is complete, each of these crossing will be protected by new active traffic control devices which will include flashing lights, gates, and bells. The work is scheduled to take place in the Spring.

Further Reading
Railroad Crossing Safety | Trains In The Valley

 


CSX Line in Massachusetts Not for Sale

In January we passed along a report from the Albany Times Union that said that CSX was considering a sale of its main line between Worcester, Springfield, and the New York State border.

Since then CSX has come forward to state clearly that, “… this line is not for sale.”

Further reading

“CSX rules out sale of former Boston & Albany line”
Times-Union | January 26, 2018

 


Vermont Rail Action Network Launches New Website

Source: Screenshot of Vermont Rail Action Network website | March 9, 2018

The Vermont Rail Action Network, our sister organization in Vermont, has just launched their newly redesigned website.

railvermont.org

If you’re interested in being an advocate for rail service in Vermont we would encourage you to join their organization.

 


Then and Now

A new addition to the Rail News Roundup

Forbes Library recently posted this interesting image on on their Facebook page so we thought it would be sort of neat to see what the view from this location looks like today.

Then

Three bridges over the Connecticut River | undated (ca. 1900)
Courtesy of Forbes Library, Northampton, Mass.

From left to right:
– the former bridge for the trolley line that once connected Northampton and Amherst
– the former highway bridge across the river
– The Massachusetts Central Railroad bridge (built in 1887)

Now

On the Mass Central Rail Trail – Norwottuck Branch | looking west
Hadley, Mass. | March 4, 2018

On the left is the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Bridge (completed in 1939) and on the right is the bridge that is now known as the Mass Central Rail Trail’s Norwottuck Branch Bridge.