Gov. Malloy Pushes for Inland Route

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy pens strong letter of support for the establishment of New Haven—Springfield—Boston passenger service on the Inland Route.

inland-route-nneiri-study

In his letter, Malloy asks that Gov. Baker advance the necessary planning and engineering work that would be required to establish the service.

He also asks for the project to be added to the updated Massachusetts State Rail Plan, which is current being prepared by MassDOT.

east-west-rail-malloy-letter-30-jan-2017

 

Gov. Malloy’s letter follows a letter of support — for both expanded service on the Knowledge Corridor and East-West rail — sent by Congressman Jim McGovern and Congressman Richard Neal back in November 2016.

neal-mcgovern-ma-state-rail-plan-letter-9-nov-2016_page_1

 

In a related development, the Worcester City Council on Tuesday evening called for a regional transportation summit to look at improved passenger rail service from Worcester to Boston, and to Springfield, eastern Connecticut, and New York City.

 

Returning passenger service on the route between Boston and New Haven via Springfield, a service that was recommended in the recently completed Northern New England Intercity Rail Initiative (NNEIRI) study, is not a small project.

Moving this project forward requires the support of Gov. Baker, who until now has been reluctant to say much of anything on this topic. Additionally, state and federal funding for the required planning and engineering work would need to be identified and secured.

 


See Also

Boston–Springfield–New Haven / Montreal Service

 

Recent website updates and additions

About > Transparency & Accountability
On this page, you will now find links to the 4Q2016 and FY2016 financial reports for Trains in the Valley.

About > Filing Cabinet
This new page is a place where we will maintain a listing of resources that are only indirectly related to the primary topic of this website. As example, this page now includes a link to a nice chart (prepared by MassBudget) that shows the funding sources for transportation in Massachussets and where the funds go.

Get Involved > Rail Bills | Mass. Legislature
This new page contains a listing of bills filed in the Massachusetts General Court (the legislature) that affect passenger and/or freight rail service in our region of the state.

Infrastructure > Greenfield
This page has been updated with further information (and images) about the newly expanded short-term parking lot at the Olver Transit Center and the planned new parking garage.

Passenger Rail > Vermonter Performance
The On-time Performance & Departure Delay spreadsheet for the Vermonter has been updated with data through to the end of January 2017. The OT performance of the southbound Vermonter continues to be a problem.

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And last but not least, we are very pleased to announce that Rebecca Townsend has joined Trains in the Valley.

Rebecca is a communication professor who has studied transportation and public engagement, for which the White House named her a “Champion of Change for Transportation Innovation” in 2012. The International Association of Public Participation lauded her work with students to increase engagement in transportation planning, and her scholarship earned her the inaugural State of Connecticut Scholarly Excellence Award. Originally from Rhode Island, she saw how greater access to rail can improve economic activity.

She founded the Pioneer Valley Advocates for Commuter Rail (2006-2010) with fellow residents of the Greater Springfield region to garner support for rail in our region of Massachusetts.

 


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WWLP-22News Special Report: Springfield-Boston Rail Service

WWLP-22News Anchor/Reporter Katie Walsh’s amazing full hour-long special report on the potential for Springfield-Boston passenger rail service is now available on the this link:

“InFocus: Lawmakers considering rail service from Springfield to Boston”
By Kait Walsh | WWLP-22News | January 29, 2017

This is by far the most comprehensive report on this topic by any media outlet in the Pioneer Valley to date.

WWLP’s report, which was 6 weeks in the making, includes interviews with all the key players, including

Tim Brennan | Exec. Director, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
Governor Charlie Baker
Astrid Glynn | Rail & Transit Administrator, MassDOT
State Senator Eric Lesser | First Hampden and Hampshire
Mary Macinnes | Administrator, Pioneer Valley Transit Authority
Guy McLean | Wood Museum of Springfield History
Tim Murray | President & CEO, Worcester Chamber of Commerce
U.S. Representative Richard Neal | 1st District of Mass.
Peter Picknelly | Owner, Peter Pan Bus Lines
Rick Sullivan |President, Economic Dev. Council of Western Mass.

Trains in the Valley was interviewed for the piece in the historic Union Station building in Northampton.

The report is balanced and comprehensive. We would encourage everyone with an interest in this topic to take the time to view this report, from start to finish.

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

Vermonter Ridership | FY 2016

Amtrak has released Fiscal Year 2016 ridership totals 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:

vermonter-annual-ridership-11-jan-2017

Highlights from the data show that:

Approximately 28,000 passengers used the Vermonter in Western Mass. between October 1, 2015 and September 30, 2016 (Amtrak’s fiscal year 2016)

Ridership in Western Mass. increased 12% vs. FY 2015 — which is quite good considering that total Vermonter ridership was down 4% during the same period.

Ridership in Western Mass. has increased 57% vs. FY 2014 — when the train was using the longer route via Amherst.

Northampton, with 17,322 passengers in FY 2016, is now the 2nd busiest Vermonter station north of New Haven. (The busiest station is Essex Jct., Vt.)

Ridership from the four station stops in the Pioneer Valley now accounts for about 1/3rd of the total ridership on the Vermonter.

It important note, when looking at the station totals in FY 2016 to FY 2015, that the FY 2015 numbers do not include a full year of ridership from most stations — so you can’t directly compare the change in station ridership year-over-year.

One way to compare the station totals is to compare the FY 2016 totals with annualized totals for FY 2015.

If you do that then we see the following changes in ridership from last year to this year:

Greenfield was down 16%
Holyoke was up 20%
Northampton was up 10%

From other data, we know that the FY 2015 total for Greenfield included an unusually high number of passengers who traveled between Greenfield and Northampton or Springfield. We believe that most of these riders were just taking the train to try out the new routing of the Vermonter over the Connecticut River Line. Based on the available data, we believe that this is the only reason why the Greenfield ridership dropped from last year to this year.

It’s would also be fair to say that the Holyoke increase of 20% may not be totally accurate since the number of days in FY 2015 with ridership in Holyoke was very small (just 35 days). To calculate an annualized number based on just 35 days of data may not yield a very accurate annualized total.

Next year, when we have two full years of data to compare, it will be much easier to compare the changes in ridership at stations in the valley.

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

Montreal Rail Preclearance Moves Forward

On December 16, 2016 President Barack Obama signed into law H.R. 6431, the “Promoting Travel, Commerce, and National Security Act of 2016” – a law that will help to facilitate the establishment of U.S. Customs and Border Protection preclearance at Central Station in Montréal, and the planned extension of Amtrak’s Vermonter service north into Canada.

Montreal Central Station | December 9, 2016 | Jean Gagnon
Central Station | Montréal, Quebec | December 9, 2016 | Jean Gagnon

 

Now we wait for both Chambers of the Canadian Parliament to pass Bill C-23, “An Act respecting the preclearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States,” a bill that enables the Agreement on Land, Rail, Marine, and Air Transport Preclearance between the governments’ of Canada and the United States that was signed on March 16, 2015. Various sources suggest that this should happen early in the new year.

Once Bill C-23 becomes law in Canada it will probably take about three years (one year of planning and two years of construction) to build the new joint customs and immigration facility in Central Station that will be used by both Canada Border Security Agency and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

 


See also

Vermonter Extension to Montreal

 


Further reading

“New Legislation Moves Toward Restored Rail Service Between Vermont And Montreal”
By Sam Gale Rosen | Vermont Public Radio | December 20, 2016

Note that this article includes a link to a lengthy radio interview with Carl Fowler, a long-time rail advocate and member of the Vermont Rail Council.

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“New Law should ease Canada-US travel”
By Wilson Ring | Associated Press via the Daily Hampshire Gazette | December 23, 2016

State Rail Plan Update – Meeting Nov 9th

Important public meeting on Wednesday, November 9th at 7 p.m. in Springfield.

This is your chance to speak out and speak up for,

Additional passenger rail service to/from Greenfield, Northampton, and Holyoke

Service on the Boston–Springfield–New Haven rail corridor, as detailed in the recently completed Northern New England Rail Study

All parties with an interest in the future plans for passenger and freight rail service in our region are encouraged to attend this meeting and offer their comments and input to the State Rail Plan Update.

This is the only planned public meeting in Western Mass. before the updated plan is finalized, and the next update to the rail plan will likely not occur before 2021.

 

massrailplan_novmeetingflyer

 

Please note:
The Draft 2016 State Rail Plan Update has not been yet been posted on MassDOT’s website. As soon as this document becomes available we will share a link to it.

Note also that we expect that there will be an opportunity for written comment to be submitted as part of the outreach effort. As soon as these details are available they will be shared.

From what we’ve been told, the meeting will probably end at about 8:30 p.m.

 

Further reading

Official State Rail Plan webpage (MassDOT)

2010 State Rail Plan Documents (MassDOT)

49 CFR 266.15 – Requirements for State Rail Plan

State Rail Plan Guidance (Federal Railroad Administration)

 

 

Post last updated: November 8, 2016