Rail News Roundup #20

 

Today’s Headlines

• East–West Rail Study Committee to Meet

• Greenfield | New Train Status Display

• Windsor Locks | Ticket Vending Machine Installed

• NECR Rail Line Upgrade Project Funded

• Holyoke | PVRR Bridge Work Complete

• Franklin County | Transportation Plan Update

• Pioneer Valley | Transportation Plan Update

• Meanwhile, Up in Vermont…

 

Calendar

East–West Passenger Rail Study Advisory Committee | Meeting 1
Tue. December 18, 2018 | 1 pm – 3 pm
Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
2nd Floor Conference Room
60 Congress Street, Springfield, MA

::

Regional Transportation Plan Public Input Meetings
Franklin Regional Council of Governments

Tues. January 8, 2019 | 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
Erving Senior Center
1 Care Drive, Erving, MA

Wed. January 9, 2018 | 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
Olver Transit Center, 1st Floor Meeting Room
12 Olive Street, Greenfield, MA

Wed. January 16, 2019 | 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
Sunderland Library
20 School Street, Sunderland, MA

 


East–West Passenger Rail Study Advisory Committee To Meet

MassDOT will publicly kick-off the East-West Passenger Rail Study tomorrow with the first meeting of the East-West Passenger Rail Advisory Committee.

Long awaited by many, this study will assess passenger rail service alternatives along the Boston–Worcester–Springfield–Pittsfield corridor.

Time / Date
Tue. December 18, 2018 | 1 pm – 3 pm

Location
Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
2nd Floor Conference Room
60 Congress Street, Springfield, Ma.

Note that this meeting is open to the public.

 

East-West Passenger Rail Advisory Committee Mtg 1 Agenda (PDF)

 

A roster of 33-member Advisory Committee is available on this link:
East-West Passenger Rail Study Advisory Committee | MassDOT

 

We will pass along links to the noteworthy media reports via the Trains In The Valley Facebook page with a longer report on the meeting which will appear in the next edition of the Rail News Roundup.

::

In related news, the Town of Palmer this week appointed a 13-member “Rail Stop Steering Committee” to monitor and act on developments as MassDOT’s East–West Passenger Rail Study gets underway. (a list of members can be found on the link below.)

It will be interested to see if other communities along the east–west rail corridor appoint similar committees to focus local attention to this important study.

Further reading

East-West Passenger Rail Study | MassDOT

East-West Passenger Rail Study | Train In The Valley
Our landing page for this topic

“Palmer Town Council appoints 13-person Rail Stop Steering Committee”
By Jim Russell | The Republican | December 11, 2018

 


Greenfield | New Train Status Display

Train information display screen
Olver Transit Center | Greenfield, Ma. | December 31, 2018

A train information display screen has been installed in the Olver Transit Center in Greenfield in the main waiting area.

The layout of the information on the screen is meant to look like the slit-flap display screens that were once common at major Amtrak stations. The display information is provided by the firm Dixieland Software, at no cost.

Clearly there is lots of room for more trains on this display screen.

Last we checked the responsible parties at Springfield Union Station are still working to get the Amtrak train information added to the display screens in the main waiting room. We remain hopefully that this will happen before too long.

 


Windsor Locks | Ticket Vending Machine Installed

New CTrail TVM at Windsor Locks station
Courtesy of CTDOT | November 17, 2018

Good news for people taking the train from Windsor Locks, CT — a new Ticket Vending Machine is up and running, as of November 16, 2018.

Tickets purchased from this machine are good for travel on any train (Amtrak or CTrail) between Springfield and New Haven — with the exception of the Vermonter. Note also that you can purchase tickets from this machine for travel on Metro-North trains, if your journey involved travel past New Haven.

Further information

Windsor Locks station | Trains In The Valley

 


New England Central Rail Upgrade Project Funded

Senators Edward J. Markey and Elizabeth Warren, and Representatives Richard E. Neal and Jim McGovern have announced the release of a $10.8 million Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant to upgrade the 55-mile New England Central Railroad (NECR) main line through western Massachusetts.

This $10.8 million BUILD grant will be combined with $9.6 million in already approved state funding from MassDOT’s Capital Investment Plan, and $9.6 million from the New England Central Railroad.

The NECR line, which is owned by Genesee & Wyoming, runs from East Alburg, Vt. (on the Canadian border) to the port of New London, Ct. and passes through western Massachusetts along a rail corridor that runs north to south through Millers Falls, Amherst, Belchertown, Palmer and Monson.

The planned upgrades to the line include the installation of 31 miles of new rail and 20,000 new crossties. Additionally, 20 bridges along the line will be rehabilitated and strengthened.

Once this work is complete the western Massachusetts portion of the NECR line will be certified for the movement of 286,000 lb. gross-vehicle-weight (GVW) rail cars.

At present the line can only handle non-standard 263,000 lb rail cars. This limitation prevents the movement of many rail shipments along this rail line today.

Our understanding is that the NECR line in Vermont and Connecticut has already, or soon will be, be rated to handle 286,000 lb. GVW rail cars.

Further reading

“Cargo rail line running through Western Mass. gets $10.8M from feds, $9.6M from state for modernization”
By Jim Kinney | The Republican | December 10, 2018

2018 $1.5 Billion in BUILD Transportation Grants Announcement
Press Release | U.S. Dept. of Transportation | December 11, 2018

 


Holyoke | PVRR Bridge Work Completed

The Pioneer Valley Railroad (PVRR) and its contractors have completed the rehabilitated of the curved open deck bridge in Holyoke that carries the PVRR over the Third Level Canal near Cabot Street.

This work was partially funded by a grant of $495,000 from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT). The grant was one of eight grant awards made in 2017 under MassDOT’s Industrial Rail Access Program.

The re-opening of this bridge, which was last used in 2013, will allow the PVRR to interchange freight rail cars with the Pan Am Southern (PAS) railroad which provides freight rail service on the north-south rail line through Holyoke.

Curved open-deck railroad bridge | looking northeast from Cabot St
Near South Canal & Cabot streets | Holyoke, Ma. | November 16, 2018

 

The diagram below, from the rail industry journal Atlantic Northeast Rail & Ports (ANR&P), provides a nice overview of the area area in and around the bridge.

Source | Atlantic Northeast Rail & Ports – Issue #18-11 | December 7, 2018
Used with Permission

 

ANR&P’s December 8, 2018 edition reported that the PVRR/PAS Holyoke interchange is expected to reopen in early 2019 with the first traffic destined to the James Hardie Building Products, a major new customer for the PVRR.

The James Hardie 237,000 sq-ft facility is located on the site of the former National Envelope Co. property at 70 Turnpike Industrial Road, Westfield — a site which was leased because of its proximity to the PVRR and the planned re-opening of the Holyoke interchange between the PVRR and PAS railroad lines.

Further reading

Former National Envelope plant in Westfield sold to James Hardie Building Products; 50-80 jobs expected
By Jim Kinney | The Republican | December 17, 2018

 


Franklin County | Transportation Plan Update

The Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) is currently updating the Regional Transportation Plan for Franklin County.  This plan is updated every 4 years and examines the current state of the transportation system in the region, including all modes of transportation – such as driving, walking, biking, and riding the bus or a train.

The plan will identify the long-term transportation needs of the region and prioritizes key projects and activities.

As part of the planning process, the FRCOG is seeking input from Franklin County residents and employees.

There are 3 upcoming public meetings to listen to feedback and comments on transportation needs and priorities.

If you are unable to attend a meeting, please take the survey to let the FRCOG know your thoughts:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2019RTPsurvey.

We would also encourage people submitted using one of the addresses listed below.

Megan Rhodes
Franklin Regional Council of Governments
12 Olive Street
Greenfield, MA 01301
email | mrhodes@frcog.org

 

Further reading
Franklin County Regional Transportation Plan 2016

 


Pioneer Valley | Transportation Plan Update

The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission is in the process of updating the Region Transportation Plan for the Hampden and Hampshire County regions.

The Pioneer Valley Regional Transportation Plan outlines the direction of transportation planning and improvements for the Pioneer Valley through the year 2040.

Progress related to the 2020 Pioneer Valley Transportation Plan update can be viewed on the project site linked below.

Comments/question/input to the plan my be submitted using one of the addresses listed below.

Gary Roux
Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
60 Congress St
Springfield, MA 01104
email | gmroux@pvpc.org

 

Further reading

2020 Regional Transportation Plan | Project site

Pioneer Valley Regional Transportation Plan 2016

 


Meanwhile, Up in Vermont…

“Man with a Plan” A quicker, cheaper way to build commuter rail”
By Julie Campoli | Sustainable Transportation Vermont | November 9, 2018

In this report, Julie Campoli of Sustainable Transportation Vermont, looks at efforts underway to bring additional passenger rail service to the Green Mountain State.

The plan being put forward by David Blittersdorf of AllEarth Rail relies on the use of refurbished rail diesel cars that his company recently acquired from the transit agency known as Dallas Area Rapid Transit. Until not so long ago these cars were in service on Trinity Railway Express line between Dallas and Fort Worth.

How this plays out is anyone’s guess at the moment, but its interesting to watch the many efforts in New England to re-establish or expand passenger rail service.

Rail News Roundup #19

 

Today’s Headlines

• CTDOT Adds Additional Service to Springfield

• Amtrak and CTDOT Work to Address Overcrowding

• East–West Rail — Post Election Update

• Greenfield | Olive Street Parking Garage Opens

• Bernardston | Stone Arch Bridge Re-decking

• Pan Am Railways Fined by Mass DEP

• Update from the Berkshires

 

Calendar

Mon. November 19, 2018 | 11:30 am – 7:30 pm
2018 Multimodal and Transit Summit
UConn Hartford
10 Prospect St, Hartford, CT
FREE for transit advocates and members of the community

 


CTDOT Adds Additional Hartford Line Service to Springfield

CTrail Hartford Line train | Wallingford, Ct. | June 2018
Courtesy of CTDOT

The new Hartford Line schedule, which goes into effect on Monday, November 12th, includes an extra morning trip to and from Springfield every day. On weekdays the new train arrives at 9:47 am and departs at 10:40 am on weekdays.

Another adjustment to the timetable is the earlier weekday departure for Amtrak Hartford Line train 451, which will now connect with Metro-North train 1529. This combination of trains will allow for an arrival in New York City (at Grand Central Terminal) at 8.35 am.

Improvements in the new schedule came as a result of the completed installation of a second main line track between Hartford and Windsor in Connecticut, as well as schedule adjustments by Metro-North and Amtrak.

The new schedule can be viewed on the page:
Hartford Line | Trains In The Valley

 

Printed copies of the new timetable have been shipped and should be available at locations in our region early next week.

For a listing of locations please follow this link — Printed Timetable Locations in the Pioneer Valley

Further reading

“Hartford Line adds trains to Springfield Union Station”
By Jim Kinney | The Republican | November 9, 2018

 


Amtrak and CTDOT Work to Address Overcrowding

As reported in the previous issue of the Rail News Roundup, the number of people showing up at some stations along the line is, at times, exceeding the number of available seats on some of the Amtrak-operated Hartford Line trains.

Why has this been happening? Because Amtrak only operates two-coaches on most of their Hartford Line trains.

It is our understanding that Amtrak has now added a coach to *one* of its train sets on the Hartford Line, which has for the moment, has eased over crowding on some runs.

On Friday November 11th Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) hosted a press briefing in New Haven to announce steps that he is taking to pressure Amtrak into adding seating capacity on its trains on Hartford Line trains.

On this Friday Blumenthal also released a copy of a letter that he has sent to Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson.

In response to Blumenthal’s public actions an Amtrak spokesperson issued this statement —

“While we never desire to restrict customer utilization of our trains, for the safety of our passengers and employees, crew members may ask passengers to wait for the next available train, instead of creating an unsafe condition, such as standing in the vestibule.

Amtrak and Connecticut DOT are working together to source additional equipment to help ease overcrowding and Amtrak has temporarily added some capacity on one of the New Haven-Springfield trains where we have experienced overcrowding.

The safety of our customers must continue to be our highest priority.”

 

Unfortunately the Amfleet coaches that Amtrak uses on the Hartford Line are stretched thin across Amtrak’s network. Any coaches added to Amtrak’s Hartford Line trains would most likely mean that coaches would need to be taken away from other Amtrak trains.

The long-term solution will be for CTDOT to procure additional train sets (engines and coaches) to meet the growing demand for service on the Hartford Line.

Many are hopeful that this issue will be high on Connecticut governor-elect Ned Lamont’s to-do list when he takes office in early January, since it was only ten days ago that Lamont made this statement — “within 100 days he [Lamont] would ‘launch a formal process’ to expand the Hartford Line train service between Springfield and New Haven.” (Source: Hartford Courant, November 2, 2018)

Further reading

“Blumenthal Calls On Amtrak To Add More Rail Cars”
By Christine Stuart | CTNewsJunkie | November 9, 2018

Letter from Sen. Richard Blumenthal to Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson (PDF)
November 9, 2018
Source: Official Twitter account of U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal

 


East-West Rail — Post Election Update

Many would argue that Tuesday’s election results have changed the political equation for moving East-West passenger rail forward.

The two critical players are now Representative Richard Neal (D-MA 1) and Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA 2). Neal’s district covers Springfield and the Berkshires, and McGovern’s district stretches from Worcester to Northampton.

Come January, Neal will be in line to become Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means and McGovern should become Chairman of the Rules Committee — two committees with significant power in the House.

Any spending bills, including the long-awaited infrastructure package, would go through Neal’s committee.

The Boston Globe reported¹ yesterday that, “Neal talked up East-West rail in a conversation with Governor Charlie Baker on Wednesday, the day after the Republican governor won reelection.”

Also from the Globe report, “[State Senator Eric] Lesser says he looks to the Neal–McGovern tag team, and sees a path to success:  Not since Tip O’Neill and Joe Moakley were in office has Massachusetts had a duo with such clout in Congress. Those two helped secure the federal funds that made the Big Dig possible.”

The Globe story also reported the news that MassDOT has selected the consulting firm WSP USA to carry out the planned Boston–Springfield–Pittsfield Passenger Rail Study.

¹”Momentum builds for Springfield-Boston rail service”, By Jon Chesto, The Boston Globe, November 10. 2018

Further reading

“How Mass. congressmen might wield new clout”
By Cyrus Moulton | Worcester Telegram and Gazette | November 8, 2018

 


Greenfield | Olive Street Parking Garage Opens

The Olive Street Parking Garage is now open!

People gather for for the opening of the Olive Street Parking Garage
By Paul Franz / The Recorder | November 9, 2018

“Greenfield garage opens, with promise of boost to downtown”
By Joshua Solomon | The Recorder | November 9, 2018

The 270-space, four-floor garage, which has been a decade in the making, adds significant parking capacity in the core of the downtown area of the city.

It also has the potential of becoming the parking location of choice for people who drive to Greenfield to take the train from Greenfield, since the Olver Transit Center is right across the street from the new garage.

Note that parking at the garage will be free until the end of December.

From January 1, 2019 the following rates will be in effect:

Free for the first hour, then
$ 1.00 / hour (Mon. – Fri., 8 am – 5 pm)
$ 0.25 / hour (all other times)

Daily maximum – $10
Weekly maximum – $60

At the moment it is not clear whether the city will continue to operate the Long-term Transit Parking area that is located in the surface lot on Hope Street, where you can park for just $5/day.

Further information
Olive Street Parking Garage | Town of Greenfield

 


Bernardston | Stone Arch Bridge Re-decking

Stone Arch Bridge on the Conn River Main Line | Bernardston, Mass.
Source: Construction Equipment Guide, November 7, 2018

In September 2018 MassDOT and its contractors completed a complicated project to re-deck the viaduct that carries the Conn River Main Line across the Fall River in Bernardston, Mass.

The historic viaduct, which is locally known as the Stone Arch Bridge, was built in 1846 by the Connecticut River Railroad.

Most of the work on the structure was performed during a scheduled five-day service outage that commenced on September 7, 2018.

Further information

“Crews Finish Bridge Rehabilitation in Massachusetts”
By Cindy Riley | Construction Equipment Guide | November 7, 2018
(the article include a nice set of images from the work site)

 


Pan Am Railways Fined by Mass DEP

Piles of old railroad ties in Holyoke in early 2017
By Dave Roback | The Republican | January 30, 2017

“Railroad companies fined $90,000 for failing to remove rail ties in Greenfield, Hatfield, and Buckland”
By Mike Plaisance | The Republican | October 29, 2018

Pan Am Railways and Boston & Maine Corp. have recently been fined $90,000 by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection for failing to remove piles of old railroad ties in the Pioneer Valley

The wooden ties that are the subject of these fines were removed along Pan Am lines lines in our region over the past few years.

 


Update from the Berkshires

Amtrak’s westbound Lake Shore Limited in PIttsfield Source: The Berkshire Edge

“Berkshire Flyer pilot rail service funded for 2020; passenger rail on Housatonic line remains a question mark”
By Terry Cowgill | The Berkshire Edge | October 30, 2018

This article provides an excellent overview of the many efforts underway to expand passenger rail service in the Berkshires – a region that today is only served by a single long distance train.

Note in particular the focus on “last mile” travel options in Pittsfield for people using the Berkshire Flyer service, which is to start in the summer of 2020.

Rail News Roundup #18

 

Today’s Headlines

• CTrail Customers Kicked Off Amtrak Trains On The Hartford Line

• Rail Users’ Network Meeting Recap

• Longmeadow | Bernie Road Crossing – Some Good News

• Springfield | State St Crossing Concerns

• Knowledge Corridor Tie Replacement Project

• Worcester | Station Platform Project Moves Forward

• Holyoke | Repairs to Pioneer Valley Railroad Bridge

• Vermont Rail Action Network’s Annual Dinner | Nov 8th

• 2018 Multimodal and Transit Summit | Nov 19th

• Report | Attracting Visitors by Passenger Rail to Franklin County

• The Millennials Disrupting Boston’s Transit System

• Fall Foliage Train on the Pioneer Valley Railroad

• Train Time in Northampton | October 8, 2018

 

Calendar

Thur. November 8, 2018 | 4:30 pm – 8:00 (POSTPONED)
Vermont Rail Action Network’s Annual Dinner
Capitol Plaza Hotel & Conference Center
100 State Street, Montpelier, VT

 

Mon. November 19, 2018 | 11:30 am – 7:30 pm
2018 Multimodal and Transit Summit
UConn Hartford
10 Prospect St, Hartford, CT
FREE for members of the community

 


CTrail Customers Kicked Off Amtrak Trains On The Hartford Line

Credit Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio

“As Ridership Booms on the Hartford Line, CTrail Customers Are Being Kicked Off Amtrak Trains”
By Frankie Graziano | Connecticut Public Radio | October 25, 2018

According to this report, some passengers holding CTrail tickets have in recent weeks been asked to leave Amtrak Hartford Line trains to make room for passengers holding Amtrak tickets.

“Jim Redeker, Connecticut’s transportation commissioner, said that’s not supposed to happen. ‘That may be something that occurs in the field,’ Redeker said. ‘That could be simply that the particular crew that’s on that train is not familiar with our policies.’ ”

The basic problem is a simple one — the number of people showing up at some stations along the line is, at times, exceeding the number of available seats on some of the Amtrak-operated Hartford Line trains — in particular the Amtrak trains that today operate with only two coaches. Commission Redeker said just the other day, at the ribbon cutting for the new Berlin station, that the Hartford Line has carried over 120,000 passenger trip since its launch and that it had exceeded all of their expectations.

CTDOT and Amtrak need to correct whatever is “occurring in the field” and discontinue the reported practice of removing selected passengers from Amtrak Hartford Line trains. The optics of this practice is very bad, at multiple levels.

CTDOT and Amtrak need to find a way to provide additional coaches where needed since clearly there should be no reason for any passenger to be left standing on the platform.

::

UPDATE — The Hartford Courant is reporting that CTDOT is working with Amtrak to add coaches to some Amtrak Hartford Line trains. When this will actually happen is not clear at this time.

Further reading

“State Asks Amtrak For More Cars On Hartford Line To Ease Crowding After Passengers Kicked Off”
By Kenneth Gosselin | Hartford Courant | October 27, 2018

 


Rail Users’ Network Meeting Recap

Courtesy of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission

The Rail Users’ Network, a national rail advocacy organization, held its annual meeting on September 13th at the Pioneer Valley Planning Commissions offices in Springfield. Approximately sixty people attended the meeting.

Topics covered included developments along the Hartford Line Corridor, new passenger service north of Springfield on the Knowledge Corridor, and MassDOT’s East-West Rail Study. Additional topics included an update on the Berkshire Flyer (a planned service between New York City and Pittsfield) as well as updates from two regional rail advocacy groups — the Train Campaign and Trains In The Valley.

The highlight of the meeting was probably the presentation given by MassDOT on the East-West Rail Study.

The study will look at up to six alternatives for passenger rail service in the Pittsfield–Springfield–Boston corridor, with at least one alternative for 90 minute of less travel time between Springfield and Boston. The study will also look at the potential for infill stations, as example Palmer.

MassDOT’s outreach efforts for the study will include a Study Advisory Committee of stakeholders, public meetings, briefings for legislative leaders, as well as a project website and outreach through social media.

The study, once its fully underway, should take about a year to complete.

Note | All of the presentations have been posted on page | Trains In The Valley Events

Further reading

“Picking up steam: Rail advocates to meet in Springfield for updates on CTrail, expanded north-south service and east-west plans”
By Jim Kinney | The Republican | October 11, 2018

“MassDOT takes next step toward $1 million east-west rail study”
By Jim Kinney | The Republican | October 17, 2018

 


Longmeadow | Bernie Road Crossing – Some Good News

Amtrak train crossing Birnie Road in Longmeadow | March 16, 2017
Photo credit: Greg Saulman / The Republican

Funding in place for safety upgrades at Longmeadow rail crossing where DPW worker Warren Cowles was killed in train crash”
By Greg Saulmon | The Republican | October 18, 2018

At long last, safety upgrades for the Bernie Road crossing in Longmeadow are moving forward.

The crossing, the site of seven collisions and five deaths since 1975, will see the installation of active traffic control devices (flashing lights, gates, and bells) in the coming months.

One has to wonder, why, with all of the regulatory oversight that is afforded to railroads, and railroad crossings in particular, that the crossing at Bernie Road remained unprotected and seemingly unnoticed for so long.

Why did Amtrak allow this crossing to remain listed as “closed” in the Federal Railroad Administration’s database for decades?

Was it too many layers of oversight? Was it that “everyone and but no-one” was ultimately responsible for safety at this crossing?

There are lessons to be learned here and we can only hope that someone in government will now look back and to see what steps can be learned from the decades long saga of the Bernie Road railroad crossing.

Work at the crossing, to install gates, flashing lights, and bells, is expected to begin in 2019.

 


Springfield | State St Crossing Concerns

The Republican has published an in depth article on the many issues surrounding the crossing of the Amtrak double-track rail line at the end of State Street in Springfield. (shown in the image below.)

Aerial photo of Riverfront Park
Photo credit: Patrick Johnson / The Republican

“Riverfront Park in Springfield is getting a facelift — but is a rail crossing a barrier to access?”
By Greg Saulmon | The Republican | October 16, 2018

This railroad crossing, which today is marked with nothing more than a pair of stop signs and a crossbuck, sees nearly 30 trains a day at the moment (24 passenger trains and 4-6 freight trains.)

Amtrak train passes through the crossing at Riverfront Park | October 9, 2018
Photo credit: Greg Saulman / The Republican

We did some research (using the FRA Crossing inventory database) and its looks to us like this is the only public rail crossing between Springfield and New Haven that is *not* protected with active traffic control devices (flashing lights, gates, and bells.) We didn’t count the Bernie Road crossing because its blocked to all traffic at the moment.

To put this in some perspective, an underpass was recently constructed to connect the bike paths on either side of the single-track rail line that runs through the city of Northampton. The underpass allows people to safety cross a rail line that carries six trains a day at the moment. (2 passenger trains and 4 freight trains.)

The State Street railroad crossing in Springfield, which is closed to the public at the moment due to the construction, looks like a significant safety concern that needs to be reviewed very carefully before it is reopened.

 


Knowledge Corridor Tie Replacement Project

Conn River Main Line | looking north
North Main Street | Deerfield, Ma. | April 8, 2018

MassDOT is in the process of awarding a contract for tie replacements, track refurbishment and related work along 32 miles of the Conn River Main Line (CRML) between Springfield and Greenfield.

The project includes the follow elements:

  • Install up to 30,000 new wood crossties
  • Install 3.5 track miles of new continuous welded rail on the controlled sidings in Northampton and Springfield and on the southbound track in Deerfield
  • Construct 0.4 miles of new southbound track in Deerfield
  • Distribute 28,500 tons of track ballast
  • Surface, align and regulate the ballast along 32 miles of CRML track, including all turnouts that branch off the mainline track
  • Remove and reconstruct five farm crossings along the line
  • Remove & dispose of all scrap crossties, timbers, and wood debris

 

The specifications states that scrap crossties, switch timber, and other wood products shall be removed from the right-of-way within five working days of their removal from the track.

The contract documents say the contractor shall achieve Contract Completion within 300 calendar days from Notice to Proceed or by May 15, 2019, whichever is earlier.

The presumptive low bidder for this project is LM Heavy Civil Construction of Quincy, Mass.

See also

Infrastructure > Current Projects

 


Worcester | Station Platform Project Moves Forward

On October 1, 2018 the MBTA Fiscal Management Control Board approved a proposal to proceed with the design work required for the planned construction of a new center platform at Worcester Union Station.

MBTA Contract No. X72PS01 | Worcester Union Commuter Rail Station
Source: FMCB Meeting presentation | October 1, 2108

Why you might ask is this relevant to the Pioneer Valley . . . Because one of the many elements that must be resolved before East-West passenger rail service could be expanded is is the removal the platform bottleneck that exists today at Worcester Union Station.

The resolution of this issue, which will take about 3–5 years, will make it possible for the station in Worcester to handle additional passenger trains in the future.

Further reading

MBTA board approves Union Station platform expansion”
By Grant Welker | Worcester Business Journal | October 1, 2018

Worcester Union Station Design Contract presentation (PPT)
Fiscal Management Control Board | October 1 2018

 


Holyoke | Repairs to Pioneer Valley Railroad Bridge

Curved open-deck railroad bridge | looking northeast from Cabot St
Near South Canal & Cabot streets | Holyoke, Ma. | October 11, 2018

The Pioneer Valley Railroad is now working to rehabilitate a curved open deck bridge in Holyoke near South Canal and Cabot street. The bridge, which is shown in the image above, will have both steel and masonry work performed on the structure.

The re-opening of this bridge, which was last used in 2013, will allow the Pioneer Valley Railroad to interchange freight rail cars with the Pan Am Southern railroad which operates the north-south rail line through Holyoke.

This work is being partially funded by a grant of $495,000 that was made by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT). The grant was one of eight grant awards made in 2017 under MassDOT’s Industrial Rail Access Program.

 


Vermont Rail Action Network’s Annual Dinner | Nov 8th

UPDATE 10/31/2018 | This event has been postponed due to scheduling challenges with the speakers and honorees. VRAN intends to reschedule the event in early 2019.

The Vermont Rail Action Network (VRAN) will hold its annual dinner and awards celebration next month in Montpelier.

Join rail industry and community leaders, railroad employees, shippers and rail supporters from around the region for Vermont’s premier rail event of the year.

All Earth Rail Budd Rail Diesel Car | in St Albans, Vermont | October 2018
Author: CodeJeffrey | Source: Wikipedia Commons

This year’s gala event will be held on Thursday, November 8th from 4:30 to 8:00 p.m. (POSTPONED) at the Capitol Plaza Hotel & Conference Center in Montpelier, VT.

With the recent arrival of 12 self-powered Rail Diesel Cars (RDCs) in Vermont, enabling reliable and affordable regional rail service for commuters in Vermont, there is much to celebrate.

Two of All Earth Rail’s recently renovated Budd RDC’s (shown above) will be parked on the tracks behind the hotel. A cocktail hour is planned onboard the RDC’s for those who arrive early.

This annual event is a wonderful opportunity for networking with delicious food, live music from a swing jazz band, and the presentation of VRAN’s annual Rail awards

 


2018 Multimodal and Transit Summit | Nov 19th

The Center for Latino Progress’s Transport Hartford Academy is organizing the first annual Multimodal and Transit Summit, which is co-hosted by the Connecticut Chapter of the American Planners Association and the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

The Multimodal and Transit Summit will be held on Monday, November 19th in downtown Hartford from 12:00 pm to 7:30 pm.

The Summit will bring together local leaders, legislators, transportation professionals, planners, engineers, construction firms, and passionate citizen advocates to discuss the current state, known challenges, and the best future for Connecticuts’s transportation system.

The Summit will reach transportation professionals, while also reaching non-professionals that we need to keep informed and engaged to move multimodal topics into the public sphere, daily conversations, policy changes, and state legislation.

Multimodal transportation is about building connections and increasing mobility.

Note that this event is free for citizen advocates and members of the community.

If you are traveling to the Summit from western mass we recommend that you park at the Springfield Union Stations Garage ($5/day) and take the Hartford Line!

Further information

Multimodal Summit 2018

Registration link

 


Report | Attracting Visitors by Passenger Rail to Franklin County

The Franklin County Council of Governments has recently released an interesting report that looks closely at the opportunity for passenger rail based tourism in the Franklin County region.

Attracting Visitors by Passenger Rail to Franklin County, MA (PDF)
Franklin County Council of Governments | September 2017

The report starts with a review of train-based tourism programs around the country (the Downeaster, Vermont by Rail, Ski Sante Fe, and the Trails and Rails Program) in areas that are similar to the Franklin County region.

The authors of the report looked at Amtrak’s efforts to promote travel to region and found that these efforts were minimal, somewhat disjointed, and could be improved.

The report includes a number of good recommendations, including the following tasks (each task in the report includes multiple steps and parts.)

  • Request Amtrak to update its webpage for the Vermonter route
  • Request Amtrak to update its webpage for the Greenfield Station
  • Coordinate with Northampton, Holyoke, and Springfield tourism industry leaders on a number of activites
  • Develop partnerships and materials to support the local tourism industry in promoting travel by rail.

 

The report reinforces the view that we have always had — that efforts to promote passenger rail service need to driven from the local level.

 


The Millennials Disrupting Boston’s Transit System

‘They’re Bold and Fresh’: The Millennials Disrupting Boston’s Transit System
By Erick Trickey | Politico Magazine | October 25, 2018

If your interest is transit advocacy this is a must read article.

Simply put, TransitMatters is the 21st-century model for transit advocacy.

” ‘They’ve been terrific in asking us to think about things differently,’ says Joseph Aiello, chairman of the Fiscal and Management Control Board, a governor-appointed panel that oversees the T for the state department of transportation. ‘The board and staff listen to them very carefully. We don’t always agree with them, but we frequently adopt their work.’ ”

We’ve added this great story here as an inspiration transit advocacys.

 


Fall Foliage Train on the Pioneer Valley Railroad

Last year’s autumn passenger train on Pioneer Valley Railroad
Courtesy of the organizer (listed below)

Please note that both trains are now SOLD OUT

This weekend, rail or shine, the Pioneer Valley Railroad will be operating a two special passenger runs to raise money for a local charity in Holyoke.

Each train has room for 70 passengers – 60 in the passenger coach and 10 in caboose. The caboose is used as a so-called “shoving platform” for the train movement when the engine is not leading.

Here are the details:

Sat. Oct. 27th | 9 and 11 am
Holyoke to Westfield and return

Departing from
Heritage State Park, 221 Appleton St, Holyoke

Adults $40 – Children under 12, $20 (SOLD OUT)

Note that this event is sponsored by the Ancient Order of Hibernians James A. Curran Division One and the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians. Half the proceeds from the event will be used for the Hibernians’ scholarship fund.

 


Train Time in Northampton | October 8, 2018

Northampton station | October 5, 2018

In closing out this mega-post we’ll leave you with this nice image from Northampton.

The photo was emailed to us by someone who was walking along the bike path one day and wondered what was going on.

October 5th, to be clear, is the day before Columbus Day weekend when many people are traveling.

The line of people in this image — all of them — are waiting to board Amtrak Train 55, the southbound Vermonter.

The line starts on the left, loops around the parking lot, and past the historic Union Station building. It continues to the station platform then turns and goes up the access ramp at the front of the platform. The line ends at the bench on the platform.

Using the high-def image we were counted about 100 people waiting to catch the train. We couldn’t get an exact count because some people were clearly sitting on the ramp.

If the are wondering how long it took to board this crowd, the answer is 5 minutes.