Rail News Roundup #25

 

Today’s Headlines

• MassDOT’s 2020-2024 Capital Investment Plan Update

• Working on the Railroad

• Rail Pilot Marketing Funding Included in Senate Budget

• Proposed North Adams / Greenfield – Boston Rail Study Passes Senate

• Platform Progress in Greenfield & Northampton

• Holyoke | Vandalism at the Station

• Holyoke | New Freight Activity

• Hartford Line | a View from the Cab

 

CALENDAR

Public Meeting | MassDOT Capital Investment Plan Update
Thur. June 6, 2019 at 6 pm
Springfield Public Library (Mason Square Branch)
765 State St.

MassDOT East-West Passenger Rail Study
Advisory Committee Meeting #2
Planned for June 2019
Details to be announced

 


MassDOT’s 2020-2024 Capital Investment Plan Update

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has released the draft version of its 2020-2024 Capital Investment Plan (CIP) Update for public comment.

The draft plan can be found on this link:
2020-2024 Capital Investment Program Update

 

This plan is important because is details all of the planned transportation and transit infrastructure spending for the four-year period starting on July 1, 2019.

We focus on this plan each year because it helps us to better understand MassDOT’s plan for rail infrastructure improvements in our region.

You can participate in this process by attending a CIP Public Meeting and/or submitting comments to MassDOT on the plan.

Public Meeting | MassDOT Capital Investment Plan
Thur. June 6, 2019 at 6 pm
Springfield Public Library
(Mason Square Branch)
765 State St.

If you cannot attend this meeting you may wish to view the recorded video of the CIP public meeting that was held in Boston on May 21st.

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We have extracted all of key data, for the rail projects in our region, from the draft CIP and summarized the data in this two-page worksheet.

Public comments

If you wish to leave comments on planned rail projects in our region follow these steps:

  1. Click on this link to the CIP Comment Tool
  2. Click on the “2019 Rail and Transit Division Projects” tab on the right
  3. Click on “Rail Line Projects” and/or “Statewide Rail Projects”

 

Alternatively comments can be submitted by email to MassCIP@state.ma.us

Keep in mind that the public comment period ends on Monday, June 10, 2019.

Further reading
MassDOT 2020-2024 CIP Update
A page on the Trains In The Valley website

 


Working on the Railroad

As many people have noticed, there’s a lot of track work taking place on the north-south rail corridor in the valley at the moment.

We went out to have a look last week and here’s what we found just off of Route 5 in Easthampton.

Track workers and their machines moving south on the Conn River Main Line | looking north
Easthampton, Ma. | May 31, 2019

What’s happening is that MassDOT’s contractor LM Heavy Civil Construction is replacing ties on the state-owned Conn River Main Line.

This crew started in Greenfield about a month ago and is slowly and methodically working its way south to Springfield — as they replace thousands of old ties along the rail line used by Amtrak’s Vermonter and Pan Am Railways.

On a good day the crew can replace over 900 ties during its eight-hour work window, which runs from 5 am to 1 pm.

 

New ties being inserted under the rails on the Conn River Main Line | looking east
Easthampton, Ma. | May 31, 2019

 

New and old ties along the Conn River Main Line
Easthampton, Ma. | May 31, 2019

 

Track workers on the Conn River Main Line | looking east
Easthampton, Ma. | May 31, 2019

Not all of the work is done by machine. In this image workers can be seen positioning tie plates between the rails and the new ties.

 

Tie replacement on the Conn River Main Line | looking south
Easthampton, Ma. | May 31, 2019

Funding for this project was provided in the current MassDOT Capital Investment Plan.

Further reading
Infrastructure | Current Projects
A page on the Trains In The Valley website with information on the many infrastructure projects in progress across our region.

 


Rail Marketing Funding Included in Senate Budget

Amendment 705 to the Senate version of the State Budget — which calls $250,000 to be allocated for marketing the planned new passenger rail service between Greenfield and New Haven — was passed in the state Senate on May 21, 2019.

Heartfelt thanks go out to Senators Jo Comerford and Eric Lesser, and their staff, for all the work that they did to get this amendment through the budget process in the Senate.

Why do you need to market this service you might ask?

Because, for the new service to be really successful (which is what we want) there needs to be a robust marketing effort to make people aware of the new service.

Then we need to do some marketing to get people out of their cars on the train (first-time train riders in particular).

And then we need to be able to offer special promotions to fill seats that might otherwise be empty.

Next stop… the Senate budget goes to a Conference Committee where it will be reconciled with House version of the budget, and then it must be signed by the by Governor Baker — two steps that are not at all certain.

CALL TO ACTION

If you support additional rail service between Greenfield and New Haven, then please reach out to the members of the Conference Committee [LISTED HERE] and

ask them to support the funding in the budget for a marketing campaign to be managed by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission in support of Knowledge Corridor pilot program, which expands train service along the Holyoke, Northampton, and Greenfield line. (Referenced as Section 2, item 7007-0300)

Further reading
“Senate adds $250K to budget for Knowledge Corridor”
By Anita Fritz | The Greenfield Recorder | May 28, 2019

 


Proposed North Adams / Greenfield – Boston Rail Study Passes Senate

Amendment 30 to the Senate version of the State Budget — which calls for a study of the feasibility of passenger rail service between North Adams, Greenfield and Boston — was passed in the state Senate on May 21, 2019.

To move forward, the language calling for a study must be included in the budget that comes out of the 2020 Budget Conference Committee, and then it must be signed by the by Governor Baker — two steps that are not at all certain.

CALL TO ACTION

If you support a study of the feasibility of passenger rail service between North Adams, Greenfield and Boston, then please reach out to the members of the Conference Committee [LISTED HERE] and

ask them to support the outside section that calls for a feasibility study of rail access between the cities of North Adams and Boston. (Referenced as Section 107).

Further reading

“Plenty of people on board with resurrecting passenger rail linking North Adams, Boston”
By Adam Shanks | The Berkshire Eagle | June 1, 2019

Proposed Northern Tier Rail Study
Trains In The Valley

 


Platform Progress in Greenfield & Northampton

The project underway to extend the station platforms in Greenfield and Northampton continues to move forward.

The progress photos below show that most of the timber work is now well underway.

Greenfield station | looking south | May 22, 2019
Courtesy of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments

 

Amtrak Train 55 in the station at Northampton | looking south
Northampton, Ma. | June 3, 2019

This image shows the new section of platform located just to the south of the existing 43-foot station platform.

Further reading

Greenfield platform extension project
Trains In The Valley

Northampton platform extension project
Trains In The Valley

 


Holyoke | Vandalism at the station

Holyoke station | May 22, 2019

The station in Holyoke was recently vandalized when someone decided to smash two of the large decorative glass panels at the north end of the station structure.

The remaining panels have since been removed as the city takes steps to replace the panels.

 


Holyoke | New Freight Activity

Holyoke rail yard as viewed from South Canal St | looking north | May 22, 2019

Pan Am Railways has a new freight customer.

What you see here in this image are flatcars loaded with with 20′ containers.

The containers arrive by rail empty in Holyoke and are trucked to Republic Services in Chicopee. They are filled with municipal solid waste and then trucked back to Holyoke were they are loaded onto flatcars. Pan Am then picks the cars as an outbound movement.

 


Hartford Line | a View from the Cab

This recent video shows the complete journey of a CTrail Hartford Line train, traveling from New Haven to Springfield, as viewed from the front of the train.

Here is the caption that was posted on YouTube for the video:

Driver’s eye view of the entire Hartford / Springfield Line from New Haven to Springfield, courtesy of the friendly train crew. We were even lucky enough to get a set with SLE Mafersa cars, with cab car 1703 sporting a fine sounding raised letter K5LA. Maximum operating speed for CTrail is 80 MPH. Enjoy the ride =)

We know that not everyone is interested in such stuff, but we thought it was useful to post since the video allows the viewer to take a quick look (using fast forward) of the entire 62-mile rail corridor.

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

 

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.

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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

A Snow Day Activity

Here’s an activity for rail advocates looking for something new to do while it continues to snow outside.

As part of the process to update its five-year Capital Investment Plan, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is seeking input from the public until the end of this week.

If you have comments or suggestions on current or future state transportation projects, programs, priorities, and/or concerns, now is the time to submit your ideas and thoughts to MassDOT as part of this process.

Station platforms and tracks | Springfield, Ma. | March 6, 2017

 

In particular, we would encourage you to submit your comments in support of the following rail priorities for our region:

1. Additional passenger rail service north of Springfield
– ideally, the extension of a few Hartford Line trains past Springfield to Greenfield

2. Expanded passenger rail service between Springfield and Boston
– e.g., an extension of the planned Hartford Line service from Springfield to Boston

3. A second high-level platform at Springfield Union Station
– only one high-level platform is currently funded

4. and any other ideas and suggestions that you wish MassDOT to consider, including those related to state highways, the MBTA and the Regional Transit Agencies (i.e. PVTA and the FRTA.)

 

Your ideas and comments may be submitted one of two ways:

1. using MassDOT’s online comment tool, or

2. by sending an email to masscip@state.ma.us

Your comments do not have to be long or perfect to be heard by MassDOT and to have an impact.

Note that MassDOT will be accepting comments until Friday, March 17th at 5 pm.

 

The Draft 2018-2022 Capital Investment Plan will be released in late March or early April.

Once the draft has been released, MassDOT will schedule a series of public meetings to seek public input on the draft plan.

 


Further information

Capital Investment Plan | Official web page (MassDOT)

2018-2022 CIP update: Joint Board Presentation (PDF)
January 23, 2017