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…



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

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:

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 #8


Today’s Headlines

• Trains In The Valley Event | Dec 13th

• Rail Advocacy Matters

• Survey Reveals Wide Support for East-West Rail

• Will Western Mass Ever Get High-Speed Rail

• Proposed Schedules for the Hartford Line

• Town Centers on the Hartford Line Reinvigorated

• Northampton Underpass Opens

• New “Vermont By Rail” Brochure

• MassDOT Applies for Grant to Upgrade NECR Line

• Visualizing Public Transit Data



The Hartford Line – Coming Soon (DETAILS BELOW)
with John E. Bernick, P.E., CTDOT
We. December 13, 2017 | 6 pm – 7:30 pm

Central Library Community Room
Springfield Central Library
220 State Street Springfield, MA

Registration link:


Trains In The Valley Event | Dec 13th

We are pleased to announce the first in a series of free rail related events that Trains In The Valley will be hosting in the Pioneer Valley.

Please join us in Springfield on December 13th, 2017 to hear John Bernick, Asst. Rail Administrator for the Connecticut Department of Transportation, talk in detail about the new CTrail Hartford line service which will launch in May 2018.

Source: https://pvraildotorg.files.wordpress.com/2017/11/tiv-dec-2017-event-flyer.pdf


You may register for this event on this link

The next event in this series will be in Greenfield on February 1, 2018. (details to follow)


Rail Advocacy Matters

East-West rail supporters in front of the State House with Senator Lesser
Dan Glaun | MassLive | October 24, 2017

On the morning of October 24th, 2017 a hearing was held before the Joint Committee on Transportation in Boston.

The agenda for this hearing included discussion related to Bill S.1935, An Act to study the feasibility of high-speed rail access between Springfield and Boston.

Attending this hearing was a group of citizens — pictured in the image above — who gave up their day to ride a charter bus from Springfield to Boston to testify in support of expanded rail service between Springfield in Boston.

These were people like you and me. People who want to be able to step on a train and travel across our state without dealing with traffic on the Mass Pike.

Senator Eric Lesser deserves a great deal of credit for sponsoring the bus that transported these citizens on this chilly October day.

But the real credit goes to the people who took the time to take the bus — who took the time to speak up in support of this issue and this cause.

For those citizens, we say THANK YOU.


Here is a listing of people and organizations (as of October 31, 2017) who testified in support of expanded passenger rail service between Springfield and Boston:

35 citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (pictured above)


Tom Ryan | A Better City
Peter Vi | Amherst Chamber of Commerce
Nathaniel Karns | Berkshire Regional Planning Commission
James Rooney | Boston Chamber of Commerce
Mayor Bronin | City of Hartford, CT
Mayor Sarno | City of Springfield
Governor Michael Dukakis
Representative Ashe
Representative Decker
Representative Farley-Bouvier
Representative Gonzalez
Representative Kocot
Representative Mark
Representative Pignatelli
Representative Smola
Representative Tosado
Representative Williams
Senator Barrett
Senator Chandler
Senator Cyr
Senator Fattman
Senator Friedman
Senator Gobi
Senator Hinds
Senator Humason
Senator Lewis
Senator O’Connor
Senator Welch
Ed Zemba | East of the River Chamber of Commerce
Ben Hellerstein | Environment Massachusetts
Thomas Lachiusa | Longmeadow Select Board
Marc Draisen | Metropolitan Area Planning Council
Clint Richmond | Massachusetts Sierra Club
Roger Crandall | MassMutual
Matt Casale | MassPIRG
Seth Stratton | MGM
Joe Aiello | National Association of Railroad Passengers
Tim Brennan | Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
Kenneth Shea | Springfield City Council
Nancy Creed | Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce
Rebecca Townsend | Trains In The Valley
Charlie Ticotsky | Transportation for Massachusetts
Congressman Neal | US House of Representatives
Robin Wozniak | West of River Chamber of Commerca

Further reading

Testimony before the Joint Committee on Transportation (PDF)
Rebecca Townsend | Founding member of Trains In The Valley
October 24, 2017

“Sen. Eric Lesser busing constituents from Springfield to Boston for rail hearing”
By Shira Schoenberg | The Republican | October 18, 2017


University Survey Reveals Wide Support for East-West Rail

Source: http://www1.wne.edu/news/2017/11/highspeed-rail-tables.pdf (page 2)

From the Press Release linked below

Establishing high-speed rail service between Springfield and Boston has significant support across the state, according to a recent survey from the Western New England University Polling Institute.

The telephone survey of 468 adults, conducted Oct. 24 through Nov. 7, found that 74 percent supported the idea, while 10 percent were opposed, 15 percent were unsure, and 1 percent declined to answer. The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Support was greatest in Western Massachusetts, where 87 percent of survey respondents endorsed the concept, but large majorities in other parts of the state also backed the proposal. Eighty percent of residents surveyed in Central Massachusetts supported the idea, as did 73 percent in Boston and surrounding suburbs, and 68 percent on the North and South Shores.

Backing for the idea also crossed party lines, with 80 percent of Democrats and 80 percent of Republicans expressing support, along with 68 percent of unenrolled voters.

The sample includes 437 residents who said they are registered to vote, and the margin of error for the sub-sample of registered voters is plus or minus five percentage points.

Survey respondents who expressed support for or opposition to high-speed rail had an opportunity to explain why in their own words. The most common reasons for supporting high-speed rail were the need to reduce traffic on the Massachusetts Turnpike between Springfield and Boston, the environmental benefits of having fewer cars on the road, and improved access to jobs in Boston and affordable housing in Western Massachusetts.

Other respondents said that high–speed rail would create a greater sense of parity between Western and Eastern Massachusetts.

Further Reading

University Survey Finds Strong Support for Springfield-Boston High-Speed Rail Service
Press Release | Western New England University Polling Institute | November 13, 2017

Survey Results (PDF)


Will Western Mass Ever Get High-Speed Rail?

“Will Western Mass Ever Get High-Speed Rail?”
By Chris Goudreaue | Valley Advocate | October 23, 2017
Source: http://valleyadvocate.com/2017/10/23/will-western-mass-ever-get-high-speed-rail/

“Will Western Mass Ever Get High-Speed Rail?”
By Chris Goudreaue | Valley Advocate | October 23, 2017

Those interested in the topic of expanded rail service on the Boston – Springfield – New Haven Corridor should read this article by Chris Goudreau.

It’s a nice piece, with a lot of great reporting on the topic — including details of Peter Pan’s 3-hour run to Boston, which departs at 5.15 am from Springfield Union Station.


Proposed Schedules for the Hartford Line

Last week the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) released a preliminary set of schedule for the CTrail Hartford Line service.

Keep in mind that these schedules are subject to change.

Source: http://www.ct.gov/dot/lib/dot/CTrail_Hartford_Line_Proposed_Weekday_Schedule_Poster.pdf
Source: http://www.ct.gov/dot/lib/dot/CTrail_Hartford_Line_Proposed_Weekend_Schedule_Poster.pdf

The proposed schedules appear very comprehensive, but there is a significant omission.

The weekday schedule does not include any service that would allow someone in Connecticut to commute to Springfield and start work between 8 am and 9 am (the normal start time for many businesses.) The only northbound weekday train to Springfield (in the proposed schedule) arrives at 6.20 am which is simply too early for most people.

Also of note — the proposed schedule removes about 20 minutes of time in the Vermonter’s scheduled run between Springfield and New Haven. (this is a good news.)


CTDOT hosted Fare Hearings in New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield last week. The hearing in New Haven was the subject of an interesting and detailed news report which is linked below.

Please note that there is still time to submit comments to CTDOT regarding the proposed fares and service for the Hartford Line.

To provide a comment follow the instructions on this link http://www.ct.gov/dot/hartfordlinecomments

Note that public comments on the proposed fares and service must be received by November 27, 2017.

Further Reading

“Next Stop: Springfield! 12 Times A Day”
By Thomas Breen / The New Haven Independent | November 14, 2017


Town Centers on the Hartford Line Being Reinvigorated

Cloe Poisson | Hartford Magazine

“Communities On The Line:
Town Centers With Hartford Rail Stops Are Being Reinvigorated”
By Leonard Felson | Hartford Courant | November 6, 2017

The writer looks at the economic development impacts that are already being felt in towns and cities along the CTrail Hartford line, even before its planned opening in May 2018.

It also speaks to a fundamental problem Michael Gallis, a Charlotte, N.C.-based consultant, identified in a 1999 report on how the state can compete in a global economy.

Without improved and frequent rail service, the capital region is effectively rendered a transportation cul-de-sac, cut off from New York, the most powerful economic engine in the Northeast, if not the U.S.

That changes with the Hartford Line, something Gallis applauds, though he says high-speed rail would be an even greater game-changer.


Please note that the statement in the article about future rail service from Hartford to Boston is not totally correct.

The draft State Rail Plan Update for Massachusetts has not yet been released and we would be surprised if the soon-to-be-released draft plan did not outline some sort of path forward for connecting the New Haven–Hartford–Springfield passenger rail corridor to Boston.


Northampton Underpass Opens

The long talked about bike/pedestrian underpass in Northampton — under the Connecticut River Main Line — was officially opened November 9, 2017.

Amtrak train 57 — the southbound Vermonter — passing over the new underpass
Northampton, Ma. | November 12, 2017

MassDOT opened the underpass to the public after declaring that the project was substantially complete.

Additional images can be found on the link below.

See Also

Infrastructure > Current Projects > Northampton Underpass


New “Vermont By Rail” Brochure

The Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing has published a new 3-page brochure [ Vermont By Rail (PDF) ] to highlight travel to the Green Mountain State.

You can find this brochure at the Olver Transit Center in Greenfield and on the platform in Northampton. We are also in the process of distributing copies of the brochure to local Chambers of Commerce in the Pioneer Valley.


MassDOT Applies for Grant to Upgrade NECR Freight Line

NECR 722

New England Central Railroad at Palmer, Mass. | Derek S/Flickr

MassDOT has recently applied for a federal Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant to upgrade the Massachusetts portion of the New England Central Railroad (NECR) rail line.

This project would upgrade more than 31 miles of track and twenty bridge structures on the NECR route. The work in Massachusetts would close a “gap” in the “286k-lb. rail network” that is being built in Vermont and Connecticut. The current industry-standard for heavy axle rail freight cars is 286,000 gross lbs. and these cars cannot be handled on many parts NECR’s rail line in Massachusetts at the moment.

Presumably this federal money, if granted, would be used along with the $9 million allocated for this project in the 2018-2022 MassDOT Capital Investment Plan and funds provided by NECR’s parent company Genesee & Wyoming Inc.

Further Reading
MassDOT seeks federal grant for New England Central Railroad project
Progressing Railroading | November 13, 2017


Visualizing Public Transit Data

TRAVIC | Transit Visualization Client (screen shot)
Massachusetts | November 16, 2017 } 4:32 pm EST

Every now and then we come across something really neat that is a little off-topic. This is one of those cases.

If you click on the map above you will find your way to a TRAVIC, a Data Visualization Client that provides movement visualization for public transit data.

The map shows the movement of trains, trams, buses, subways, and other transit vehicles based on combination of static schedule data and real-time data. The data is sourced from 673 data feeds, 62 of which show real-time information.

Things to try —

  • Zoom in on the Springfield and look at the movement of the PVTA bus fleet.
  • Zoom in to New York City and see what a dense network of subways, buses and commuter trains looks like.
  • Zoom in on Germany and see what a rail network with nearly 15 million departure events a day looks like.

Yes, its amazing.