Rail News Roundup #26

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Today’s Headlines

• Amtrak Finally Moves into Springfield Union Station

• Hartford Line | the One Year Anniversary

• Northampton | Station Parking News

• Northampton | A Bridge to Low

• Senators Comerford and Lesser Speak about Rail service

• Draft Pioneer Valley 2020 Regional Transportation Plan Update

• Springfield | State St Crossing Closed by Amtrak

• Springfield | Clinton St Crossing gets Warning Lights

• A Rail Milestone in the Berkshires

 

CALENDAR

2020 Region Transportation Plan Update
Public Meetings

Springfield
Tues. June 25, 2019 | 7 pm
Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
60 Congress Street

Northampton
Wed. June 26, 2019 | 7 pm
City Hall, 201 Main Street
2nd Floor Hearing Room

Westfield
Thur. June 27, 2019 | 7 pm
City Hall, 59 Court Street

Further details below.

 

MassDOT East-West Passenger Rail Study
Advisory Committee Meeting #2
May 14, 2019 – POSTPONED

New Date | July 23, 2019 from 1 pm – 3 pm
Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place Hotel
Mahogany Room, Second Floor

 


Amtrak Finally Moves into Springfield Union Station

Amtrak moved its Springfield ticket office into the main hall at Union Station on June 6, 2019 — nearly two years after the historic station was re-opened to the public — and on the following day they closed their 1990s-era waiting room at track level.

Here are a few pictures that visually summarize “moving day” for Amtrak in Springfield.

Amtrak’s waiting room at track level on its last day
Springfield, Ma. | June 6, 2019

 

The soon-to-be opened Amtrak ticket office at Springfield Union Station | June 6, 2019

 

The existing stairway to Platform D
Springfield Union Station | June 6, 2019

 

The new Amtrak ticket office at Springfield Union Station | June 6, 2019

 

Not to bury the lede… but in related news, it has been announced that the new high-level platform at the station is expect to open in July.

Further reading

“Amtrak Moves Passenger Services To Springfield’s Union Station”
By Paul Tuthill | WAMC | June 11, 2019

 


Hartford Line | the One Year Anniversary

A southbound train out of Springfield rips through banner at Hartford Union Station, marking inaugural run for the Hartford Line
Photo by Mark Mirko / Hartford Courant

“Hartford Line beats expectations with 634,000 trips in first year”
By Russell Blair | Hartford Courant | June 17, 2019

 

Great news for the Hartford Line!

Ridership on the new rail service exceeded expectations, with an estimated 634,000 trips during the rail line’s first year of operation.

The busiest day of the year was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, when 3,500 riders used the service.

Also included in the announcement was news that the Connecticut Department of Transportation intends to start construction of a new Hartford Line station in Windsor Locks in 2020. (Bids for the new station are scheduled to be advertised on May 13, 2020.)

Further information

Hartford Line One Year Report (PDF)
Connecticut Dept. of Transportation | June 17, 2019

Video | Hartford Line beats expectations with 634k passengers in first year (15:22)
Office of Gov. Ned Lamont | June 17, 2019

 


Northampton | Station Parking News

The extension of the train platform off Pleasant Street in Northampton continues
Carol Lollis / Daily Hampshire Gazette | June 10, 2019

“Train station expansion nearly finished in Northampton, parking management changes in works”
By Bera Dunau | Daily Hampshire Gazette | June 12, 2019

 

A recent article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette provided an update on the evolving parking situation at the Union Station lots in Northampton.

As many people are aware, passengers wishing to take the train from Northampton unfortunately can’t park at the station today.

This parking situation is expected to change this summer when the owner of the lot at Union Station completes the installation of an an automated parking control system — with a new gate to be located at the Pleasant Street exit from the lot.

According to the article, parking will then cost $0.75/hour which works out to $18 for a 24-hour period. This hourly rate is that same rate that is currently charged by the city at E. J. Gare Municipal Garage in downtown Northampton.

Clearly these rates are high compare to the $10 weekday ($6 Sat or Sun) maximum rate at the Olver Street Parking Garage in Greenfield, or the $5 “daily commuter rate” at the Union Station Garage in Springfield.

 


Northampton | A Bridge to Low

Cars passing under the bridges above Bridge Street
Daily Hampshire Gazette | June 17, 2019

“Despite city’s best efforts, low bridge still taking hits”
By Bera Dunau | Daily Hampshire Gazette | June 17, 2019

 

Early this month yet another tractor-trailer got stuck after attempting to pass under the railroad bridge that carries the Connecticut River Main Line over Main Street in Northampton. This bridge, which is only 11′ 0″ above the road surface, is too low for some vehicles.

The article, linked above, got us thinking. . . isn’t there a way that this could be solved with technology?

The short answer is yes, and last week we set the “maxheight” parameter for this bridge on the OpenStreetMap site to 11′ 0″.

 

Screenshot of the OpenStreetView site (in edit mode) | June 19, 2019

This is important because many navigation products (Garmin in particular) use the data from OpenStreetMap as a primary data source.

Will this solve the problem of trucks driving into this bridge? No, it won’t, but it should help.

Many drivers don’t use navigation devices and some use navigation apps (such as Waze) that do not use the bridge height data when navigating.

Time will tell whether or not this change reduces the number of bridge strikes on Main Street. We hope it does.

Further reading

“Tractor-trailer gets jammed under Northampton railroad bridge”
By Dusty Christensen | Daily Hampshire Gazette | June 11, 2019

 


Senators Comerford and Lesser Speak about Rail service

 

In this interesting ten minute interview Senators Jo Comerford (D-Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester) and Eric Lesser (D-First Hampden and Hampshire) talk in depth with Carrie Saldo of WGBY about their efforts to secure funding to support marketing of the planned new Greenfield – New Haven passenger rail service.

 


Draft Pioneer Valley 2020 Regional Transportation Plan

Happening this week 

On Tuesday this week the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission is expected to release its draft 2020 Pioneer Valley Regional Transportation Plan (RTP).

The RTP outlines the direction of transportation planning and improvements for the Pioneer Valley for the next twenty years, through to the year 2040. Importantly, it provides the basis for all state and federally funded transportation improvement projects and planning studies.

This plan is only updated every five years so its important for interested parties to speak up now, since the next chance to review this plan won’t occur again until 2024.

With that said, we would encourage you to —

  1. Attend one of the public meetings this week in Northampton, Springfield or Westfield; (meeting dates and locations can be found in the calendar section above)
  2. Review the draft RTP (on the link below) when it is released on Tuesday; and
  3. Provide written comments on the RTP as detailed in the link below.

Comments on the draft RTP are due by July 15, 2019.

Our experience suggests that pubic input to planning efforts like this one can and does make a make a difference.

We strongly encourage you to offer your input to the draft plan, in particular in support of expanded passenger rail service in our region.

For further information about the draft Pioneer Valley RTP — including links to the draft plan and details on how to provide comments — please click on the project link below:

Pioneer Valley Regional Transportation Plan

 


Springfield | State Street Crossing Closed by Amtrak

State Street crossing | looking west
Springfield, Ma. | June 10, 2019

The State Street crossing of the Amtrak rail line in Springfield is now blocked by locked gates (shown above) on both sides of the tracks.

We assume that this step was taken for safety reasons.

This crossing until last year provided a means for pedestrian to access the Connecticut River Walk, over a railroad crossing that was not protected by automatic warning signals (bells, lights and gates.)

 

New signs at the crossing instruct people who wish to cross the tracks to use either the underpass just to the north of this location or the overpass to the south, which is behind LA Fitness.

Amtrak’s future plans are for this crossing are not known to us at the moment.

Further reading

“Springfield’s Riverfront Park reopens after $3.1 million renovation project”
By Peter Goonan | The Republican | June 12, 2019

“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

 


Springfield | Clinton Street Crossing gets Warning Lights

Clinton Street crossing | looking east
Springfield, Ma. | June 10, 2019

Pan Am Railways recently completed the installation of new active warning lights at the Clinton Street crossing in Springfield.

This crossing until recently was only marked with passive crossbuck signs.

We assume that this work, which is funded by MassDOT, was done to increase the safety at this railroad crossings, which is a good thing for sure.

 


A Rail Milestone in the Berkshires

Earlier this month the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC) released a draft copy of their 20-year Regional Transportation plan.

On page 33 of the 288-page document is this chart which lists transportation service projects that were ranked according to the BRPC’s scoring framework rating system.

What is particularly interesting about this table is the focus on expanding passenger rail service in the Berkshires and in particular the clear priority assigned to the re-establishment of passenger rail service along the Housatonic Line corridor.

The Housatonic Line, which runs generally south from Pittsfield to Danbury, would allow for intra-regional travel along the corridor and potentially could once again open a direct passenger rail connecting between the Berkshires and the New York City.

Is this going to happen tomorrow? No. But people should not underestimate the importance of what has happened here.

The regional planning organization for the region, the Berkshire Planning Commission has now said that re-establishing passenger rail service along this line is a priority transportation service project for the region in the long term transportation plan.

This is a big step for passenger rail in western Massachusetts. The goal has now been set by the BRPC and now we simply have to find a way to reach this goal, over time.

Further reading

The Train Campaign
A regional advocacy group in the Berkshire working for the restoration of passenger rail service on the Housatonic Line.

Rail News Roundup #24

 

Today’s Headlines

• Proposed Northern Tier Rail Study

• Vermonter Ridership Continues to Rise

• New Greenfield Service Pushed Back to Late Summer

• Working on the Railroad

• Springfield | Platform C Update

• Boston City Council Votes for East-West Rail

• New Website for Citizens for a Palmer Rail Stop

• Holyoke | Cars in the Freight Yard

• WGBY video | Freight Rail in Western Mass

 

CALENDAR

POSTPONED: Advisory Committee Meeting #2
MassDOT East-West Passenger Rail Study
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
1 p.m. – 3 p.m.
1500 Main St
Springfield, Ma.

 


Proposed Northern Tier Rail Study

Joint Committee on Transportation hearing | May 14, 2019
Massachusetts State House | Boston, Ma.

On Tuesday May 14, 2019 Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester) and Rep. Mindy Domb (D-3rd Hampshire) appeared before the Joint Committee on Transportation to offer their testimony in support of Bill S.2054, “An Act to examine the feasibility of rail service between North Adams, Greenfield and Boston.”

Comerford presented her own testimony, and provided the committee with over 700 comments for constituents in her district.

The comments poured in after she reached out with this Facebook post last Friday afternoon.

Also offering testimony at the hearing, in support of the study, were Joseph Aiello, Northeast Field Coordinator for the Rail Passengers Association, and Clint Richmond, Co-Chair of the Transportation Committee and Executive Committee member of the Massachusetts Sierra Club .

Clint Richmond offered the Sierra Club’s support for the proposed study and pointed out that proposed Northern Tier Route could create many more new destination pairs, such as Fitchburg–Springfield and importantly Boston to Vermont/Montreal via Greenfield.

He also made the strong point that such a service would connect numerous gateway cities in the commonwealth and that it will complement the proposed Boston-Springfield route.

In related news, Sen. Comerford and Sen. Anne Gobi (D-Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire and Middlesex) have introduced Amendment 30 to the Senate version of the draft 2020 Massachusetts State Budget.

If the amendment is approved as part of the budget process, which is not at all certain, a study of the feasibility of passenger rail service between North Adams and Boston would commence on June 1, 2020 and be completed no later than June 1, 2021.

See also

Proposed Northern Tier Rail Study
A new page on the Trains In The Valley website

Further reading

“Comerford files bill for east-west rail study”
By Anita Fritz | Greenfield Recorder | May 14, 2019

“Lawmakers pitch northern rail route to Western Mass”
By Colin A. Young | State House News Service | May 14, 2019

 


Vermonter Ridership Continues to Rise

The Amtrak Vermonter pulls into the station at the Olver Transit Center
Courtesy the Greenfield Recorder

“Passenger rail ridership continues to climb on the Valley line”
By Beru Dunau | Daily Hampshire Gazette | May 6, 2019

The good news just keeps on coming.

Ridership in the Pioneer Valley on the Vermonter for the last fiscal year exceeded 32,000 riders — with Northampton the busiest station, with almost 22,000 riders.

Further reading

Vermonter data
A page on the Trains In The Valley site with detailed ridership data for the Vermonter.

 


New Greenfield Service Pushed Back to Late Summer

Amtrak train at Springfield Union Station
Greenfield Recorder / Paul Franz

Greenfield to see extended passenger rail service by end of summer
By Anita Fritz | Greenfield Recorder | May 2, 2019

The headline sounds like good news, but what actually is happening is that the start of the new Greenfield service is being pushed back from June to late summer.

Back in June of 2018 Governor Charlie Baker announced that the new service would start in the spring of 2019. Then immediately following his formal announcement MassDOT said that the service would start in June 2019.

Why the delay? The news article does not say, but it looks to us like some of the infrastructure projects along the corridor are taking a little longer than planned.

Yes, the delay is frustrating, but everyone should keep in mind that operating a passenger rail service is much more complicated than people imagine.

Simply put, the service will start when MassDOT, Amtrak and CTDOT are ready and not a moment sooner.

Further reading

Passenger Rail | Valley Flyer
A page on the Trains In The Valley website with information about the planned new new service.

 


Working on the Railroad

Maintenance of Way equipment parked for the weekend on a siding | Sat. May 4, 2019
just off of South Main St. in South Deerfield | looking north

The equipment in this image is being used for a large tie replacement project that is now underway along the MassDOT-owned rail corridor between Springfield and Greenfield.

While this work is taking place travelers should expect that the Vermonter may be slightly delayed (10-15 minutes) at stations in the region until they are finished with the work.

The delays occur because of one or more temporary “slow orders” that are put in place in the work zone where the ties are being replaced. A slow order then remains in effect for a period of time after the work is completed while they wait for the track to fully settle.

As of today (May 17, 2019) the tie crew was reported to be working in Hatfield. The crew is working their way south and should arrive in Northampton sometime next week.

Some of you may wonder what we are looking at in this image. The machine at the head of the line is a Harsco Rail Mark IV Production/Switch Tamper. It is used to pack (or tamp) the ballast in and around the ties and to set the proper level for each rail of the track.

Further reading

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

 


Springfield | Platform C Update

A lot has happened at the high-level platform work site at Springfield Union Station in the past few weeks.

By late April the contractor had the site ready for the installation of the precast concrete sections for the new high-level platform at the station.

A large mobile crane was then setup on Lyman St for about a week so that the precast concrete sections could be lifted from flatbed trucks at street level and then carefully placed onto the new foundations at track level.

 

Crane in position on Lyman St | April 23, 2019
By Hoang ‘Leon’ Nguyen / The Republican

If you’re wondering, this crane would appear to be a Liebherr LTM 1500 crane. Its maximum load capacity is 550 tons.

 

Springfield Union Station as viewed from the top of the garage | looking east | April 29, 2019

 

Platform C (now under construction) | looking east
Springfield Union Station | May 9, 2019

Here you can see the high-level platform, in its current form, with all of precast concert sections now installed.

You can also see that the newly installed structural members for the canopy, which was fabricated using steel from the historic canopy at the station.

When complete the platform will be accessed from the concourse level of the station via a new elevator and new set of stairs.

Further reading

“Crane lifts Platform C into place at Springfield Union Station”
By Jim Kinney | The Republican | April 24, 2019

 


Boston City Council Votes for East-West Rail

On May 1, 2019 the Boston City Council adopted a resolution supporting East-West rail service between Boston and Springfield.

The resolution, which is shown below, was adopted by unanimous vote of the council.

Resolution Adopted by the Boston City Council | May 1, 2019

Further reading

Boston City Council votes to support Springfield-to-Boston high-speed passenger rail
By Shira Shoenberg | The Republican | May 1, 2019

 


New Website for Citizens for a Palmer Rail Stop

We are happy to report that the new website for Citizens for a Palmer Rail Stop is now live.

PalmerTrain.org

Interested parties may also wish to visit the Facebook group for this organization.
Facebook.com/palmertrain

 


Holyoke | Cars in the Freight Yard

Holyoke rail yard as viewed from South Canal St | looking north | May 9, 2019

This seemingly nondescript image shows something that until recently has not been seen in Holyoke for quite a few years.

What you are looking at are five freight cars on the interchange track in Holyoke. This track is used to transfer cars between the Pioneer Valley Railroad (PVRR) and Pan Am Railways.

The reopening of the interchange track was made possible by a MassDOT Industrial Rail Access Grant (IRAP) to the PVRR. The IRAP funds along with funds provide by the railroad were used to repair of the bridge that carries the PVRR tracks over the Second Level Canal near Lyman Street.

We have been told that the three northernmost cars are center-beam flatcars that are used for hauling building and lumber materials. These flatcars were unloaded at the Lowe’s Distribution Center in Westfield and are now headed back empty.

The first two cars are gondolas which are normally used for hauling scrap material. Its unclear what they were doing on the PVRR system, but it could be that they were at Rescar Industries in Westfield being repaired.

 


WGBY video | Freight Rail in Western Mass.

The video below, which was produced by WGBY in Springfield, provides a nice overview of the freight rail system in western Massachusetts.

Here is the caption on YouTube that goes with this video:

When the Pinsley Rail Company purchased the railroad formerly operated by Conrail in 1982 and turned it into what is now known as the Pioneer Valley Railroad, it ushered in a new era for the short line rail industry in Western Massachusetts.

Since that time, Pinsley’s client list, warehouses, and distribution services have continues to grow along with rail service.

Connecting Point’s Brian Sullivan chased trains around several 413 towns to get a look at the state of rail freight transport in Western Mass.

Rail News Roundup #22

 

Today’s Headlines

• East-West Rail Study | Public Meeting on March 12th

• Electeds Call for ‘Fair’ Rail Fares

• Northampton | Station Extension Work Begins

• Springfield | Union Station Update

• Palmer | UMass led Station Study Kicks-Off

• Vermont | Track Improvement Grant Approved

• New Hampshire | Vermonter Hits Empty Vehicle on Tracks

• Natick | Planned Station Improvements

• PVPC Exec. Director Tim Brennan to Retire

 

Calendar

Public Meeting | East–West Passenger Rail Study
Tue. March 12, 2019 | 6 pm – 8 pm
UMass Center at Springfield
1500 Main St (Tower Square)
Springfield, MA

Palmer Rail Stop Study Meeting
Sat. March 16th | 9 am – 12 Noon
Palmer High School Cafeteria
4105 Main Street
Palmer, MA
(details below)

 


East-West Rail Study | Public Meeting on March 12th

Meeting Flyer (PDF) | English  Spanish

MassDOT will host a public meeting for the East-West Rail Passenger Rail Study at the UMass Center in Springfield on March 12th, 2019. (meeting details can be in the flyer above)

According to MassDOT, the goal of the meeting is to:

  • Inform attendees about the study scope and existing conditions on the corridor
  • Learn from attendees about what they would like to see in rail service alternatives

The meeting will begin with a presentation at 6:00 PM, followed by time for Q&A.

The open house will begin at 6:45 PM, where participants will be able to view study materials in more detail and speak directly with members of the study team.

Parking: If you would like to park in the Tower Square garage, parking will be validated at $5 per car. Meeting attendees can park on all levels but are encouraged to park on Level A.

If you wish to learn more about the study before the meeting please have a look at the presentation and summary notes that MassDOT posted online after the December 2018 meeting of the East-West Rail Advisory Committee.

For those who cannot attend the public meeting — all meeting materials will be posted online and feedback/comments accepted via email.

If you wish to submit written comments regarding east-west rail service alternatives please email them to MassDOT Project Manager Jennifer Slesinger at jennifer.slesinger@dot.state.ma.us.

Note that other public meetings will be scheduled as the study project progresses.

Official project website
https://www.mass.gov/east-west-passenger-rail-study

 


Electeds Call for ‘Fair’ Rail Fares

The Recorder | February 23, 2019 | Page 1

“A Push for ‘Fair’ Fares”
By Anita Fritz | The Recorder | February 23, 2019

The Recorder is reporting that Sen. Jo Comerford and Rep. Natalie Blais are two of 10 regional legislators who have signed on to a joint letter to MassDOT asking for more equitable and “fair fares” on Amtrak’s Vermonter service — and the planned new Amtrak service between Greenfield and New Haven.

Fares for the Vermonter are set by Amtrak using a model they call “revenue managed pricing.” By all accounts this model attempts to set fares as high as possible — which in our view is not something that should be happening for a state-supported passenger rail service like the Vermonter.

As example, if you want to travel from Northampton to New York Penn Station during the next 30-days the lowest one-way adult fare ranges from $54 to $100 depending on which day you travel.¹

Why Amtrak is driving up the fares for travel on the Vermonter we do not know. What we do know is that it wouldn’t be possible to increase fares on the MBTA Commuter Rail system or increase tolls on the MassPike in the way that fares are being increasing on the state-support Amtrak Vermonter service.

As a final note regarding Vermonter fares for today . . .  the lowest available adult fare for future travel from Northampton to New York was increased in just the past few days. The base fare for this trip was raised by 8%, from $50 (the price listed in the article) to $54. Thank you Amtrak.

::

The second concern relates to the fares for the new Greenfield–New Haven service, which starts in June 2019. These fares, according to a recent article in the Republican, may be based on the fare structure used today for the Vermonter.

While it is our understanding that the actual fares have yet to be decided — we believe that

  • MassDOT should establish fixed fares for the Knowledge Corridor Pilot (as the UMass Student Senate requested in their letter in December 2018) that are set at levels that will encourage people to use the service, and;
  • the fares should be set at reasonable and logical steps above the fares that both MassDOT and CTDOT agreed to when the Hartford Line service was established in 2018.

 

¹ Amtrak fares from Northampton to NY Penn Station for the 30-day period starting March 4, 2019 (PDF) | AmSnag 2.0 website

 


Northampton | Station Extension Work Begins

Northampton station | February 14, 2019

We are happy to report that work has now started on the platform extension project at the station site in Northampton.

Assuming the weather cooperates, this project should be complete by June of this year.

Further information
Northampton platform extension project

 


Springfield | Union Station Update

Platform C (now under construction) | looking east
Springfield Union Station | February 14, 2019

Neither snow, nor wind, nor cold seems to be slowing down the construction of a new high-level boarding platform at Springfield Union Station.

The new 362-foot platform, which should be finished this spring, will allow level-boarding of two trains at the same time at this station.

::

In other news the Springfield Redevelopment Authority has recently opened a hi-tech 950-square-foot conference facility on the second floor of Union Station.

The room is available for use by station tenants and community groups at no charge. Other businesses may use the room for $75 per half day.

Conference room at Springfield Union Station Don Treeger/The Republican | February 4, 2019

Organizations interested in using the room should contact Ginny Averett-Kuhn, who is the property manager for Union Station, at 413-471-3397.

Further reading
“Tenants Being Sought For Remaining Commercial Space Inside Union Station”
By Paul Tuthill | WAMC – Northeast Public Radio | February 4, 2019

 


Palmer | UMass Led Station Study Kicks-Off

On Monday February 11, 2019 the Palmer Town Council voted unanimously to have the UMass Center for Economic Development (CED) implement a community-informed feasibility study to support the establishment of a passenger rail stop in Palmer if/when East-West passenger rail service starts.

The study will be led by UMass professors John Mullin, Michael Di Pasquale, and Henry Renski.

Phase I of the project will include meetings with town officials and staff, a review of existing material, and meetings to gather public and stakeholder input into the process. This will be followed by a review of local assets, a demographic market demand study, and a review of similar rail projects. This work will result in a draft and final report to the Town Council.

Phase II of the project would produce a planning study that addresses the proposed rail stop and its relations to downtown and the greater Palmer area.

Phase III of the study would produce an implementation plan that addresses a range of technical, design and cost issues related to the project.

The UMass CED study team will host a charrette to gather public suggestions and ideas for Phase I of the study project on Sat. March 16, 2019 from 9 am to 12 Noon in the Pathfinder Regional Tech High School cafeteria [NEW LOCATION], 240 Sykes Street, Palmer, Mass.

Those wishing to attend this meeting are asked to R.S.V.P. to Sarah Szczebak, the Community Development Director for the Town of Palmer, by calling 413-283-2685. Alternatively you may send an R.S.V.P. note by email to sszczeback@townofpalmer.com

Further reading

City of Palmer Moves Forward with Local Rail Station Feasibility Study (PDF)
Press Release | Citizens for a Palmer Rail Stop | February 15, 2019

 


Vermont | Track Improvement Grant Approved

Amtrak’s Vermonter approaching Essex Jct. station | looking North
Courtesy of the Vermont Agency of Transportation

The Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) has been awarded a $2 million federal grant for safety improvements along the New England Central Railroad’s mainline in Vermont. This rail line, which is known as the Roxbury subdivision, is used by the Vermonter between the Massachusetts–Vermont stateline and St. Albans, Vt.

The $2,082,519 competitive grant was recently awarded under the Federal Railroad Administration’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Grant Program.

The planned work involves moving rock ledge near the rail line at five locations, upgrading two culverts, and the installation of an advanced rockfall detection warning system at selected locations along the line.

Dan Delabruere, the Rail and Aviation Program Director at VTrans, recently said to the Rutland Herald, “it will be about a year before any work begins. Accepting the grant is a process that takes several months and is designed to ensure the funds are spent correctly. There’s also design work that needs to be done.”

In addition to safety improvements, the project will eliminate slow orders that have resulted in 216 hours of annual passenger delays along the line in Vermont. By our calculations this works out to about 18 minutes of delay per day for each run of the Vermonter.

This project in turn should result in a significant tightening of the Vermonter‘s schedule in Vermont when the project is complete sometime in 2020.

Further reading
“Track safety work to start in about a year”
By Keith Whitcomb Jr. | Rutland Herald | February 19, 2019

 


New Hampshire | Vermonter Hits Empty Vehicle on Tracks

FRA Blue Emergency Notification System Sign
Depot Rd, Hatfield, Ma. | February 5, 2019

On Sunday, February 3, 2019, the driver of a pickup truck lost control of the vehicle and ended up on the railroad tracks in Charleston, New Hampshire.

According to media reports, emergency personnel at the scene contacted Amtrak to warn them of the vehicle on the tracks, but the call did not come soon enough.

Within moments of call the northbound Vermonter hit and demolished the vehicle, sending debris flying in the direction of first responders at the scene.

None of the train’s 74 passengers were injured, according to reports, although one firefighter was transported to the hospital as a precaution.

What exactly happened at the scene of this accident is subject to an ongoing investigation.

Media reports say that that officials on the scene contacted Amtrak to report the vehicle on the tracks. If this is true this action may have delayed contact with the crew on board the train since at this point of the journey they are only in radio contact with New England Central Railroad’s dispatchers along this line.

::

When there is an unsafe condition on the tracks find the blue Emergency Notification Sign (like the one shown above) at the crossing and call the number listed, then call 9-1-1.

The number listed on the blue sign will connect the caller to the emergency operations center for the railroad that dispatches both freight and passenger trains on the rail line.

Further reading
“Train strikes empty vehicle in Charlestown”
By Paul Cuno-Booth | The Keene Sentenal | February 4, 2019

Emergency Notification System (PDF)
Federal Railroad Administration | March 2017

 


Natick | Planned Station Improvements

Natick Center Station Design Public Meeting Presentation February 13, 2019 | page 9

Design work is underway for a range of accessibility improvements at the Natick Center station on the MBTA Framingham/Worcester Line.

When this project is complete in late 2021 the track configuration at the station will allow for room for a future 3rd track. Why do we care about this you might ask?

Because MassDOT has said that the Worcester/Framingham Line is currently at capacity during certain times of the day and before East-West rail service could happen this capacity issue will need to be resolved.

Leaving room for a potential future third track at this location on the East-West rail corridor is one significant step in the long road to potential East-West passenger rail service between Boston and Springfield.

Further reading
Natick Center Station Accessibility Improvements
MBTA Project website

Natick Center Station Project – Meeting Presentation (PDF)
MBTA | February 13, 2019

 


PVPC Exec. Director Tim Brennan to Retire

Tim Brennan standing near the new Northampton station platform in late 2014
Jeffery Roberts/Daily Hampshire Gazette

“After 40-plus years, Brennan to step down from Pioneer Valley Planning Commission in September”
By Cassandra McGrath | Daily Hampshire Gazette | February 24, 2019

It is with regret that we must pass along the news that Tim Brennan, the Executive Director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC), will be retiring in September of this year.

It is difficult to quantify the many ways that Tim has personally impacted both passenger and freight rail service in our region over the past forty years, but we will try with a few bullets.

The short list of issues that Tim has been involved in during his tenure at the PVPC would include,

  • the Commonwealth’s purchase of the Ware–Palmer–Barre freight rail line. (1976)
  • early push-back against Conrail’s plans to remove miles of double-track on the Boston and Albany line, out of concern that such a step would make it much more difficult to increase passenger rail service on the line. (1983) [Boy was he right… ]
  • local support for conversion of Amtrak’s overnight Montrealer service into a daytime train through the Pioneer Valley (1985)
  • completion of the Knowledge Corridor Feasibility Study (PDF) which ultimately lead to the return of passenger rail service to Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield. (2009)
  • local support for the Northern New England Intercity Passenger Initiative study which recommended more frequent and higher speed intercity passenger rail service along the Inland Route (New Haven–Springfield–Boston) and the Boston–Springfield–Montreal Route. (2014)
  • local support for expansion of the passenger rail service north of Springfield along the Knowledge Corridor. (on-going)

On a personal note we will miss the wisdom, insight and direction that Tim has happily and eagerly provided to our organization over the past three years.

We salute and thank Tim Brennan for the leadership that he has provided over many years as a regional champion of passenger and freight rail service for our region.

 

 

Post last updated: March 23, 2019