Posts Tagged ‘Massachusetts Department of Transportation’

Track Work Affects Valley Flyer Service

June 27, 2021

Track work being performed by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and Pan Am Railways will result in cancellation of some Valley Flyer service between June 29 and July 1.

The service suspensions will occur between Northampton and Greenfield, Massachusetts with alternate transportation being provided.

During the period train 471 will originate in Northampton. Shuttle bus 3471 will operate between Greenfield and Northampton, departing Greenfield at Train 471’s normal departure time of 7:35 a.m.

Train 471 will hold at Northampton for shuttle passengers.

Train 494 will terminate at Northampton. Shuttle bus 3494 will operate between Northampton and Greenfield, holding at Northampton for shuttle passengers.

Passengers will be required to show their ticket/e-ticket to board the shuttle bus.

3 Options Laid Out for Mass. East-West Service

January 25, 2021

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has listed three options for creating a rail passenger service between Boston and Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

The options have price tags of between $2.4 billion and $4.6 billion.

MassDOT’s report concluded that all three alternatives face obstacles in qualifying for federal funding.

In an executive summary, the report said the project would likely require “a combination of many different funding sources and strategies, but that, under current federal methodology, the project would “likely not qualify for federal funding.”

Aside from cost, the variables among the three options are how much track work would be needed, the travel time of the service and projected ridership. The latter would be affected by the projected travel time.

The least expensive option of $2.4 billion would have a travel times of 1 hour, 57 minutes between Boston and Springfield, and 3 hours, nine minutes between Boston and Pittsfield.

Projected ridership would be 922 to 1,188 passengers on weekdays by 2040.

The $3.9 billion, would take 1:47 between Springfield and Boston and 2:59 between Pittsfield and Boston, with projected ridership of 1,157 to 1,379 passengers.

The $4.6 billion option would result in travel times of 1:37 between Springfield and Boston and 2:49 between Pittsfield and Boston, and would be used by 1,296 to 1,557 passengers per weekday.

Boston and Pittsfield are currently linked by the Boston section of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited.

Mass. Study Find Higher Ridership Projections

June 12, 2020

A study of expanded rail service between Boston and Springfield, Massachusetts, has concluded that the service would attract more passengers than previous estimates.

However, the study said there still would not be enough riders for the service to qualify for federal funding.

The latest study projects ridership could be as high as 1,200 per day. Earlier studies had projected ridership ranging from 36 to 800 per day depending on the route chosen, speed of service and how often trains ran.

Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said her agency still believes the service would could cost $2 billion to $25 billion to build, depending on the scope of the project.

At the higher ridership estimate levels the project would fall short of federal requirements balancing costs and benefits.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation is reviewing six options for the service and plans to narrow those to three.

It will issue a final report on the project in the fall.

Valley Flyer Gets Ridership Goal for Continued Funding

February 14, 2020

Preservation of Amtrak’s Valley Flyer will hinge on the experimental service handling 24,000 passengers a year by 2021.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has set that ridership goal that must be met if the state is to continue it funding of the service between Springfield and Greenfield.

The Valley Flyer began operations on Aug. 30, 2019, and also stops in Holyoke and Northhampton.

The line is also used by the Vermonter, which is funded by the state of Vermont.

Massachusetts is paying $1 million a year to support the Valley Flyer.

The ridership goal is double the number of passengers that were being handled by the Vermonter before the Valley Flyer began service.

Dana Roscoe, principal planner with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission in Springfield, said supporters of the Valley Flyer are trying to determine how ridership has been going.

They have sent staff to station platforms to count the number of passengers boarding and disembarking.

Compiling ridership data is complicated by the fact that Amtrak only publishes that information once a year.

“We can’t just have an annual number and go with that,” Roscoe said. “At this point I honestly can’t tell you how we’re doing. My sense, completely anecdotal and word-of-mouth and from visiting stations, is that we are probably doing OK but we are absolutely are not where we need to be.”

Officials do know from Amtrak ridership data that patronage of the line between New Haven, Connecticut, and Springfield has been growing at a rate of 25 percent a year.

The ridership information gleaned from hand counting Valley Flyer passengers will be used as part of a $350,000 marketing and branding campaign seeking to boost business.

In the meantime, the Connecticut Department of Transportation plans to improve stations in that state at Windsor and Windsor Locks.

The work will include installation of platforms on each side of the tracks, sheltered waiting areas, real-time train arrival displays, snow melt systems at ramps and on platforms, parking on both the east and west sides of the tracks, and security cameras and emergency phones.

That work is expected to be completed in 2021.

The work at Windsor Locks station includes a single platform, a multi-use trail with connections to the Canal Trail via Bridge Street, parking, and other amenities.

The 510-foot-long platform will comply with the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act, with level boarding from every train car.

Other work being undertaken by CTDOT includes adding a second tracks north of Hartford to increase the frequency of service in the region.

A connecting is being built in Windsor Locks to link to Bradley International Airport and digital displays are being installed at stations on the Hartford Line station to provide real-time train arrival and departure times.

Mass. Rail Expansion Plan Has Costly Numbers

February 8, 2020

A study by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation estimates that expanding rail passenger service between Boston and the western region of the state could cost upwards of $25 billion.

However, the study drew fire from rail passenger advocates who questioned its methodology.

The study laid out six proposals. The lowest cost plan would be to increase service between Boston and Springfield and creating bus connections to Pittsfield.

That plan will cost an estimated $2 billion.

The high end proposal of $25 billion would create 150-mph high-speed service.

MassDOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack described the cost estimates as “sobering” and said federal funding will be needed to “get this done.”

However, former Secretary of Transportation Jim Aloisi criticized the study as containing “questionable modeling” that he said is “unreliable and deliberately negative.”

The only Amtrak service currently linking Boston and the western region of the state is the Lake Shore Limited between Boston and Chicago.

FRA Grants to Benefit Passenger Rail

August 27, 2019

The Federal Railroad Administration has announced the awarding of more than $272 million in grant funding to 10 rail projects through its State of Good Repair Program.

Several of those projects will benefit passenger rail.

The Michigan Department of Transportation was awarded up to $23.3 million for a rehabilitation work on the state-owned line between Kalamazoo and Dearborn that is used by Amtrak’s Wolverine Service and Blue Water trains.

The project entails rebuilding rail, crossties and track surfaces, and replacing two railroad bridges in Jackson.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation received $15.1 million to rehabilitate and upgrade an interlocking plant in Philadelphia at the junction of the Amtrak-owned Keystone Corridor and Northeast Corridor main lines.

Work will include slope stabilization and reconstruction of retaining walls, rehabilitation of an existing but underutilized track, and switch and signal reconfiguration.

Chicago commuter agency Metra will receive $17.8 million to construct a new grade-separated, double-tracked rail bridge over Milwaukee Avenue north of the Grayland Metra Station on Metra’s Milwaukee District-North Line in Chicago.

The city-owned New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal will receive $3.7 million to complete final design for upgrading station platforms and train service capabilities.

The platform modifications will bring the platforms into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, increase platform height to provide level boarding for Amtrak’s Sunset Limited and City of New Orleans, and improve the step height for boarding the Crescent.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation was awarded $41.2 million to replace and upgrade Tower I interlocking, a major rail network junction at the entrance to the Boston South Station terminal area.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation received $76.9 million for the Piedmont intercity fleet and infrastructure investments project.

The project involves the acquisition of 13 new passenger coaches for use in the Piedmont service and an expansion of the Charlotte Locomotive and Rail-car Maintenance Facility.

New Jersey Transit received $18.4 million for platform D improvements at Newark Penn Station. The project includes repairing and/or replacing Platform D slabs and joints, reconstructing platform edges, installing new tactile strips and timber rub rails, repairing the overhead canopy and upgrading lighting.
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation was awarded $12.5 million for a major rehabilitation of the Amtrak station in Providence.

The Washington State Department of Transportation was awarded $37.5 million to procure three new consists for use in the Amtrak Cascades service.

The project will replace the three Washington state-owned Talgo VI trainsets: two used in current service and one damaged in the December 2017 derailment.

The loss of the damaged trainset reduced the Amtrak Cascades schedule from six to four daily round trips.

The project will enable WSDOT to meet existing and anticipated passenger demand, and allow Washington to retire its Talgo VI trainsets.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation was awarded $25.7 million to replace deteriorated, outdated passenger cab-baggage and coach cars used in the Chicago–Milwaukee Amtrak Hiawatha service with three single-level cab-coach cars and six single-level coach cars.

Funding Approved for Berkshire Flyer Pilot Program

August 2, 2019

Funding has been approved by the State of Massachusetts for a two-year pilot program to launch Amtrak service from New York City to Berkshire County in Massachusetts.

The Berkshire Flyer has been allotted “not less than $270,000” for its inaugural year, which is expected to start in Spring 2020.

Legislation authorizing the funding also set aside $30,000 for a project manager and $100,000 for marketing the service.

The Flyer is will operate on weekends during the summer season between New York Penn Station and Pittsfield, using the Empire Corridor to Albany-Rensselaer, New York, and the route of the Lake Shore Limited east of there.

One train is expected to operate from New York to Pittsfield on Friday while its counterpart will return to New York on Sunday.

Trains will operate from Memorial Day through Columbus Day weekends with the fare set at $70 each way.

A marketing plan will be created by 1Berkshire, the county’s economic development and tourism council while the Massachusetts Department of Transportation needs to work out schedules and other logistical matters with Amtrak.

Also involved in the planning and implementation of the service will be the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority.

Boston-Springfield Proposal Gets Boost in Boston

May 9, 2019

A proposal to launch rail passenger service between Boston and Springfield, Massachusetts, got a boost when the Boston City Council approved a resolution in support of the service.

It was the first time the council had expressed support for the service, which would be operated by MBTA.

Council member Matt O’Malley, who offered the resolution, described the proposed service as having the potential to be transformative for both cities.

O’Malley said rail service to Springfield could directly address housing and environmental issues.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation is currently studying the proposed service as part of its East-West Passenger Rail Study.

Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited currently operates between the two cities, but does not have a commuter friendly schedule.

Greenfield Still Awaits Date for New Service

May 5, 2019

Officials in Greenfield, Massachusetts, are still awaiting a date for when expanded Amtrak service to that community will begin.

They are hoping that it will get underway by the end of summer.

“We don’t have a firm date yet, but it is going to happen,” said Franklin Regional Council of Governments Transportation Planning and GIS Program Manager Maureen Mullaney.

The new service has already been delayed, having once been planned to start in June and then in July.

But now, Mullaney said, Amtrak and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation have told the city it needs more time.

The new service will link Greenfield with New York City and include two extra trips on weekdays and one extra trip on weekends and holidays.

The trains will depart the John W. Olver Transit Center at 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. and returning in the evening.

The existing service to Greenfield by the Vermonter leave Greenfield southbound at 1:30 p.m., and returns at 4:30 p.m.

“People have to make plans to stay overnight if they want to go into the city,” Mullaney said.

The additional service was made possible by an agreement with Connecticut and Amtrak to for a pilot program to provide the two extended daily CTrail trains from Springfield with stops in Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield.

This service would be in addition to the existing Vermonter schedules, which are not expected to change.

The pilot program is expected to cost about $1 million a year to operate.

Greenfield has seen rising Amtrak ridership of late. It has increased from 5,315 in 2015 to 6,497 last year.

Ridership has also been rising at stations in Amherst, Northampton, Holyoke and Springfield.

Report Backs Berkshire Flyer Proposal

March 14, 2019

A group seeking to establish experimental Amtrak service to Berkshire County in Massachusetts from New York has issued a report calling for a two-year pilot program to start in 2020.

The service, dubbed the Berkshire Flyer, would operate on weekends between New York Penn Station and Pittsfield, Massachusetts, using routes now used by Amtrak.

During the pilot period, one train would operate on Fridays to Pittsfield while the return train to New York would operate on Sundays.

The season would begin with Memorial Day weekend and last through Columbus Day weekend. Fares are expected to be $70 each way.

The report indicated that an earlier option to operate through Connecticut on the freight-only Housatonic Railroad would cost $300 million.

State Senator Adam Hinds of Pittsfield introduced legislation directing the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to create a working group to study the feasibility of service using Amtrak’s Empire Corridor and CSX tracks that host the Chicago-Boston Lake Shore Limited.

“They reported back that it was, in fact, feasible, would be beneficial economically, and would require no new capital investment for the infrastructure,” Hinds said.

The report also estimated that it would cost $421,561 to start the program in June 2020.

Ticket revenue is expected to be $184,000, leaving $237,561 to be raised elsewhere, Hinds said, adding that a combination of federal, state, and local funding might be used to launch the Berkshire service.

The service will also need a sponsor who can serve as the go between with host railroads Amtrak and CSX, as well as government agencies and private companies involved in the service.