Amtrak NEC, Downeaster, Acela, & Long Distance

chmeeee

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I was referring to the fact that if you street view drive yourself a few hundred feet south, there is no fence between the road and the RR.
 

Riverside

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Neither here nor there but I’ve always found it vaguely amusing that Rhode Island is “America’s smallest state and home to America’s fastest trains”. (Quite literally “America” in the broadest sense — I believe that stretch in South County has trains going faster than they do anywhere else in North and South America. For a couple of minutes at a time, anyway...)
 

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Neither here nor there but I’ve always found it vaguely amusing that Rhode Island is “America’s smallest state and home to America’s fastest trains”. (Quite literally “America” in the broadest sense — I believe that stretch in South County has trains going faster than they do anywhere else in North and South America. For a couple of minutes at a time, anyway...)
Jersey swamp and East Junction, Attleboro to Sharon also hit 150 (rated 165 track and A1 equipment, but extra +15 won't be practiced until the Aveilas). Kingston seems to be the heads-above photo vantage point, however.

165 is Top 5 in the world. So it's not that we aren't fast...we just don't have enough consecutive miles of fast.
 

ceo

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Needless to say, it's quite startling, if your driving schedule happens to coincide perfectly with the timetable of an ACELA, to see a train burst out of the puckerbrush at 165 mph at a distance of 20 feet or so and barrel past you... it's happened to me once this year.
As I've mentioned before, try being on the platform at Mansfield and not realizing the approaching headlight is an Acela and not your commuter rail train until just before it goes ripping past at 150, two feet from you. (Do they go 165 on that stretch?) Nearly knocked me over with its wake.
 

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As I've mentioned before, try being on the platform at Mansfield and not realizing the approaching headlight is an Acela and not your commuter rail train until just before it goes ripping past at 150, two feet from you. (Do they go 165 on that stretch?) Nearly knocked me over with its wake.
Acela was non-revenue tested at 165 MPH several years ago for the track class uprating in Jersey and RI/MA, and the A1 sets have been rated for that speed since Day 1. There's lots of gnarly YouTube video of the 165 MPH tests up close and personal, along with unofficial amateur radar gun reports of seeing real 170 MPH in the wild. But as of now it's still timetable 150 MPH on all revenue service until the Aveila fleet comes online. Not that you can really notice the difference as a stationary observer at those warp speeds; 150 vs. 165 is pretty much the difference between a bone-rattling pressure wave and a BONE-rattling pressure wave.

Amtrak toyed with the idea of doing the formal 165 MPH timetable change with the existing sets for the FY2018 schedule revisions mid-2017, but demurred. That decision was primarily because: 1) new extended max-speed territory in NJ was still under active construction at the time, and not enough of it was online at the time to net much tangible schedule gain just from RI/MA + partial NJ so they were better off waiting for that self-serving track work to wrap; 2) by the time that construction wrapped the Aveila procurement was already underway, so it projected better to save on the A1s' wear in their sunset years by not pushing them to design limits. Probably no later than end of next year or beginning of 2022 before that's the real-deal speed through Kingston and Mansfield. None of the maint work they'd be doing now in that stretch is related to it; the FRA blessed the track class uprate on the RI/MA straightaways at least 6 years ago.
 

Riverside

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Jersey swamp and East Junction, Attleboro to Sharon also hit 150 (rated 165 track and A1 equipment, but extra +15 won't be practiced until the Aveilas). Kingston seems to be the heads-above photo vantage point, however.

165 is Top 5 in the world. So it's not that we aren't fast...we just don't have enough consecutive miles of fast.
I have a vague notion that hitting 150 is more common in South County than Attleboro-Mansfield, but I don't really know where I got that idea.
 

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I have a vague notion that hitting 150 is more common in South County than Attleboro-Mansfield, but I don't really know where I got that idea.
They're both good long stretches of 150. Only difference might be they're coasting more often at Mansfield because of the low platforms.

Random sample of NERail photos sez that the railfans choose Kingston hands-down as the top Acela photo-op of choice. But that could break along superior sightlines, lighting...or just cheaper parking.
 

DBM

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They're both good long stretches of 150. Only difference might be they're coasting more often at Mansfield because of the low platforms.

Random sample of NERail photos sez that the railfans choose Kingston hands-down as the top Acela photo-op of choice. But that could break along superior sightlines, lighting...or just cheaper parking.
There's a lot to recommend for that neck of the woods, in general. Upper URI campus is spectacularly lovely [even if the lower campus is a monotonous sea of parking lots], you can cruise the bike path from the Kingston station nearly all the way to 'Gansett Beach, and envision what it was like when that was a spur line of the NY New Haven line, built just so the rich Yankees could flock from the summer swelter of Hartford, Providence, etc., to the elegant grand Victorian summer resorts at 'Gansett--the resorts must have looked like Bretton Woods, but on a colossally larger footprint.

[tl; dr: because its little Rhody, even though you're in the central interior of the state there, you're also only 5-10 miles from the entire southeast coastline]

On a more somber note, the Great Swamp Fight memorial is also down there, testimony to when the Puritans acted with particularly barbaric and genocidal ferocity vs. the Narragansetts during King Phillips War--a real ethnic cleansing.

Also, there's the skybridge spanning the tracks there at the station, it's pretty lofty, and with no other structures nearly as close to it in height anywhere nearby, the panorama of the tracks is probably second to none, if you're taking photos?

P.S. I'm seeing two stretches that look like the parts authorized for 165 mph: just south of downtown East Greenwich, it's a dead-straight alignment for exactly 5 miles to Wickford Junction, and still dead-straight for another 5 miles until the track starts bending just 2 miles ahead of the Kingston station.

Then, just past Kingston, there's another 4 mile stretch that's completely straight...
 

F-Line to Dudley

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There's a lot to recommend for that neck of the woods, in general. Upper URI campus is spectacularly lovely [even if the lower campus is a monotonous sea of parking lots], you can cruise the bike path from the Kingston station nearly all the way to 'Gansett Beach, and envision what it was like when that was a spur line of the NY New Haven line, built just so the rich Yankees could flock from the summer swelter of Hartford, Providence, etc., to the elegant grand Victorian summer resorts at 'Gansett--the resorts must have looked like Bretton Woods, but on a colossally larger footprint.

[tl; dr: because its little Rhody, even though you're in the central interior of the state there, you're also only 5-10 miles from the entire southeast coastline]

On a more somber note, the Great Swamp Fight memorial is also down there, testimony to when the Puritans acted with particularly barbaric and genocidal ferocity vs. the Narragansetts during King Phillips War--a real ethnic cleansing.

Also, there's the skybridge spanning the tracks there at the station, it's pretty lofty, and with no other structures nearly as close to it in height anywhere nearby, the panorama of the tracks is probably second to none, if you're taking photos?

P.S. I'm seeing two stretches that look like the parts authorized for 165 mph: just south of downtown East Greenwich, it's a dead-straight alignment for exactly 5 miles to Wickford Junction, and still dead-straight for another 5 miles until the track starts bending just 2 miles ahead of the Kingston station.

Then, just past Kingston, there's another 4 mile stretch that's completely straight...
Here's what my (2007-dated) speed map of CT/RI says:
  • 150 MPH (since FRA-uprated to 165) from Milepost 154.3 @ Shannock/RI 2 overpass (change to/from 105 MPH at Shannock curve) to MP 171.5 @ East Greenwich(change to/from 115 MPH along Greenwich Bay).
    • Two spot individual 130 MPH restrictions inside 165 speed zone at: (1) MP 160, curve just north of Kingston Station + (2) MP 170.5, slight curve north of West Davisville @ Old Forge Rd. overpass.
  • 150 MPH (uprated to 165) from MP 174.5 @ Warwick/Warwick side of Apponaug Cove Bridge (change to/from 3 miles of 106-115 MPH) to MP 180 @ Cranston Interlocking/I-95 overpass + split with Port of Providence Branch (change to/from brief 100 MPH along Mashapaug Pond then 70 MPH for final 2 miles into Providence Station)
  • 150 MPH (uprated to 165) from MP 194 @ East Junction/Attleboro (change to/from 125 MPH on Attleboro Cutoff ROW to RI state line) to MP 208 @ Sharon/S. Main St. overpass.
    • Not sure if there's any spot restriction at MP 202, East Foxboro curve since my map cuts off before then. Slight enough that it wouldn't be any lower than 130 MPH.
I don't have an MA map in this series so don't know what the speed zone is north of Sharon. Definitely doesn't drop to double digits until the Canton Viaduct approach. The difference between "speed zones" and "spot restrictions" is in level of signal system enforcement. Those brief 130 curve interludes north of Kingston are pretty much just enforced coasting, not brake applications like the actual changes in speed zones. So for railway engineering purposes it's more problematic to have a curve significant enough to induce a change to lower speed zone vs. just having an isolated spot or two in the middle of a max-speed zone that's coast-thru.
 
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Whats Really Good?

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As I've mentioned before, try being on the platform at Mansfield and not realizing the approaching headlight is an Acela and not your commuter rail train until just before it goes ripping past at 150, two feet from you. (Do they go 165 on that stretch?) Nearly knocked me over with its wake.
Shit, even track speed commuter rail can pack a surprising wallop.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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Shit track speed mbta can pack a surprising wallop
I'm guessing since that's NEC it's the full 79 MPH. Now swap out that 3000 horsepower F40 loco for a 4600 HP HSP-46 and purge the single-levels in that set for all bi-levels and you'd be able to add +11 MPH to that instantly. The MPI locos, Rotem bi's, and rebuilt Kawasaki bi's are all rated for 93 MPH (90 in signaling practice), meaning if you just have enough bodies to practically gerrymander the Providence assignments away from anything older/slower taking up a rotation the whole daily PVD schedule can be refactored for 90 MPH max running. Stop spacing is wide enough Hyde Park-128 and Canton-S. Attleboro that it will make a tangibly tighter schedule on existing diesel equipment, and afford net-gain additional slots on the rush hour schedule from being able to tighter-space the slots (both T vs. T and T vs. Amtrak).

Problem today is simply not enough capable bodies, as so much as one single-level sandwiched in the set instantly lowers the boom on the whole set's speed limit to 79 MPH. Since you can only refactor the schedule for faster speeds if the whole day's schedule is going to be faster-speed, no practical savings are possible right now when cushioning has to be there for the slow stuff taking up an any-slot's equipment rotation. The new coach order should finally allow for a game-changer here, as today the faster locos are plentiful enough on the roster to artfully gerrymander but the coaches most definitely are not. That's a coming attraction that won't have to wait for the Rail Vision, any on-ground infrastructure improvements, or any yet-to-be-funded items to get enacted...as Rotem starts delivery of the +80 supplemental bi-levels in about 22 months and completes the order in less than 48 months. That'll be what fills the bodies gap for running an all-90 MPH Providence slate by no later than Spring/Summer 2024.
 

Stlin

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So NH apparently approved their 10 year transportation plan a couple of days ago; apparently programmed into it is ~1.5 million for "Design, Environmental Review, and Financial Plan for Commuter Rail Extension From MA to NH." Subject, of course, to covid related budget adjustments.

That's... Not a lot of money for all that, given the original 2014 report was ~3.9m. How far can this 1.5m actually advance Capitol Corridor, or is it a token investment in paper to defer actual consideration for another 5+ years?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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So NH apparently approved their 10 year transportation plan a couple of days ago; apparently programmed into it is ~1.5 million for "Design, Environmental Review, and Financial Plan for Commuter Rail Extension From MA to NH." Subject, of course, to covid related budget adjustments.

That's... Not a lot of money for all that, given the original 2014 report was ~3.9m. How far can this 1.5m actually advance Capitol Corridor, or is it a token investment in paper to defer actual consideration for another 5+ years?
Nashua poke, in conjunction with the last fed grant...and that's about it. Last time they were thinking maybe possibly as far as Manchester, but that wasn't all that realistic with the soft commitment. So I'm guessing Nashua.


Now...$1.5M still isn't going to do shit when they still have to locate a parcel for the South Nashua station by the Mall. Even if the City is itself near the point of acquisition, you need more than that to design a station. But it's not going to take a whole lot of "design" and environmental review" to do everything besides South Nashua. It's 4.3 active signalized track miles with 1 private grade crossing and full-existing downtown station site that just needs a platform turnout grafted onto its already extant parking lot...then the full-existing private-owned freight yard sticking the layover yard into its an unused portion. They can cobble together money between couch cushions and probably get blessed with a fed grant for pure infrastructure costs because the T so badly needs the layover yard to be able to run Lowell RUR service levels and will be lobbying the crap on NH's behalf. That's not an impossible shoot.

The fact that it is such a modest poke is what makes the crumbs in a 10-year transpo plan so dismaying. They need to be looking afield to Concord planning at the decade-level, and this ain't going to get it even started. We in MA don't have to care overly much about that, because Lowell :30 schedule flex + the stations @ N. Chelmsford / probable UMass / S. Nasua traffic salvation for Route 3 tie up all the in-district constituencies with the Nashua poke. But Concord to Boston running as super-express on the MA side of the border was studied out to 78 minutes on the schedule, and I don't see how NH's economy is going to survive the economic stagnation if it can't tap into that by 2030. They're going to be more dependent than ever on paychecks from Greater Boston by that point.
 

DBM

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But Concord to Boston running as super-express on the MA side of the border was studied out to 78 minutes on the schedule, and I don't see how NH's economy is going to survive the economic stagnation if it can't tap into that by 2030. They're going to be more dependent than ever on paychecks from Greater Boston by that point.
It's hard to overstate how discouraging and depressing it is that NH can't get its act together on this. Inertia + Provincialism/self-defeating Yankee cheapness + perhaps unknown quantity of racism/xenophobia [*roving bands of Cambodian youths coming up from Lowell to rampage through our pristine districts*] = recipe for long-term economic decline, as you note.

On an anecdotal level, many years back I had friends with young kids living in Merrimack, NH, with their backyard abutting right up against the river. On a pleasant spring morning, knowing the river was there, I took their kids on an excursion through their backyard, finessed our way through the bramble... and stumbled up against the tracks [which I didn't know were there], which sit on top of a pretty steeply-inclined berm at that juncture. We scrambled over the berm, peered over the opposite flank to check out the river, and returned home. Which makes me wonder, on the increasingly-unlikely chance that the Capitol Corridor does get developed:

1.) who is responsible for erecting fencing in all of those residential backyards that abut right up against the right-of-way/trackage, from Concord all the way south to the state line, to help deter kids (or anyone else) from scrambling onto the tracks? There are surely dozens and dozens of residential properties where this is an issue.

2.) the riverbank side of the berm was substantially eroded, with tree roots exposed/hollowed-out, etc. Assuming the Merrimack continuously undermines those banks in all years--and does so catastrophically during massive rain events--who is responsible for shoring-up the riverbank?

Again, it seems like the Capitol Corridor is never going to happen--but if it does, these do seem like necessary considerations.
 

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On an anecdotal level, many years back I had friends with young kids living in Merrimack, NH, with their backyard abutting right up against the river. On a pleasant spring morning, knowing the river was there, I took their kids on an excursion through their backyard, finessed our way through the bramble... and stumbled up against the tracks [which I didn't know were there], which sit on top of a pretty steeply-inclined berm at that juncture. We scrambled over the berm, peered over the opposite flank to check out the river, and returned home. Which makes me wonder, on the increasingly-unlikely chance that the Capitol Corridor does get developed:

1.) who is responsible for erecting fencing in all of those residential backyards that abut right up against the right-of-way/trackage, from Concord all the way south to the state line, to help deter kids (or anyone else) from scrambling onto the tracks? There are surely dozens and dozens of residential properties where this is an issue.

2.) the riverbank side of the berm was substantially eroded, with tree roots exposed/hollowed-out, etc. Assuming the Merrimack continuously undermines those banks in all years--and does so catastrophically during massive rain events--who is responsible for shoring-up the riverbank?
Most of the riverfront the whole way up is conservation land, so that's probably going to be the state's bag for erosion control. For the most part the rail ROW is set back enough that it isn't affected by flood stages and whatnot. There aren't a lot of hastily-fixed washouts up to Concord (the only kind of fix PAR would ever do), so that isn't an issue. PAR only sinks a dime into Chelmsford-Nashua where there's multiple scheduled yard feeder trains per day...they haven't given a shit about Nashua-north in decades with the biz decline up there. So if the railbed up by Merrimack is in good shape it's because there's been no riverfront erosion for 41 years since the last big State of Repair blitz.


As for the "every foot of rail is a makeshift grade crossing" effect...legally-speaking it's all private property and thus 100% illegal to cross at a non-designated crossing. Of course, no one is actually going to arrest you for that because PAR's railroad police dept. is...exactly one officer for the entire system. It's basically just some old dude sitting at a desk in Billerica with his phone disconnected because Tim Mellon gets some tax advantage retaining a paper "Police Dept.", so they're not even going to call the local cops on you. If this were CSX and you were one of the kids fishing or swimming off the Fitchburg Secondary crossing of Foss Reservoir in Framingham (you can see them there all the time driving the Pike) you might actually see a real gun-toting' CSX officer make a patrol every once in awhile. Or at the very least get a tipped-off statie from the Pike EB breakdown lane screaming at you from a megaphone.

Trespassing frequency basically runs inverse to train frequency, and is somewhat self-correcting. The pre-Downeaster Western Route with its barely 20 MPH speed limit has this problem through NH as well. It didn't take fencing to lick the problem. Once the freight schedule started traveling 40 MPH instead of 20 that cleared most of the riff-raff by its lonesome...and then of course people really stopped fucking around en masse when they saw the Amtrak logo above the headlights...as that meant local PD would be routinely called for any spotted trespassers. Revived T lines like the Old Colony that went from trace slow freight to full-schedule fast passenger also self-regulated in this manner...as did the Cape Cod Main (esp. along the Canal where the ROW is continuously wide-wide open) when Cape Flyer showed up and everything (dinner train & freights) started going 20 MPH faster post-upgrade. They did have to haggle some new pedestrian-only grade crossings with the upgrades for beach access...in fact, a new one was just installed last summer on the Falmouth Branch at Monument Beach at one particularly choice beach access spot the state conceded was better off being controlled with crossing gates rather than futilly enforced no-trespassing.


So the Merrimack shoreline will be a set of per-town bargaining trade-offs like that for the Cap Corridor where you'll probably have a net gain of 1-2 ped-only crossings per town (though esp. up in Manchester you'll probably see some tradebacks of double wrap-around street/driveway crossings pruned to single crossings). Much moreso past-Nashua, as for the MBTA most-concern Nashua poke there'll actually be net-2 crossing deletions in MA (Wotton St., Chelmsford and a private farm tractor crossing in Tyngsboro...both redundant to adjacent public streets with full crossing gates) and the only riverfront ped access needing better accommodation in NH being the pre-existing private driveway crossing to the scrap dealer at end of E. Glenwood St., Nashua. There won't be miles and miles of security fencing...that's simply not practical, nor is it RR liability to seal the corridor from illegal trespassing unless it's a Class 7/125 MPH or greater corridor like the NEC. Unfortunately the high number of trespasser hits and suicides at track level is a hole that just can't be filled to perfection, and human behavior either adjusts or it continues to be a job hazard. "Live Free or Die" mentality does--for better or for worse--have a choice in the matter.

However, I do think human behavior will change sooner than the Cap Corridor forces it to, simply because of the freight big boys who are looking to buy out Pan Am right this second. If CN gets installed as owner/operator of the NH Main they're instantaneously going to be running a tighter ship, and you probably will see some nearer-term rebound in freight traffic simply from collected free-throws on the glut of disused freight sidings Manchester-Concord that PAR's "marketing" dept. pissed away. You'll see more than one appearance per day out of the Nashua local, and it'll be stretching north of Manchester to Concord more than the once-twice per week it manages to today. So we also are talking much more dynamically changeable conditions than just stuck State Gov't policy. NH freight may not be anyone's idea of a high-return investment...but when it's just so goddamn easy to reclaim frivolously lost biz, you're going to see some degree of traffic rebound almost right away. And if CN crews are quicker on the draw to call local PD over trespassers, you'll see more enforcement regardless. It is, after all, private property of one of the biggest business owners in each town on the corridor...can't exactly make a town policy of hanging up on them. That'll straighten things out quick, too.


---- ---- ---- ---- ----

EDIT: Security-cams-everywhere era also helps tons. Amtrak, the T, and big Class I's like CSX/Norfolk Southern/CN are rapidly deploying dash cams on their locomotives and cab cars as set-it/forget-it as those are now becoming with all manner of transit and school buses. PAR doesn't have any of that Jetsons Shit on their rolling ruins, but Amtrak sure does...T does on all new/rebuilt locos and cab cars with a newly-awarded contract to backfill it on all old equipment that doesn't...and CSX sure does on every train that trawls the B&A from Albany to Framingham (pot luck whether the secondary power on the locals out of Framingham is cam-equipped, but that all runs 80% of the time in commuter/Transit Police territory so they're well covered by T/Amtrak surveillance). Dispatch gets the live feed, and it can get forwarded to a local police officer's smartphone within minutes for ID'ing a trespass suspect. And with CSX their national dispatcher is almost 2000 miles away in a literal bomb-proof/tornado-proof military bunker near the Gulf Coast with a backup bunker somewhere in the Midwest...but they're staffed with enough desk jockeys to muscle the local resources with no-difference as if they were 2 miles up the road. They can even tell the difference between the railfan regulars who set up near-daily at safe distance by the choicest photo vantage point in Chester for the big climb through the Berkshires vs. the ones wandering somewhere or behaving in a way that betray recent or imminent-future trespassing behavior. If CN takes up residence on the PAR system the Nashua locals will probably start exhibiting similar technology-aided acumen. And eventually the dashcam era simply hits a point of ubiquity that the holding companies like Gennessee & Wyoming start equipping those cookie-cutter yellow paint Providence & Worcester, NECR, and Connecticut Southern trains with the same across the second-tier New England carriers...since they too lump-dispatch all 100 of their different RR's out of one big control center at Darien, CT HQ.
 
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Amtrak publishes 5-year asset and service plans:

FY20-25 Asset Line Plan

FY20-25 Service Line Plan

These were compiled pre-COVID, although glass-half-empty today might look glass-half-full in the polls if we end up electing "President Amtrak" in November...so YMMV.


Not much big-picture we didn't already know, as it's continuation of lots of ongoing thrust...especially East Coast where the biggest NEC priorities have been a consensus for a long time. The asset charts and whatnot are interesting reading as one-stop references.

Asset Plan highlights:
  • Equipment renewal: replacements of Amfleets, GE Genesis, NY dual-modes + facilities upgrades (no surprises there). Replacement of long-distance fleet: Amfleet II's, Superliners (noteworthy only that they're committed to trying again on a modern Superliner III design template after the Nippon-Sharyo fiasco with the Cali/Midwest coaches). "Superliner III" design may be shotgunned with statie California Car/Surfliner replacement, ultimately fulfilling the promise-deferred to have an 8-inch level boarding PRIAA ordering option for supplemental Midwest/West car orders. Though state-sponsored routes have freedom under PRIAA to order non-standard stock if they want, they also make it abundantly clear that they've soured on the WSDOT/Cascades Talgo trainset experience and anyone who feels like going off-script if going to fall alone if they choose unwisely.
  • *NEW* NEC dual-modes: This is big. They are now saying point-blank that after the NY/Empire Corridor DC third-rail procurement is complete that they will indeed be purchasing new pantograph dual-mode power for the Northeast Regional to eliminate the time-consuming Washington D.C. power switch. This was a wide-open question and somewhere we thought they would be going. Specifically name-checks the VA Regionals, Pennsylvanian, Vermonter, and Carolinian routes + the D.C., Philly, and New Haven engine-change points as possible recipients (Albany will already be eliminating engine changes by running the NY duals thru on every Empire/Maple Leaf/Adirondack/Ethan Allen slot). MA needs to take note...this has big Inland Route implications!
  • Equipment "refresh": Viewliner I sleepers scheduled for midlife overhaul once the supplemental Viewliner II sleepers on ongoing delivery are fully in-stock. Superliners will get similar interior livery refresh as the Amfleets got, since they cite that as one of their highest customer-satisfaction initiatives of the last 5 years. They make it clear that decade-level refreshes are going to be a regular thing going forward, especially with all of the new acquisitions being built Day 1 with modular livery.
  • Equipment dispersals: They enumerate how they're going to dump their replaced rolling stock. This matters for commuter-land because those nearly 200 GE Genesis locos are boffo pickup-n'-rebuild candidates, and the T will be doing its full due diligence on those since the 25-unit GP40MC fleet is out of age-defying refresh tricks and are only good for another 5-7 years. We'll need above-and-beyond diesel bodies even with an EMU order in order to implement RUR across most of the still-diesel system, and the 4200 horsepower Gennies pack a lot of pep. *Very* doubtful despite their numbers that any commuter agency will be buying Amfleets...they're simply too different an animal to mechanically maintain vs. the Pullman/"Comet"-derived single-level stuff that dominates commuter land. AMTK's 95-car Horizon fleet, however, is genuine Bombardier "Comet" product (albeit with notoriously stick-prone manual-only doors) that are in good condition and could be re-outfitted cheaply with commuter seating.
  • As above, most of the Eastern infrastructure + station improvements have been long in planning. Only MA bullet of note is that they are demanding a third track Readville-to-128 be prioritized (which could become a quad-track upgrade lump of Forest Hills-128 after this demand gets mind-melded with the Rail Vision).

Service Plan highlights:
  • Expect net profitability across the company by 2025. COVID may change the target date a bit, but they're already well on their way to that goal with the NEC franchise and the statie pool growing in leaps and bounds.
  • State-sponsored service amenities. A lot of that related to the new fleets having bike racks, half-baggage room PRIAA buying options, better WiFi, etc.
  • Biggest surge of new service proposals are (not surprisingly) in California. Expected launch of SF-L.A.-SD Coast Daylight, L.A.-Coachella Valley service. Plus service increases galore on the existing routes. Caltrans will need to make a large supplementary purchase of equipment to seed these, which is why the restart on bi-level design is critical (San Joaquins with its CAHSR overlap is the only route of theirs that needs the new high-boarding single-level cars they're getting...the Surfliner, Capitol Corridor, and new-starts are all still 8-inchers they'd much prefer to keep bi-level).
  • New routes: New Orleans-Mobile, Chicago-Minneapolis/St. Paul, Chicago-Moline, Chicago-Rockford. Burlington extension of Ethan Allen Express (on-target for Summer 2021). Vermonter re-extension to Montreal. Extension of most Richmond-turning Regionals to Norfolk.
  • New frequencies: +1 new round-trips on Surfliner, Lynchburger/Roanoke Regional, Keystone, Pennsylvanian (add'l to Keystone), Piedmont. +2 new Capitol Corridor round-trips (Sacramento end). +3 new Hiawatha round-trips.
 

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Thanks as always, F-Line, for your customarily colorful & comprehensive overview above re: my observations/queries. Assuming Stlin's statement above is accurate, and just $1.5 million was earmarked for Capitol Corridor--that's such an astonishing pittance, the only way it makes sense to me is if the opposition forces orchestrated the funding, in an act of supreme cynicism, as a giant Eff You to the advocates. I mean, really, what else can explain it?
 

Stlin

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Thanks as always, F-Line, for your customarily colorful & comprehensive overview above re: my observations/queries. Assuming Stlin's statement above is accurate, and just $1.5 million was earmarked for Capitol Corridor--that's such an astonishing pittance, the only way it makes sense to me is if the opposition forces orchestrated the funding, in an act of supreme cynicism, as a giant Eff You to the advocates. I mean, really, what else can explain it?
Source: NH 2021-2030 TYP Approved (PDF Warning)

This is project 40818; Page 135 of the PDF, 117 of the document as numbered.
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I mean... Its a 10 year plan that updates every two years. If this lays enough groundwork, the next plan can always continue the progress made. That said, I am *very* curious where they got 3.5m for previous funding; doing more research into the finances, the final approved 2019-2028 TYP showed the then $0 Prev./Proposed $4m project line item completely removed. (Snips attached)

The only place I can even find the right amount of money is that in 2019-2020 the FTA5307_NHDOT Grant program that this project belongs to; that funneled in ~3.6m annually. Ammendment 4, STIP. By the 19-28 TYP, while some amount of that funding was committed to other projects in 19&20, it appears that about $2.7m annually remained(s) available under the incredibly non specific title of of "PROGRAM (STATEWIDE PROGRAMMATIC) (FTA5307) BOSTON URBANIZED AREA (UZA) FTA SECTION 5307 APPORTIONED FUNDS FOR NHDOT TRANSIT PROJECTS."

If $3.5m has already been quietly spent to advance this, or otherwise set aside, I think an additional $1.5m is probably actually more reasonable than I previously thought.

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F-Line to Dudley

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Source: NH 2021-2030 TYP Approved (PDF Warning)

This is project 40818; Page 135 of the PDF, 117 of the document as numbered.

I mean... Its a 10 year plan that updates every two years. If this lays enough groundwork, the next plan can always continue the progress made. That said, I am *very* curious where they got 3.5m for previous funding; doing more research into the finances, the final approved 2019-2028 TYP showed the then $0 Prev./Proposed $4m project line item completely removed. (Snips attached)

The only place I can even find the right amount of money is that in 2019-2020 the FTA5307_NHDOT Grant program that this project belongs to; that funneled in ~3.6m annually. Ammendment 4, STIP. By the 19-28 TYP, while some amount of that funding was committed to other projects in 19&20, it appears that about $2.7m annually remained(s) available under the incredibly non specific title of of "PROGRAM (STATEWIDE PROGRAMMATIC) (FTA5307) BOSTON URBANIZED AREA (UZA) FTA SECTION 5307 APPORTIONED FUNDS FOR NHDOT TRANSIT PROJECTS."

If $3.5m has already been quietly spent to advance this, or otherwise set aside, I think an additional $1.5m is probably actually more reasonable than I previously thought.
Fed fun bux...note the FTA name-check of the $2.7M tally. There was a grant...which the People's Legislature populously rejected during one of its wild rightward election swings...then the obligatory "Should we not have spat on free money? Should we not have done that?" self-reflection...then the "Yoo-hoo! Mr. Secretary...about that grant we rejected. . ." pivot in the other direction. They ended up getting most but not all of it of it back for belated-start study work.

City of Nashua's whole "go it alone" effort on the state-line poke was born amid the Legislative meltdown on rejecting the study bucks. That's when they self-muscled the resources to buy/remediate/grade the Crown St. downtown station site and get deeper into talks with the Mall about a S. Nashua TOD partnership. They themselves also applied..as a lone city...for fed grants, but the FTA money to the state was reinstated before it came to the point where they needed to make their case to the feds. The T was all ready to send them to Washington armed with support statements from the whole of MA if it came to that.


As before, NH is such a planning headcase I don't even think another big leftward lurch in the House, Gov.'s Council, or a not-Sununu in the Gov.'s chair is enough to get anything going for the contiguous Cap Corridor...because planning of this sort takes >2 years and never ends up taking root when you have such hugely bipolar partisan swings coming literally every 2 years in the State House. Too many shift changes of too many chefs who have to overlook the same slow-cook pot, and the very nature of politics up there is so short-attention span theatre nothing ever has the possibility to just sit and simmer.

The Nashua poke I think is a coming reality, because while $3M ain't enough by a longshot for design it is an eminently doable project by piecemeal-cobbling funding sources. Save for South Nashua station there simply isn't very much left on the NH side of the border that would have to be designed for that poke. And it's an excellent overall candidate for a fed funding dump given the hyper-aggressive MA lobbying on Nashua's behalf. Plus consider that if Pan Am's freight buyers need a double-stack Ayer-Portland shipping corridor expedited, MassDOT will be spending money upgrading track and bridges on the 3-mile Lowell-Chelmsford Freight Main overlap that constitutes about 40% of their mileage to the border...a *golden* opportunity to wad freight + pax funding together at revenue upside that'll highly qualify for generous FTA assistance. So things could be accelerating here depending on where current events re: the PAR sale head.

*We* don't have to care much south of the border about points further to Concord if the T can just secure the Nashua poke. It's their S. Nashua parking sink that'll be overloaded with Live Free or Die plates for a change instead of Lowell Garage and US 3. And we'll have the in-district constituencies wrapped up + the layover yard needed for running Lowell RUR at less cost drain than today. But you would think with how much Hillsborough, Merrimack, and Rockingham counties have to carry four-fifths of the state on their backs as deep long-term economic deadweight with fast-declining population that there'd be glimmers of foresight here about shoring things up. Fact of the matter is that low taxes have not proven to be a business relocation incentive at all when fees are so goddamn high statewide and they refuse to invest in basic biz-supporting infrastructure like laying water/sewer pipes big enough to flush the toilets at whatever prospective corporate HQ's they thought their low taxes would be attracting. When all that biz they thought 20 years ago would be a shoo-in is targeting Fitchburg and Lowell instead, sustainability in suburban NH is an order of magnitude off what it is in Greater Portland...which Maine correctly surmised must grow and grow a lot by sustainability if it's to carry the rest of the state on its back.

There's no other 20-year pivot available to them to stave off economic ruin except sucking harder than ever at Boston's teat for paychecks. You would *think* that a 78-minute super-express schedule with future possibility of bleeding down closer to 70 if track to Wilmington/Lowell gets uprated for 90 MPH in mutual benefit to the Downeaster and NHDOT would be embraced like the coming of the savior in light of that. I mean...that's a fan-fucking-tastic schedule. And the way that (hourly-at-most) Lowell-Anderson skipper is segmented from the every-:30 all-stops locals doing 60 minutes to Nashua is spot-on perfect for keeping the Graniteheads and Massholes from overcrowding each other. No way in hell you beat train schedules like that driving 93 or 3; it instantly becomes the undisputed best commute mode. And that's probably enough to keep them afloat on MA's teat by making the commute so much less commitment-intensive for a wider swath of the Cap Corridor.

You'd apparently *think* wrong. 30 years of studying this, same low-urgency short attention span theatre. The spectre of generational stagnation apparently isn't enough to hold their attention for >2 years at a time, nor is the prospect that--for the up-front money--this one is such a painfully obvious gimme on the payback.
 

DBM

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No way in hell you beat train schedules like that driving 93 or 3; it instantly becomes the undisputed best commute mode. And that's probably enough to keep them afloat on MA's teat by making the commute so much less commitment-intensive for a wider swath of the Cap Corridor.
Two wholly subjective/impressionistic anecdotes to illustrate just how bad the situation is for those NH-based car-bound commuters slogging up-and-down 93 each day:

1.) In 2006 I was in a modestly long-distance relationship, dating someone who lived in Hollis, NH, immediately adjacent to Nashua. I decided to experiment one morning and see what it was like to drive to my job in the North End from there, after staying overnight. I left at 6:45 am or so, I reckon. No traffic congestion issues heading southbound on 3 until I hit the 495/3 junction at Chelmsford--which probably took me 25-30 minutes to negotiate, crawling at 5 mph or less. At 7:15 am in the morning. While still 22 miles from Downtown Boston. I can't even begin to imagine how wretched that convergence was during the 2012-2019 boom years before COVID hit.

2.) In 2013, driving home to Waltham from a Columbus Day weekend in Montreal, on Columbus Day, I made it to the part of 93 in the Derry/Windham area where it drops from 3 lanes to 2. On a federal holiday, at dusk (probably 6 pm), traffic northbound was heinous--a 5 mph-slog. And to think of what those poor people had already endured, just to brave 93 northbound from that absolutely murderous stretch from Charlestown through the 128 junction at Reading--only to hit that clusterbeep.

But hey, I just found this after some cursory research. No more lane reduction around Derry/Windham--problem solved! No way this will cause induced demand, unh-uh!
 

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