MassDOT Rail: Springfield Hub (East-West, NNERI, Berkshires, CT-Valley-VT-Quebec)

F-Line to Dudley

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Aren't the current track options between Springfield and Worcester a big impediment? I believe it is both slow and single track (on a double track right-of-way).
Correct. The single-track through the Worcester Hills (Auburn-Palmer) really inhibits traffic levels, and the track needs to be uprated from Class 3 (59 MPH) to Class 4 (79 MPH) for adequate speed.
 

Wash

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About half the route is single track
Until very recently it was double-track, and the ROW and grade are still there and even the bridges are in a lot of places. As far as double-track projects go, it's one of the easier ones.
 

GP40MC

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It doesn't help that one portion of double track is used as a staging yard for the EB&S (Auto facility in Spencer/East Brookfield). While Conrail added a new interlocking at CP60, they
effectively single tracked CP60 to E. Brookfield to accommodate the EB&S rack traffic.
 

as02143

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Apparently the Commonwealth submitted an application to the FRA for some upgrades for East-West Rail. In addition, the first meeting of the East-West passenger rail authority seems to be in a few days out in Western Mass.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Apparently the Commonwealth submitted an application to the FRA for some upgrades for East-West Rail. In addition, the first meeting of the East-West passenger rail authority seems to be in a few days out in Western Mass.
Cross-posted from the Reasonable Transit Pitches thread. . .

MassDOT press release:

They're seeking $108M in a federal grant application to kickstart enough B&A Springfield-Worcester upgrades to allow for 2 near-term Inland Route (NHV-SPG-BOS) round-trips. Upgrades include uprating the track class from Class 3 (59 MPH max) to Class 4 (79 MPH max), optimization of some single-track chokepoints (my guess is adding the tri-track siding that the NNEIRI/East-West studies specced by the autorack facility in East Brookfield so the existing double-track segment isn't bogarted by CSX switching moves), and addition of a tri-track siding at the Grafton & Upton interchange in Grafton in MBTA territory so the eastbound mainline track isn't blocked by the midday CSX local. It isn't the full double-tracking that's required by East-West and NNEIRI to allow full schedules, but it's a start. The speed uprate on the existing track is a very big bucket list item.


I think it's a really good and reasonable start. 2 round-trips may not be much (it's about the same as the pre-2004 Inlands schedule), but as we recently found out with Valley Flyer once service gets seeded it's nearly impossible to get rid of and becomes much easier to expand. It makes the scale of East-West/NNEIRI's full-blown ambitions much easier to rationalize, because it'll be existing...not speculative...service to expand out. It'll grease the skids for further investments, like upping the track class/speed limit west of Springfield. And if stretching it out on an installment plan of quick-burst funding helps de-tankify Baker/Pollack's handiwork on East-West, maybe we'll be on our way to getting the grand Vision Thing in some semblance of order at last (Inlands have to feature first, since Pittsfield is barely worth talking about if we aren't laser-focused on New Haven-Hartford-Springfield-Worcester-Boston ridership above all).
 

as02143

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Cross-posted from the Reasonable Transit Pitches thread. . .

MassDOT press release:

They're seeking $108M in a federal grant application to kickstart enough B&A Springfield-Worcester upgrades to allow for 2 near-term Inland Route (NHV-SPG-BOS) round-trips. Upgrades include uprating the track class from Class 3 (59 MPH max) to Class 4 (79 MPH max), optimization of some single-track chokepoints (my guess is adding the tri-track siding that the NNEIRI/East-West studies specced by the autorack facility in East Brookfield so the existing double-track segment isn't bogarted by CSX switching moves), and addition of a tri-track siding at the Grafton & Upton interchange in Grafton in MBTA territory so the eastbound mainline track isn't blocked by the midday CSX local. It isn't the full double-tracking that's required by East-West and NNEIRI to allow full schedules, but it's a start. The speed uprate on the existing track is a very big bucket list item.


I think it's a really good and reasonable start. 2 round-trips may not be much (it's about the same as the pre-2004 Inlands schedule), but as we recently found out with Valley Flyer once service gets seeded it's nearly impossible to get rid of and becomes much easier to expand. It makes the scale of East-West/NNEIRI's full-blown ambitions much easier to rationalize, because it'll be existing...not speculative...service to expand out. It'll grease the skids for further investments, like upping the track class/speed limit west of Springfield. And if stretching it out on an installment plan of quick-burst funding helps de-tankify Baker/Pollack's handiwork on East-West, maybe we'll be on our way to getting the grand Vision Thing in some semblance of order at last (Inlands have to feature first, since Pittsfield is barely worth talking about if we aren't laser-focused on New Haven-Hartford-Springfield-Worcester-Boston ridership above all).
4 trains a day is, like you say, a fair and reasonable start. We're talking about intercity rail and - intercity services don't /have/ to even be hourly in many European contexts to be considered useful transportation. Of course, this is clearly a corridor that could have much more than 2 round trips.

Playing the chessboard seems to be how CA got it's fairly developed Amtrak Californias system, and it's been high time for MA to do something similar with Amtrak services!
 

bigeman312

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I don't see any word on station stops other than "Boston, Worcester and Springfield, MA to Hartford, CT, New Haven, CT, and New York City."

My best guess:
  • Boston South Station
  • Boston Back Bay
  • Framingham
  • Worcester
  • Springfield
  • Windsor Locks
  • Windsor
  • Hartford
  • Berlin
  • Meriden
  • Wallingford
  • New Haven State Street
  • New Haven Union
  • Bridgeport
  • Stamford
  • New Rochelle
  • New York Penn
My ideal plan:
  • Boston South Station
  • Boston Back Bay
  • Framingham
  • Worcester
  • Springfield
  • Windsor Locks
  • Windsor
  • Hartford
  • Berlin
  • Meriden
  • Wallingford
  • New Haven Union
  • Bridgeport
  • Fairfield
  • Stamford
  • Greenwich
  • Port Chester
  • Larchmont
  • New Rochelle
  • New York Penn
Italics denote differences between the two.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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I don't see any word on station stops other than "Boston, Worcester and Springfield, MA to Hartford, CT, New Haven, CT, and New York City."

My best guess:
  • Boston South Station
  • Boston Back Bay
  • Framingham
  • Worcester
  • Springfield
  • Windsor Locks
  • Windsor
  • Hartford
  • Berlin
  • Meriden
  • Wallingford
  • New Haven State Street
  • New Haven Union
  • Bridgeport
  • Stamford
  • New Rochelle
  • New York Penn
My ideal plan:
  • Boston South Station
  • Boston Back Bay
  • Framingham
  • Worcester
  • Springfield
  • Windsor Locks
  • Windsor
  • Hartford
  • Berlin
  • Meriden
  • Wallingford
  • New Haven Union
  • Bridgeport
  • Fairfield
  • Stamford
  • Greenwich
  • Port Chester
  • Larchmont
  • New Rochelle
  • New York Penn
Italics denote differences between the two.
This wouldn't be making any different stops from an existing Springfield Regional + Lake Shore Ltd. What you're drawing up has far too many stops for an intercity-class train; there's more-than-ample Metro North service to transfer along the way. New Rochelle is the only one of those currently served by Amtrak. And the Hartford Line overlap probably could use a little future pruning (Windsor definitely, Wallingford probably) once CTrail service scales up enough to compensate.
 

Arlington

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Any speculation on how 2 Inlands would be timed vs the single Lakeshore? Can they make a good “Morning-Noon-Night” pattern on SPG -BOS and BOS-SPG?

Recall that the Downeaster still doesn’t have an early morning Northbound, underscoring that creating an ideal “super commuter” schedule from SPG might see a 6am and 9am Eastbound and a 4pm and 7pm Westbound (and not good timing on the NHV / NYC side)
 

Semass

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I don't see any word on station stops other than "Boston, Worcester and Springfield, MA to Hartford, CT, New Haven, CT, and New York City."

My best guess:
  • Boston South Station
  • Boston Back Bay
  • Framingham
  • Worcester
  • Springfield
  • Windsor Locks
  • Windsor
  • Hartford
  • Berlin
  • Meriden
  • Wallingford
  • New Haven State Street
  • New Haven Union
  • Bridgeport
  • Stamford
  • New Rochelle
  • New York Penn
My ideal plan:
  • Boston South Station
  • Boston Back Bay
  • Framingham
  • Worcester
  • Springfield
  • Windsor Locks
  • Windsor
  • Hartford
  • Berlin
  • Meriden
  • Wallingford
  • New Haven Union
  • Bridgeport
  • Fairfield
  • Stamford
  • Greenwich
  • Port Chester
  • Larchmont
  • New Rochelle
  • New York Penn
Italics denote differences between the two.
I've seen a stop at Palmer shown in numerous studies. It is right off the Pike and provides good access from the eastern side of Springfield.
 

DominusNovus

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I've seen a stop at Palmer shown in numerous studies. It is right off the Pike and provides good access from the eastern side of Springfield.
Palmer is just a tad too remote. If they could manage something around Ludlow, that might be better.


This wouldn't be making any different stops from an existing Springfield Regional + Lake Shore Ltd. What you're drawing up has far too many stops for an intercity-class train; there's more-than-ample Metro North service to transfer along the way. New Rochelle is the only one of those currently served by Amtrak. And the Hartford Line overlap probably could use a little future pruning (Windsor definitely, Wallingford probably) once CTrail service scales up enough to compensate.
Not directly related to the inland route itself, but the mention of Windsor gave me a thought: but could a spur going off to Bradley be built (maybe going along rt 20)? No idea what sort of direct service it would merit (at least springfield and hartford).
 

bigeman312

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This wouldn't be making any different stops from an existing Springfield Regional + Lake Shore Ltd. What you're drawing up has far too many stops for an intercity-class train; there's more-than-ample Metro North service to transfer along the way. New Rochelle is the only one of those currently served by Amtrak. And the Hartford Line overlap probably could use a little future pruning (Windsor definitely, Wallingford probably) once CTrail service scales up enough to compensate.
Thanks for the follow-up. Can you explain to me the reasoning behind stopping at both New Haven State Street and New Haven Union Station, but not stopping at Larchmont Station?

I would get the desire to spread out stop-spacing more and have New Haven State Street be strictly a CT Rail and Metro-North Station, as it's only 0.4 track miles from New Haven Union Station. That prioritizes faster travel between the larger cities, like New York, Hartford, and Boston.

I would get the desire to hit the highest-ridership Metro-North and Amtrak stations on the corridor, regardless of stop spacing (New Rochelle, Larchmont, Greenwich, Stamford, Bridgeport, etc). That would add more one-seat rides between station pairs, such as Larchmont and Boston.

What I don't understand is why Amtrak would stop at both New Haven State and New Haven Union, but skip Larchmont, which is a higher ridership station than New Haven State and would be further from adjacent Amtrak stops than New Haven State and Union are from one another. That seems to be the worst of both worlds.

Is the reason simply "because that's what stations have Amtrak services and it isn't worth it to change the status quo?" Am I missing something obvious? Thanks for helping educate me.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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Thanks for the follow-up. Can you explain to me the reasoning behind stopping at both New Haven State Street and New Haven Union Station, but not stopping at Larchmont Station?
Only Springfield Line shuttles stop at State Street. It's a temporary measure until CTrail service expands, because Amtrak is cross-ticketed with them and its Shuttle/Valley Flyer slots are load-bearing for commuter rail.

I would get the desire to spread out stop-spacing more and have New Haven State Street be strictly a CT Rail and Metro-North Station, as it's only 0.4 track miles from New Haven Union Station. That prioritizes faster travel between the larger cities, like New York, Hartford, and Boston.
That's the plan, as soon as CTrail schedules fill out.

What I don't understand is why Amtrak would stop at both New Haven State and New Haven Union, but skip Larchmont, which is a higher ridership station than New Haven State and would be further from adjacent Amtrak stops than New Haven State and Union are from one another. That seems to be the worst of both worlds.
Northeast Regionals don't stop at State St. and Springfield Shuttles + Valley Flyer don't go west of New Haven, so it isn't an either/or question. It's strictly a Hartford Line-overlap thing.

Is the reason simply "because that's what stations have Amtrak services and it isn't worth it to change the status quo?" Am I missing something obvious? Thanks for helping educate me.
No...it's a very recent thing. Shuttles never used to stop there, until CTrail launched the Hartford Line and Amtrak slots became cross-ticketed. The arrangement is only good until CTrail backfills its schedules.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Palmer is just a tad too remote. If they could manage something around Ludlow, that might be better.
Palmer's in easy reach of buses from all the schools around Amherst, and MA 32 covers a wide driving swath of MA + the quiet corner of CT. It actually projected in studies to have fairly healthy ridership.

Not directly related to the inland route itself, but the mention of Windsor gave me a thought: but could a spur going off to Bradley be built (maybe going along rt 20)? No idea what sort of direct service it would merit (at least springfield and hartford).
There's already a rail spur to Bradley that's fully active for freight. ConnDOT's had a study fascination with tarting it up for passenger service, but it's a roundabout routing and airport rail connectors tend to have shitty ROI (especially when they're on RR mode) so it's very unlikely they'd do anything. The new Windsor Locks station is supposed to have a very convenient shuttle bus to Bradley, and it would probably be faster than the direct rail connection because the Suffield Branch/Bradley Branch is such a roundabout routing.
 

GIL

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Trains coming into Springfield Union Station from the south slow down dramatically when entering the city of Springfield — it can be a frustrating crawl, adding about 15 minutes to the trip. Is that temporary due to construction or is that a requirement due to grade crossings? As other improvements between there and New Haven have improved the overall trip experience greatly, this appears to be a choke point.
 
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GP40MC

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That's mainly due to the sharp curve into the station and the fact your entering the station and not going any further east. You are not going to get anything better than an "Approach" once you get close to the wye connection. I don't know the actual timetable speeds for this area or the length of signal blocks, but this seems to be the case. Hardly any crossings north of the Route 5 South bridge over the river. Of course, one other reason could be work zones in the area.
 

GIL

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That's mainly due to the sharp curve into the station and the fact your entering the station and not going any further east. You are not going to get anything better than an "Approach" once you get close to the wye connection. I don't know the actual timetable speeds for this area or the length of signal blocks, but this seems to be the case. Hardly any crossings north of the Route 5 South bridge over the river. Of course, one other reason could be work zones in the area.
Thank you. I’m hoping it’s a work zone because the slow down starts in Longmeadow or Enfield — more than a mile below the wye or the acute curve into the station. The rest of the line into New Haven has noticeably improved over the last three years.
 

Stlin

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The Northern Tier Passenger Rail study continues to advance with a pair of alternatives recently being discussed. MassDOT hasn't updated the site with the new presentation yet, but reports indicate that neither makes substantial changes to the physical alignment, and both with 5 daily trains. Notably, only looks at station stops in N. Adams, Greenfield, Fitchburg and Boston. All other station stops at Orange, Gardner, Ayer etc would be part of other alternatives.
  1. a "low investment" of ~$1.05B for a 4hr trip and ~220-440 riders from N. Adams annually / 2hr 35m from Greenfield for 2400-6000 riders
  2. A "high investment" option of ~$2.2B for 3hr trip and 1430 to 4180 passengers from N. Adams annually / 2hr trip from Greenfield for 7370-20350 riders.
I honestly don't think a higher capital spend has ever been proposed in this state for such minimal ridership. The low investment option, even at the high end of it's ridership projections implies an average of less than 4 passengers per train per day - the high investment option is still only ~13. the midpoint of the N. Adams projection implies less than 1 boarding a day there across 5 trains! I know this study is explicitly predicated on being rail, and I generally think rail is better, but in this case I personally think a train is way overkill. The low investment option also takes about an hour longer than just driving the thing along RT2, with only the high investment option being on par but not faster. I would absolutely want to see a ridership study for a bus alternative service on this route. Beyond the fact that buses are cheap, when your train is that empty a diesel bus is probably more eco-friendly than the train. Frankly, for a billion dollars you could probably run an hourly bus for decades... And build out East-West Rail.


Edit: another source with more information

 
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