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

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
7,726
Reaction score
3,109
Andrew Cuomo probably has little or no interest in funding the segment between ALB and the Massachusetts border.
Really wouldn't cost NY anything unless they wanted a Chatham infill on the poke. Albany-Pittsfield is very ops-inocuous, especially after the coming wholesale Empire fleet renewal. It's just taking 1 or 2 trains that were turning at Albany anyway and giving them an extra 2 hours of work before making their originally-scheduled return trip to Penn. Slips pretty effortlessly into the existing churn at Albany, so if MassDOT is paying the way NYSDOT really has no quarrel.

That proposal always made some lick of sense for slipping into the mix very low- ops-profile and being able to live within a low farebox recovery on the poke from ALB. It's Boston-terminating-Pittsfield that was like a game of telephone gone horribly awry as the interntional misdirect via East-West's inherent unfocusedness somehow made that end up 'the' service mandate where that was never once in history any sort of service driver...and everything is now fucked from the sown confusion.


It doesn't help either that they're still chumming the waters with more misdirection like that North Adams-via-Fitchburg unicorn that's now got blocs of Legislators demanding the state insert itself head-first into the Pan Am company sale. Forget any sense and sanity prevailing now. For one, if you wanted to reach North Adams in shortest time on clock with most passengers in tow you would NEVER be doing a North Station direct via the Fitchburg Main through the curvy sticks of northern Worcester County. You'd be tacking that one also onto SPG Hub as an NNEIRI appendage...L-shaped South Station-Springfield-Northampton route all the way, then divert at Greenfield onto the Fitchburg Main for the Berkshire jog to N.A. You could put it together via same tinker-toys route splicing setup @ SPG Hub that NNEIRI specced for the Boston-Montreal train: half-Inland from Boston meets regular Inland from New Haven cross-platform @ SPG to double-dip with cross-tix at the transfer meet, then up to Northampton and simply divert a wee shy of the Greenfield platform onto the Fitchburg Main westbound to the Berkshires. The NNEIRI options to push some B&A track on the Wilbraham straightaway and some Conn River track on the Hadley straightaway to 90 MPH ends up looking more attractive a reach the more tinker-toy route combos you can come up with. No one...ever...would bother bleeding an extra hour's time on the crazy curves and grades past Wachusett for the sake of frickin' Athol, Orange, and Millers Falls ridership when SS + Worcester + Springfield + Northampton can get tapped in less overall time.

But forget it, folks, it's tankapalooza-town! So we light more study money on-fire studying the direct North Station route that's total ops D.O.A. and rustling the jimmies of more short-attention span Legislators because we're not even pretending anymore that this isn't all one big inside-job arsoning of the very notion of a Springfield Hub. Meanwhile at Springfield Hub there's lots of grumbling from Amtrak Valley Flyer riders (and reciprocal disappointment inside ConnDOT and Amtrak) that the state hasn't made the faintest attempt whatsoever at coordinating bus transfers any way/shape/form with the train schedules to Greenfield. Northampton in particular where the jumping-off point to all the campuses sorely needs the clock coordination and would bring in a large haul if they weren't so async. Because the Flyer is still load-bearing as a Springfield Shuttle on the northern schedule gaps of the half-finished Hartford Line, the train schedules pretty much have to be set where they are for the sake of lion's-share CT ridership. It was understood that MA would be doing the finishing touches on the route integration for transfers, but so far it's been a total non-effort. Almost as if they are treating the very existence of the Greenfield poke as a happy accident they get to enjoy for a few years until the Hartford Line schedule backfill is done and the Valley Flyer disappears entirely when the Shuttles are no longer needed...instead of being the placeholder + jumping-off point for kickstarting the Inlands. Knowledge Corridor commuter rail seeder...or a big tease? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Keep in mind as well, the Hartford Line is still confined to running anemic north-of-HFD schedules because MassDOT never embarked on its one big-ticket obligation in support of Springfield Line commuter rail: the layover yard at Armory Jct. a half-mile east of Springfield Union, with future flex for handling combined ConnDOT/MassDOT Knowledge Corridor/Amtrak layovers. ConnDOT has had to shape-shift its backfill plans for the northern schedules to precision turnarounds and more mid-line layover space in Hartford because they've become resigned to the fact that MassDOT's simply never going to fulfill its commitment and they'll be working crowded nooks-and-crannies @ SPG Union for the long haul. Since Springfield Union itself was majority paid-for by generous fed grant donations, the state has basically rewritten history to write off the Hartford Line as a freebie. Hooray!...Springfield will have dense RUR-like service south-only soon enough because those suckers in Nutmeggia broke their asses playing the long game so we don't ever have to. Maybe they can reach clean over us to shake hands with VTrans on that second Vermonter short-turn frequency in NNEIRI so there's a permanent second frequency through the Valley at less-than zero effort of our own. Oh, and...good luck, Governor Next, with the backlash from the crippling toll charges ConnDOT erects at the state line on all the interstates. We kinda boned you over real good on that one renegging on all our handshake transit commitments with them so they had no choice but to go full toll-war with us to cover their asses.
 
Last edited:

Norval Elliot

New member
Joined
Jun 3, 2019
Messages
80
Reaction score
43
Since Springfield Union itself was majority paid-for by generous fed grant donations, the state has basically rewritten history to write off the Hartford Line as a freebie. Hooray!...Springfield will have dense RUR-like service south-only soon enough because those suckers in Nutmeggia broke their asses playing the long game so we don't ever have to.
Oh, and the rolling stock? The MBTA exhumed 16 MBB cars from the scrap heap and leased them to CTDOT, who, thereupon, spent millions in necessary upgrades. In terms of peddling nutmeg, Mass sure put on a clinic.
 

Riverside

Active Member
Joined
Mar 19, 2012
Messages
595
Reaction score
369
I can't believe I've never thought to ask this before (and maybe this should go in the "Other People's Rail" thread)...

When discussing Boston-Montreal high(er) speed rail via Springfield, is the possibility of pairing that with NYC-Montreal high(er) speed rail via Hartford ever discussed? Yes, this is basically asking about upgrading the Vermonter to high(er) speed rail standards -- would that be any more feasible than upgrading the Adirondack route instead?

The pros would be focusing infrastructure improvements along a single north-south corridor that connects Montreal to the northeast -- more "bang for buck", as service via Vermont can easily be destined for Springfield, Boston, New Haven, and New York (and beyond). By contrast, the Adirondack route really only allows Montreal to connect with Albany and New York (and beyond).

The cons are non-trivial. By my back-of-the-napkin math, the diversion to New Haven adds ~2 hours to the trip, and it seems improbable that enough time could be made up elsewhere to off-set that. I also suspect -- with absolutely zero data to back it up -- that there probably is a non-trivial Albany-Montreal market, which obviously loses out if the HSR travels via the Connecticut River.

Plus, Albany-NYC seems very likely to get proper HSR upgrades -- whether as part of a standalone project or as part of Empire HSR to Western New York. And then up to Whitehall, you're also overlapping with a corridor that will soon be extended to Burlington.

Come to think of it -- is that the way you do NYC-Montreal HSR? New York - Albany - Saratoga Springs - [Whitehall, no stop] - Rutland - Middlebury - Burlington - [Essex Jct., probably no stop] - St. Albans - Montreal?
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
7,726
Reaction score
3,109
I can't believe I've never thought to ask this before (and maybe this should go in the "Other People's Rail" thread)...

When discussing Boston-Montreal high(er) speed rail via Springfield, is the possibility of pairing that with NYC-Montreal high(er) speed rail via Hartford ever discussed? Yes, this is basically asking about upgrading the Vermonter to high(er) speed rail standards -- would that be any more feasible than upgrading the Adirondack route instead?

The pros would be focusing infrastructure improvements along a single north-south corridor that connects Montreal to the northeast -- more "bang for buck", as service via Vermont can easily be destined for Springfield, Boston, New Haven, and New York (and beyond). By contrast, the Adirondack route really only allows Montreal to connect with Albany and New York (and beyond).

The cons are non-trivial. By my back-of-the-napkin math, the diversion to New Haven adds ~2 hours to the trip, and it seems improbable that enough time could be made up elsewhere to off-set that. I also suspect -- with absolutely zero data to back it up -- that there probably is a non-trivial Albany-Montreal market, which obviously loses out if the HSR travels via the Connecticut River.

Plus, Albany-NYC seems very likely to get proper HSR upgrades -- whether as part of a standalone project or as part of Empire HSR to Western New York. And then up to Whitehall, you're also overlapping with a corridor that will soon be extended to Burlington.

Come to think of it -- is that the way you do NYC-Montreal HSR? New York - Albany - Saratoga Springs - [Whitehall, no stop] - Rutland - Middlebury - Burlington - [Essex Jct., probably no stop] - St. Albans - Montreal?
The Adirondack and Vermonter cover such divergent markets they aren't interchangeable. You must have both. Adirondack's primary ridership audience is intrastate, connecting the Lake Champlain region with Albany/NYC...and subject to large-scale seasonal swells when the weekenders from NYC hit the lakes. It's a big Upstate advocacy to simply get more short-turn frequencies on it. The Montrealer going back to its joint NYNH&H/B&M days was usually the intercity route of choice because it got stocked with the NH's more-swank intercity equipment, and cemented that rep in the Penn Central/early-Amtrak era when it was able to be full-on extended to D.C. over merged ex-Pennsylvania RR territory on the NEC. New Yorkers in particular have always parted strongly down the middle on which route they preferred, even though to the Montrealer's end in 1995 the travel times were similar. I've shared in other threads how the Montrealer in the swinging 70's had a notorious rep as a "booze train" for the college kids and the ski weekend crowd, while the Adirondack ops-contracted by NYSDOT to former pre-AMTK owner Delaware & Hudson was the more Puritanical "dry" train for family weekenders...and tix agents used to 'profile' bookings accordingly. They've sort of mutated along similar lines. Adirondack is still a weekender-oriented train because of the Upstate/Lake Champlain patronage. Vermonter...not a party train anymore, but acting as a load-boarding Springfield NE Regional gives it business-class patronage the Empire just doesn't have. Re-extension to MTL would simply galvanize the difference more sharply right from the Penn Station platforms.


Now...there's no 'high-speeding' anything off the trunklines of greatest overlap. The Central VT main has to contend with the Green Mountains so is always going to be a 60 MPH railroad. This was the insanity of the VTrans study and Obama-era HSR future corridors map through the NH Capitol Corridor via the B&M Northern Route. How in the hell were you ever going to high-speed the anything-but high-speed Northern that gets the ugly end of both the Merrimack River's northernmost meandering banks and White Mountains grades...then continue at anything resembling high-speed on the extant Central VT through the Green Mts.? Even if you somehow did kajillion-dollar virgin grading (which NHDOT would never pay for) along I-89, 100 MPH would become 60 MPH again at White River Jct. on the Central VT and there was never any solve for that one because it was all- mountain grade on any path current or future northwest to Burlington. The L-shaped routing through Springfield is outright better if you tune the Palmer-Wilbraham B&A and Harfield-Deerfield Conn River to 90 MPH eventually. Too bad MassDOT's completely chummed the waters with the East-West tankapalooza to discredit NNEIRI, because the original tri-state study had the value proposition pegged spot-on.

On the other side, the Delaware & Hudson (now Canadian Pacific) main has to contour to the Hudson River then lakes waterfronts the whole way...flat but not straight, faster on absolute speed but with a little more non-optional stop density. 90% of the potential speedups are all south-of-Springfield and south-of-Albany on the Empire and NEC/Springfield Line overlaps. Or--more modestly--fishing the Canadian National track both routes share north of the border out of the 25 MPH gutter. On the dedicated routes the only potential speed-ups are small-scale: a short stretch of Conn River Line on the Hatfield-Deerfield straightaway between Northampton and Greenfield stations that the NNEIRI study pegged as future-upgradeable to 90 MPH, and maybe some finessing of the D&H to Saratoga Springs. If all bolts get tightened south-of-Springfield and NYC-Albany for highest practical speeds then the dedicated routes are still going to time out within rounding error of each other...but still tap divergently different audiences.

And there's also no alt-routings here giving a viable third answer. Until the 60's B&M used to do a secondary MTL route out of Springfield (detached from the joint NYNH&H running of the Montrealer) that went up the Upper Conn River instead of the Central VT and hit St. Johnsbury, Newport at the Canadian border, and Sherbrooke, QUE before riding the Grand Trunk main the rest of the way to Montreal (Canadian National controlled both the Central VT and Grand Trunk, so B&M got passenger trackage rights on both). Flatter...hit some different population centers including biggish Sherbrooke...smidge worse travel times on the less well-maintained Upper Conn River track than the better-maintained Central VT and likewise a speed ceiling set by the increasingly meandering northern CT River bank. The ex- Rutland RR route from Albany to Troy (abandoned), Hoosick Falls to Burlington (active), Burlington-Swanton (abandoned), and the former Allburg-Rousses Point trestle across the Lake was just as contoured by hydrology as the Adirondack. The chunk that remains--the VTrans Western Corridor--is the coming-attractions Ethan Allen Express Rutland-Burlington extension + the Albany-Bennington-Rutland study corridor; the abandoned parts were abandoned because they didn't do anything surplus-useful over the baseline Adirondack or Montrealer that got blessed with Amtrak inclusion in '71.


Thus there's no binary-choice upgrade pick anywhere here. Immovable-object geology prevents that on both sets of dedicated routes...but both routes benefit greatly from billions more in upgrades on their five-alarm urgent overlaps with corridor trains. Do the latter and improvements to the former come automatically in tow.
 
Last edited:

DominusNovus

Active Member
Joined
Jun 20, 2010
Messages
904
Reaction score
53
Coming late to this, and this question has already been discussed but does alternative 6 use the Housatonic RR to reach Pittsfield?

The farm I grew up on abuts the railroad for about a 1/4 mile. Would be cool to see passenger traffic going by again. I remember at least one time where my grandmother and I hopped on one of the scenic trains from the back of our pasture to the railroad museum in Lenox.
 

johnjamesgarrett

New member
Joined
Oct 29, 2020
Messages
2
Reaction score
3
I also called the Governor and Secretary cowards but that apparently was a little too hot for the Berkshire Eagle. I've been going to these darn meetings since when I lived three miles from the newly reopened Union Station in Springfield. Those of you that seem to have an insider's understanding of how this process works, is there any hope? Some gigantic "Amtrak Joe" Biden backed infrastructure plan full of delicious federal pork so tempting that even Mass DOT bites and revises its numbers to match what gets them a taste? F-line in particular you seem like someone who has worked inside the system before, what can average schulbs like me who show up to yell at the governor's flunkies do?
 

cubalibre

Active Member
Joined
May 30, 2006
Messages
201
Reaction score
163
State Senator Eric Lesser:

A 90-mile railway connecting Afghanistan and Iran, costing $75 million was completed on Thursday.

“Why can’t a 90-mile rail link be built between Springfield and Boston,” Lesser concluded of the estimated $2.4 to $4.6 billion East-West rail line. “We’re not asking for the Hoover Dam.”
 

cubalibre

Active Member
Joined
May 30, 2006
Messages
201
Reaction score
163
MassDOT narrowed options for East-West from the original six to options three, four, and hybrid alternative four/five.
“Three” keeps exiting tracks shared with CSX, “four” adds new tracks between Springfield and Worcester, and the hybrid alternative adds some high speed sections between the two cities.



25E1D7F1-2268-40CD-A4E0-2B389759F768.jpeg
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
7,726
Reaction score
3,109
It's as fucking D.O.A. as ever if they: (1) continue to deny the existence of Springfield Hub as the primary ridership driver of the corridor with the L-shaped interstate patterns being straw that stirs drink; (2) continue to insist on Pittsfield parity over Hartford/New Haven or Albany. Jesus...Amtrak already has stated it has no interest in Pittsfield termini from BOS, only Albany and their existing crew/equipment base if we insist on going that far. All of these Pittsfield termini are pre-rendered D.O.A. by that statement.

What a hell of a way to sow chaos. This is going nowhere until the very notion of East-West is repealed for a reinstatement of NNEIRI implementation plan of SPG Hub first...dedicated BOS-ALB bi-state study collab second. Good luck convincing the enflamed Western MA delegation to accept patience-via-staging with that one, or any willingness to cede some joint control over ALB service parameters to a NYSDOT co-sign.


Fire Pollack.
 

shmessy

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 4, 2010
Messages
2,255
Reaction score
1,267
MassDOT narrowed options for East-West from the original six to options three, four, and hybrid alternative four/five.
“Three” keeps exiting tracks shared with CSX, “four” adds new tracks between Springfield and Worcester, and the hybrid alternative adds some high speed sections between the two cities.



View attachment 9542

Look, I know as much about rail transport as I do about growing potatoes........but looking at that $2.4-$4.6 billion cost, 278K to 469k annual riders" has me gagging abit.

That's between 762-1,285 riders per day. For $2.4 - $4.6 billion. The $2.28 billion GLX is projected at 45,000 riders per day.

And the Western part of the Commonwealth foams at the mouth about $15 Billion for the NSRL?????? SCREW THEM.
 
Last edited:

Arlington

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Dec 10, 2011
Messages
4,975
Reaction score
1,227
How much does it cost to do just Rail to SPG-BOS (with 3rd track and bit of new un-curving) and then Bus-on-MassPike SPG-PIT-ALB/POU?
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
7,726
Reaction score
3,109
How much does it cost to do just Rail to SPG-BOS (with 3rd track and bit of new un-curving) and then Bus-on-MassPike SPG-PIT-ALB/POU?
NNEIRI study has full track costs, including above-and-beyonds that didn't make the cut like Class 5/90 MPH Palmer-Springfield. Pull up the Exec Summary (VTrans's copy will probably pop first on Google).


Spoiler: it's all way cheaper than these E-W cooked books.
 

jass

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 10, 2006
Messages
4,944
Reaction score
457
Why dont we start by simply adding a second daily Amtrak train along the existing tracks and see how that does
 

cubalibre

Active Member
Joined
May 30, 2006
Messages
201
Reaction score
163
Whatever solution is implemented, it should cut the travel time between Springfield and Boston South Station to 90-100 minutes, because why bother otherwise?
 

DominusNovus

Active Member
Joined
Jun 20, 2010
Messages
904
Reaction score
53
Look, I know as much about rail transport as I do about growing potatoes........but looking at that $2.4-$4.6 billion cost, 278K to 469k annual riders" has me gagging abit.

That's between 762-1,285 riders per day. For $2.4 - $4.6 billion. The $2.28 billion GLX is projected at 45,000 riders per day.

And the Western part of the Commonwealth foams at the mouth about $15 Billion for the NSRL?????? SCREW THEM.
Well, Western MA gets almost no benefit from NSRL, so even if it is a much better use of money, it still is a bad deal from their point of view.
 

shmessy

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 4, 2010
Messages
2,255
Reaction score
1,267
Well, Western MA gets almost no benefit from NSRL, so even if it is a much better use of money, it still is a bad deal from their point of view.
Even the indirect ROI from a $15 billion NSRL for Western MA is far greater than the less than one half of one high school’s worth of passengers per day for this $2.4-4.6 billion East-West rail project. The comparison is not even close.

Aside from some 1%ers in Amherst, Stockbridge or Lenox, those people will mostly balk at confining themselves to a train. They want their Ford F150s and the freedom of the open road. Do a poll of Western MA residents and I guarantee you at least 70% would prefer more roads vs this rail project.

So why not make EVERYONE happy, build them some more roads and save the money on that fever dream of large scale East-West ridership to maybe Worcester-Boston and concentrate the rail money on people who are actually demanding rail in economically more feasible numbers.
 
Last edited:

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
7,726
Reaction score
3,109
Even the indirect ROI from a $15 billion NSRL for Western MA is far greater than the less than one half of one high school’s worth of passengers per day for this $2.4-4.6 billion East-West rail project. The comparison is not even close.

Aside from some 1%ers in Amherst, Stockbridge or Lenox, those people will mostly balk at confining themselves to a train. They want their Ford F150s and the freedom of the open road. Do a poll of Western MA residents and I guarantee you at least 70% would prefer more roads vs this rail project.

So why not make EVERYONE happy, build them some more roads and save the money on that fever dream of large scale East-West ridership to maybe Worcester-Boston and concentrate the rail money on people who are actually demanding rail in economically more feasible numbers.
---> https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2018/05/24/NNEIRI_StudySummary.pdf <---

Or...you can build NNEIRI like we partnered on with our neighbors CT and VT not 2 years before this study, and net a Preferred Alternative's build of:
  • 429,000 annual riders on the Inland Route, New Haven-Hartford-Springfield-Worcester-Boston
  • ...AND 343,000 annual riders on the enhanced Montrealer NHV-HFD-SPG with cross-tix transfers @ SPG via Inland slots from Boston
  • ...AND 103,000 annual riders on the Boston-Montreal direct with cross-tix transfers @ SPG via Inland slots from NHV-HFD
...at a cost of:
  • $554-660M capital for just the Inland Route, at $33M annual ops costs - $18M annual revenue = $15M annual subsidy
  • $591-614M capital for just the BOS-MTL route, at $23M annual ops costs - $12M annual revenue = $11M annual subsidy
  • $1.1B-1.2B for the full SPG hub/spokes package operating in-tandem (incl. the timed cross-tix transfers) as a uni-build/uni-subsidy effort, at $56M annual ops cost - $30M annual revenue = $26M annual subsidy
...keeping in mind that ConnDOT and VTrans are going to be picking up some minority tab of the subsidy for their route miles ops.


If that isn't better-enough, we can still mount E-W on top of all that the *correct* way as a MassDOT/NYSDOT BOS-ALB study corridor with only west-of-SPG B&A trackage counted in the capital costs (plus bringing back any above-and-beyond performance enhancements to the east left on cutting room floor from the NNEIRI Preferred Alt), and ridership being goosed by the same exact timed-transfer-via-Inland tricks that NNEIRI predicated itself on to open up Connecticut to the Albany travel market (currently a very hard car commute). So...you know...the same thing as E-W but cheaper/better in every single way.


No, seriously: Fire Pollack. We had our bestest Western MA service blueprint, and the Trollmaster spent us stupid to upend it and sow endless chaos. Nobody should be allowed to keep their job after this level of transparent ruination.
 

Top