Monday, July 9, 2012
Yeah, the trains are coming, but bullet trains they are not.
1. Work will start soon, probably in October. A long string of equipment moving through town replacing most ties and laying and welding the rail. They average about a mile a day. Some racket for a day or two, no fences built, and they are not going to repaint the bridges, which Pan Am owns. They are keeping a single track to the Route 91 overpass to our south, then a long passing siding that will terminate near the bike trail crossing in back of McDonalds. Single line north to Greenfield.
2. Starting this winter, freight trains will be able to do 40mph on the new welded rails. Ties replaced as needed. A train going by you at 40 mph will be somewhat louder, I think. No clear idea if PanAm RR will schedule more freight trains now that they have a good rail-bed. They haven't got many revenue-producing customers on this length of line. Pan Am doesn't come to meetings, although an impressive-looking big pickup that can run on rails was in the parking lot at city hall.
3. When feasible, the Vermonter, run by Amtrak will start service through Northampton,one trip north, one trip south every day. Temporarily, it will use the old station downtown.It will be able to average 79 mph out in the country, but here in town it will be slowing down or speeding up.
4. Vermonter will still dead-end at Saint Albans Vt, I think, until U.S./Canada customs questions get ironed out. Same equipment Amtrak is using today, no bullet trains. Railroad wants customs work done in Montreal.
5. No money for stations. Buy tickets on board for now. The tunnel that will take the bike trail under the tracks is at the 30% design stage. The work itself to put it into place will only take a day or two. There will be earthmoving equipment, the big culvert pieces will be moved in place by a couple of crane. The planning process for the Damon Road grade crossing,is more intense, involves more parties (the state, the city DPW, the police, the Pan Am railroad, which at this stage, still owns the roadbed. The State is negogiating to buy the roadbed.
6.The State is aiming at completion of the project on December 31, 2013. Amtrak hopes to eventually have trains running every half hour to Springfield and points north and south. But that will be some time in the future when and if demand shows itself. The big federal money has gone to southern Connecticut, and the money to modernize trackage and bridges from Hartford to Springfield is not there yet.