Thursday, November 17, 2022

Amtrak Begins Procurement for Construction of New Connecticut River Bridge


Infrastructure improvements will enhance travel on the Northeast Corridor

WASHINGTON – Amtrak announced today it will be entering into the procurement phase in early 2023 to select a contractor for the construction of a new Connecticut River Bridge, which will be delivered via design-bid-build delivery method. The bridge replacement will allow for better reliability and decreased delays for travelers due to trains traveling on more modern infrastructure. As part of a more than $500 million investment from Amtrak, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT), and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Amtrak intends to award the contract in late 2023. Construction is expected to start in early 2024.

“Building a new Connecticut River Bridge is one of several projects Amtrak is advancing that signifies we’re in a new era for rail,” said Amtrak Executive Vice President, Capital Delivery Laura Mason. “We thank our partners for their support, and we look forward to awarding the contract so we can get shovels in the ground for a project that will improve reliability of the NEC and train travel in Connecticut and beyond.”

“Necessary improvements to Connecticut’s rail infrastructure are on the way,” said U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) “The Connecticut River Bridge is an essential part of the Northeast Corridor’s busy rail line, and in dire need of repairs. I have proudly fought for federal support of Connecticut’s rail to make these types of upgrades possible and to improve rail service for the traveling public.”

“Connecticut’s proximity to New York and Boston is one of our state’s economic strengths, but these benefits are in jeopardy after years of underinvestment in our transportation system. Finally, this is changing. A new Connecticut River Bridge will fix what’s been a major chokepoint on the Northeast Corridor, improving services and reliability while cutting down on commute times,” said U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT).

Connecticut Transportation Commissioner Joe Giulietti said, “Thanks to the Federal Railroad Administration’s and the Connecticut Federal delegation’s continued support of Connecticut’s rail infrastructure and our ongoing partnership with Amtrak, much-needed improvements to the Connecticut River Bridge are on the horizon. This area is a critical piece of infrastructure along the Northeast Corridor, and through this project, services will improve, and speeds will increase. We look forward to working with Amtrak and all our partners on this important project.”

The Connecticut River Bridge, first built in 1907, is located on the Northeast Corridor (NEC) between the towns of Old Saybrook and Old Lyme and is used by Amtrak, CTRail’s Shore Line East, and freight trains. The project will involve building a two-track, electrified, and resilient movable bridge structure equipped with new track, signal, catenary, power, communication, controls, and security features. The new bridge structure is expected to have a useful life of 150 years. As part of the project, the selected contractor will also perform any environmental mitigation required by the permitting/NEPA process.

Interested contractors should monitor Amtrak’s Procurement Portal located here for further solicitation information, submittal requirements, and an upcoming online presentation of the project and the procurement process which will be published in the coming months. Attendance at the online presentation is not a prerequisite to submitting a proposal, but is highly encouraged. The online presentation will include a non-binding question and answer session.

This is one of several major infrastructure projects that Amtrak’s newest department, Capital Delivery, is advancing. Earlier this year, the procurement launch was announced for the replacement of the B&P Tunnel in Maryland and Amtrak will be announcing similar procurement opportunities in the coming months.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

New Push for Boston-to-Montreal Passenger Trains

(SOURCE: Wilson Ring, Holly Ramer,

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Rail advocates are dusting off a proposal for passenger train service between Montreal and Boston, riding a renewed interest in train travel to bolster a concept that has been around for more than a decade.

“It’s not a hard sell at all. A lot of people want this,” said Francois Rebello, a former national assembly member in Quebec and a consultant on the project.

Hundreds of travelers would ride a privately operated, overnight train each day if obstacles can be overcome to make the service a reality in coming years, according to a ridership study.

It wouldn’t be a high-speed affair. Promoters envision a different experience — a relaxed ride with a meal and sleep before arriving bright-eyed at the destination. The 14-hour ride would travel through Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Quebec.

The proposal comes against a backdrop of a rail revival, and more than $100 billion in railway infrastructure funding approved by Congress.

Maine State Sen. Richard Bennett, a Republican who lives in a district where the train would pass, said there’s much work to be done.

“I’m both excited and skeptical,” he said. “I certainly support the concept and I think it has a lot of promise. I think this can be done.”

But the proposal is in the early stages and the obstacles are many.

The track on the Canadian side of the border requires more than $100 million in upgrades and repairs. The track is in good shape through northern New England but the speed is limited to about 35 mph (56 kph) for a long stretch, and there’s little hope of securing additional funding to boost the speed.

Operators would have to negotiate agreements with several private owners of the rail — the Saint Lawrence and Atlantic, CSX and others — and there could be multiple crews required for the train. Then there’s the question of clearing customs with people coming and going at multiple train stops, and finding scarce equipment.

The idea for restoring Montreal-to-Boston passenger rail service for the first time since the 1960s has been bounced around for more than a decade, and several different rail routes have been floated over the years.

This time, the proposed route would follow Canadian Pacific Railway track from Montreal to Sherbrooke, Quebec, and then the St. Lawrence and Atlantic across Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, where a CSX-owned rail passes through Old Orchard Beach, a popular Maine tourist destination for Canadians. The final stretch is operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority.

Carl Fowler, a member of the Vermont Rail Advisory Council, is a rail advocate who likes the idea of expanded passenger rail service. But he said people have to be realistic about the proposal’s challenges.

“There are a lot of loose ends to be resolved,” he said. 

Proponents have engaged with the Canadian Pacific Railway and the corporate parent of St. Lawrence and Atlantic, and the Canadian government already has considered investing in railway upgrades, Rebello said. Montreal real estate entrepreneur Nikolai Ray has signed on an investor.

About 60 rail advocates, legislators, tourism officials and others gathered recently in Coaticook, Quebec, to discuss the vision promoted by Montreal-based Fondation Trains De Nuit, or Night Train Foundation, and view a proposed map. Notably absent were state transportation officials from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

But the project won’t start anytime soon. The most optimistic view is that the project would need at least two years to become a reality, he said. However, it could take longer to secure funding and rail agreements.

A motorist could get from Boston to Montreal twice as fast but rail advocates say riders would get there in style. People could have dinner, be entertained and sleep in a comfortable bed, proponents say. They’d also be spared the cost of a hotel fee, since they’d be sleeping and showering on the train, supporters said.

The project holds appeal both for older riders who are nostalgic about trains and a younger generation that’s less enthralled with cars, Rebello said.

Rail enthusiast Sarah LeBaron von Baeyer, who lives outside Boston and doesn’t drive, said she “wholeheartedly” embraces mass transit that would allow her to visit family and friends in Canada several times a year.

“I love train travel. I lived in Japan for many years. It was absolutely the best way to get around,” she said.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Federal Transit Administration Issues Directives to MBTA / Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities to Correct Safety Issues

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

WASHINGTON – To improve safety for the Greater Boston Area's rail transit system, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Transit Administration (FTA) today issued a series of special directives to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU), the state agency responsible for safety oversight of the MBTA's rail transit operations.

A special directive is an order from the Federal government that requires an FTA-regulated transit agency or oversight organization to take immediate action on safety issues within a specific period. The special directives being issued today—four of which are being issued to the MBTA and one to the DPU—are a result of the FTA's safety management inspection of the MBTA that began April 14, 2022, following several incidents that resulted in one fatality and several injuries to passengers and employees on MBTA’s transit rail systems. These special directives require the MBTA, the MBTA Board of Directors, and the DPU to work together to remedy safety concerns and improve the MBTA's safety culture.

"Safety is our number one priority and must be the primary focus for the MBTA and the DPU," said FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez. "Every transit passenger deserves a safe ride. Every transit worker deserves a safe workplace. The MBTA must immediately take action to improve its safety procedures for its passengers and workers."

FTA underscores that transit riders in the Boston area should not interpret the special directives issued today as a reason to avoid the MBTA subway or light rail. Rather, FTA's actions provide system-wide measures to fix longstanding issues with the agency's overall safety program and culture.

The four special directives issued to the MBTA concern:

  • Operating Control Center staffing;
  • General safety operating procedures;
  • Delayed critical maintenance; and
  • Lapses in staff safety certifications.

Each directive includes specific timeframes – ranging from 24 hours to 35 days -- for the MBTA to provide responses and take actions.  

The directive to the DPU affirms the need for the agency to enforce the special directives to the MBTA and address outstanding safety issues from FTA's most recent audit of the DPU. The audit, conducted in October 2019, resulted in sixteen findings, of which seven remain open. Those findings concern:

  • hazard management;
  • accident investigations;
  • corrective action plans;
  • and rules compliance.

FTA will provide technical assistance both to the DPU to enhance its enforcement role, and to the MBTA to help address the agency's safety issues. 

FTA's actions direct the two agencies to adopt system-wide measures to fix longstanding issues with the MBTA’s overall safety program and safety culture, including involvement of the members of the MBTA’s Board of Directors, who are the ultimate decision-makers for the agency, along with leadership of the DPU.  

FTA issued the directives as part of its oversight role and to continue to ensure transit remains the safest mode of surface transportation. FTA's Public Transportation Safety Program regulation lays out the agency's authority and process for overseeing and supporting transit safety, including issuing special directives.

Amtrak Service Restored Between Burlington, Vt. & NYC


After nearly 70 years, Vermont’s most populous community once again has passenger rail service to and from New York City.

The newly-expanded Ethan Allen Express connects downtown Burlington and Penn Station.

Secretary Joe Flynn, who leads the Vermont Agency of Transportation, said restoring service took decades of prep work, and more than $115 million in corridor investments — using mostly federal funds.

"I think it makes Burlington more complete," Flynn said in an interview with NECN & NBC10 Boston. "I really do."

Amtrak’s CEO, Stephen Gardner, said he is seeing interest in rail travel rebound to near pre-pandemic levels.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

CSX Receives Approval from Surface Transportation Board to Acquire Pan Am Railways

Trains SEPO & BFPO, Westford MA 2016

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – April 14, 2022 – CSX Corp. (NASDAQ: CSX) today announced that the Surface Transportation Board (STB) approved CSX’s application to acquire Pan Am Railways, Inc. (Pan Am). CSX will move forward with the acquisition with a planned closing date of June 1, 2022, at which time CSX will acquire control of Pan Am.

“CSX is pleased that the STB approved the proposed acquisition of Pan Am and has recognized the significant benefits this transaction will bring to shippers and other New England stakeholders,” said president and chief executive officer, James M. Foote. “We look forward to integrating Pan Am, their employees and the rail-served industries of the Northeast into CSX and to working in partnership with connecting railroads to provide exceptional supply chain solutions to New England and beyond.”

David A. Fink, president of Pan Am Railways said: “This much anticipated decision paves the way for an exciting new chapter for Pan Am customers and our employees as we begin our transition to the CSX team.”

Adding Pan Am to our network will extend the reach of our service to a wider customer base over an expanded territory, creating new efficiencies and market prospects for customers to capitalize on a robust pipeline of growth opportunities to move freight to, from and within New England.

With this transaction, New England will benefit from CSX’s track record as a leader in environmental performance. CSX will operate Pan Am with a more reliable and more fuel-efficient fleet, significantly reducing fuel consumption and improving rail’s environmental footprint in the region.

Passenger and commuter carriers in New England will benefit as the company is committed to maintaining or improving existing passenger service that operates on Pan Am. CSX has a long-standing history of working cooperatively with Amtrak and other passenger rail partners as evidenced by the significant improvement in contractual on-time performance with Amtrak since CSX has implemented its new operating model.

Headquartered in North Billerica, Massachusetts, Pan Am owns and operates a highly integrated, nearly 1,200-mile rail network and has a partial interest in the more than 600-mile Pan Am Southern system. Pan Am’s network across New England has access to multiple ports and large-scale commodity producers. The transaction will expand CSX’s reach in Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts while adding Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine to its existing 23-state network.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC acted as financial advisor and Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP acted as legal advisor to CSX in connection with the transaction.

MBTA's Safety Practices Under Federal Review After String of Injuries

 (SOURCE:  NBC 10 Boston)

The Federal Transit Administration is reviewing the MBTA's safety practices after several high profile incidents resulted in the death or injury of its riders.

Just last week, federal investigators determined that a passenger door on a Boston subway car did not function properly when Robinson Lalin got his arm stuck in it and was dragged to his death last month.

The MBTA has come under fire in recent years for several other incidents involving injuries, including a Green Line collision in the summer of 2021 that sent dozens of people to the hospital. An MBTA spokesperson said they fully support the FTA's goal to enhance safety.

 “Sharing the Federal Transit Administration's desire to make public transportation as safe as possible, the MBTA fully supports the FTA's review of the Authority's safety-related processes and practices and welcomes a constructive and collaborative process that focuses on making the T a transit industry leader in safety and reliability," an MBTA spokesperson said.

"This is a process that we are pleased to cooperate with the FTA on," MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak told reporters after an unrelated Fairmount Line event, according to audio provided by a Department of Transportation spokesperson. "I've pledged both externally to the FTA and I've made it clear to everyone at the MBTA that we want to engage and cooperate and collaborate in this process. If we identify any shortcomings related to safety, we will mitigate those immediately."

Officials from the FTA and MBTA held a meeting last month to initiate the process. The MBTA has ramped up infrastructure spending over the past several years in an attempt to make the system safer and more reliable. The MBTA’s major infrastructure spending went from $600 million in 2014 to a record $1.92 billion last year. The goal for the current fiscal year is $2 billion.

"The MBTA has invested over $8 billion in infrastructure improvements over the past five years, including new tracks and revamped stations as well as new buses and trains all to make the system safer and more reliable," a spokesperson said. "Unwavering in its commitment to its riders and employees, the MBTA has strong, well-funded plans for delivering safe, accessible, and reliable services for decades to come.”

A spokesperson pointed to safety projects including the Green Line Anti-Collision Program, upgrades on the Red and Orange Lines and positive train control systems installed on MBTA commuter rail corridors and vehicles.

Pointing to new workers hired since that report's release and an emphasis on capital spending aimed at maintaining, modernizing, and expanding the system, Poftak said the T has made "extensive investments in safety."

"It's not a question of resources, so having subject matter experts come in and take a look at the system -- if they identify gaps, we will solve those gaps, we will mitigate those problems," Poftak said.

"The MBTA is safe," he later added. "We are working every day to make it safer. I take the MBTA every day. My family takes it. The MBTA is safe."

Another federal agency, the National Transportation Safety Board, is already involved with the MBTA amid an investigation into last month's fatal Red Line incident. NTSB investigators said in a preliminary report last week that they found a "fault in a local door control system that enabled the train to move with the door obstructed" after Lalin became trapped.

"Obviously, the Red Line incident was a tragic incident and we offer our condolences to the family," Poftak said. "We've identified the problem. The problem was an anomaly, it was not in any other vehicle. We have put a mitigation in place so that problem can never happen again. We've also changed our inspection protocols, so we can't rule out everything, but we are doing a tremendous amount of work."

MBTA: All New Orange Line Trains Removed From Service After Braking Issue Found

(SOURCE: Fox Boston)

MEDFORD, Mass. — All new Orange Line trains have been taken out of service after transit officials discovered an issue with one train’s braking unit, the MBTA announced Thursday.

One of the new trains experienced a problem in one its multiple braking units at Wellington Station and it became disabled, transit officials said.

In a statement, the MBTA said, “A proactive decision has been made to keep all of the new trains out of service while the vehicle engineering and technical teams troubleshoot the problem.”

There were no reported injuries.

Officials are now working to determine the exact cause of the failure.

Orange Line service will continue uninterrupted with the use of older model trains.

JD - One has to ask... did the "junky old" PTC trolleys have as many issues???

Friday, February 4, 2022

Athearn / Roundhouse HO Pan Am EMD F7A Locomotives PAR1 & PAR2

Just announced, and due March of 2023, is the Athearn/Roundhouse HO scale Pan Am EMD F7A pair of locomotives, PAR1 and PAR2. 

  • 5-pole motor with precision-machined flywheels and multi-link drive train for trouble-free operation
  • All-wheel drive with precision gears for smooth and quiet operation
  • All-wheel electrical pickup provides reliable current flow
  • Heavy die-cast frame for greater traction and more pulling power
  • Clear plastic cab and/or portal windows
  • Single or dual headlight per prototype
  • Separately-applied horns
  • McHenry® operating scale knuckle couplers
  • DCC Ready 21 pin plug
  • Machined metal wheels with RP25 contours operate on all popular brand of track
  • Fully-assembled and ready-to-run out of the box
  • Painted and printed for realistic decoration
  • Highly-detailed, injection-molded body
  • Minimum radius: 18”
  • Recommended radius: 22”

Monday, January 17, 2022

Maine Potatoes Once Again Moving by Rail

(SOURCE: By Corey Bouchard

Maine potato farmers had a banner year this past fall. They are now reaping the benefits by shipping to western States. Corey Bouchard takes a look at how they overcame a transportation issue to get their crop to market... ” Rail enables us to move a large quantity, although a longer transit time”... The Agricultural Bargaining Council worked with Maine Northern Railway and Union Pacific to bring Refrigerated rail car service to Lajoie Growers to transport the spuds... (READ)

Amtrak Conductor Dies in Fall From Train in Rhode Island


An Amtrak conductor has died after falling off the train she was working on near the Westerly train station on Saturday afternoon, according to Westerly, Rhode Island Police Chief Shawn Lacey.

The train staff realized she was not answering her radio shortly after leaving the station so the train stopped to look for her, Lacey said.

"She was preparing to stop at the Westerly station as they opened the doors prior to stopping," Lacey said. "Something must have happened causing her to fall she must have become caught underneath the train and was killed as a result."

Moments later, the 26-year-old woman from Massachusetts was found dead on the train tracks about 50 yards south of the High Street Bridge overpass which is north of the Westerly station, according to police... READ MORE