Transit Briefs: Amtrak/CSX/MassDOT, DART, NJTWritten by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), in partnership with Amtrak and with support from CSX, is seeking federal funding for corridor improvements to restore Inland Route intercity passenger rail service. Also, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) is extending the Discount GoPass Tap Card pilot program; and New Jersey Transit (NJT) is re-launching its Adopt-A-Station program.
MassDOT on Dec. 5 reported applying for more than $108 million from the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Fiscal Year 2022 Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program. The grant would be used for infrastructure improvements between Springfield and Worcester as part of its “Connecting the Commonwealth: Early Actions for the Inland Route Project.” The improvements would “result in increased train speeds and additional corridor capacity along the 53-mile section of the CSX Boston & Albany (B&A) Line between Worcester and Springfield,” MassDOT reported. “The extension of existing passing siding capacity and other track improvements will increase the Maximum Authorized Speed (MAS) to 80 mph and minimize train delays along the 44-mile single-track segment. In addition, a siding will be constructed in Grafton, Mass., that will improve the efficiency and capacity of freight interchange with Grafton & Upton Railroad while also minimizing the freight impacts to passenger operations.”
MassDOT said this work will:
- “[F]acilitate two Amtrak Inland Route daily round-trips as a first phase of corridor improvements that improve connections within Massachusetts between Boston, Worcester, and Springfield and to communities beyond the commonwealth in Connecticut and New York City. In addition to the two new daily trains, travel times will be improved for the existing Amtrak Lake Shore Limited, enhancing connections from Eastern Massachusetts to Pittsfield, [Mass.]; Albany, N.Y.; and other upstate New York communities.”
- “[I]ncrease operational efficiency and flexibility by reducing passenger and freight train conflicts and reducing travel times along the remaining single-track segments on the CSX-owned segment between Worcester and Springfield, Mass. These improvements are a necessary first step for increasing train frequency and speed along the Inland Route Corridor and the corridor between Boston, Mass., and Albany, N.Y.”
“We are pleased to work with Amtrak and CSX to make improvements to this portion of the CSX-owned Boston-Albany Line to begin Amtrak service along the Inland Route, connecting Boston, Worcester and Springfield, Mass., to Hartford, Conn.; New Haven, Conn.; and New York City,” Transportation Secretary and CEO Jamey Tesler said. “The commonwealth and Amtrak have had a strong partnership for many years to provide rail services in Massachusetts and connect communities across the Northeast and beyond. We look forward to the approval of this CRISI application so we can make the necessary investments to expand passenger rail options in Massachusetts while ensuring the fluidity of the freight rail network.”
“This investment will advance the long-awaited restoration of Inland Route service to Western Massachusetts,” Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner said. “It’s the first step in expanding service to these key communities and connecting passengers to destinations throughout the Northeast and beyond.”
“CSX support for MassDOT’s application builds on our long-standing relationship with our agency and passenger rail partners, and our commitment to provide leading freight rail service while reliably hosting passenger rail service in Massachusetts and New England,” said Andy Daly, Senior Director of Passenger Rail Operations for CSX.
DART on Dec. 6 reported that its Board of Directors has extended the Discount GoPass Tap Card pilot program through Dec. 31, 2024. Launched in January 2020, the program had been scheduled to expire at the end of this month. It provides a 50% discount on the regular price of a DART local pass to riders using any one of nine support assistance programs—CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), TANF (Texas Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), CEAP (Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program), SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), Housing Choice Vouchers, DHA Housing Solutions for North Texas program, Medicaid, Medicare, or Texas WIC (Texas Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children).
Discount GoPass Tap Cards can be used on any DART bus, GoLink or light rail service, as well as Trinity Railway Express (TRE) commuter service between EBJ Union Station and CentrePort/DFW Station.
“DART launched the pilot-program to ensure riders who qualify have access to jobs, health care and educational opportunities, reducing social and economic inequalities by making mobility financially feasible to more people,” the transit agency said.
Participants who are renewing their discount must visit the DARTmart store with documentation that verifies participation in a qualifying program, according to DART. Registration for new users is available at DART.org/TapForHalf, or at the DARTmart store at DART Headquarters (1401 Pacific Avenue, Dallas, TX 75202).
NJT on Dec. 5 reported the re-launch of its Adopt-A-Station program with a new partner, American Express. The program allows community groups to “adopt” their local train station “to maintain its character as a focal point of their neighborhood by planting flowers, performing light landscaping and maintenance, and removing litter,” according to the transit agency. Through American Express’ sponsorship, supplies such as safety vests, gloves and trash bags will be provided to the community groups, which will be recognized for their work at stations via signage.
“By re-launching this program, New Jersey Transit and American Express are leveraging the pride and can-do-spirit of New Jerseyans to help make our stations cleaner and more beautiful than ever,” NJT President and CEO Kevin S. Corbett said.