Service on Amtrak’s New York City-Montreal Adirondack train is suspended north of Albany, N.Y. Also, east-west passenger rail projects in Palmer and Pittsfield, Mass., will advance with the addition of $12 million in the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s (MassDOT) newest capital investment plan; final pre-commissioning starts this month for the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) between Brossard and Gare Centrale stations; and the launch of SkyTrain’s new Capstan Station in metro Vancouver has been delayed.
Amtrak’s Adirondack train between New York and Montreal will now terminate at Albany-Rensselaer, according to a June 26 report by the Burlington, Vt., NBC affiliate. The move comes just months after the Adirondack restarted. It was the only Amtrak service that was discontinued due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first northbound run from Penn Station New York took place April 3. Southbound service from Montreal started the next day, April 4. Montreal and the communities in Upstate New York on the train’s route are the last Amtrak stops to get their service back.
“Amtrak rail partner Canadian National (CN) has implemented reduced speed regulations in Canada due to heat, impacting the Amtrak Adirondack route,” Amtrak Senior Public Relations Manager Jason Abrams said in a statement to NBC5. “Trains 68 and 69 will originate and terminate in Albany, NY until further notice.”
MassLive.com on June 23 reported that $12 million for east-west passenger rail projects in Palmer and Pittsfield, Mass., has been restored and included in the MassDOT’s Fiscal Year 2024-2028 Capital Investment Plan. Of that, $4 million would be used in Palmer “for the study and design of a new or reopened passenger rail station that could serve as a park-and-ride location for the eastern suburbs of Springfield and as a bus-train connection point for the University of Massachusetts Amherst,” according to the news outlet, which noted that the station’s price tag would likely be $12 million-plus. The remaining $8.5 million would be used in Pittsfield to “pay for track improvements in and around the intermodal bus and train station supporting not only east-west rail but the ongoing Berkshire Flyer Amtrak train connecting Pittsfield with New York City via Albany and Poughkeepsie,” MassLive.com said. “The Berkshire Flyer is running summers only as a demonstration project meant to gauge passenger demand.”
Massachusetts Gov. Maura T. Healey included the $12 million in her proposed budget, but both houses of the state legislature had removed project funding from their budget proposals, reported MassLive.com, which noted that “[w]hen Pittsfield and Palmer were left out of the state budget, lawmakers said there were alternative means of moving the projects forward. Another option would be the state bonding bill.”
According to MassLive.com, a report from the legislature’s Western Massachusetts Passenger Rail Commission “is due June 30. It promises to shed more light on lawmakers’ thinking about passenger rail not only Boston-Worcester-Springfield but north-south through Springfield, northern-tier service through Greenfield to Boston and passenger service to Pittsfield.” Additionally, the Federal Railroad Administration “is reviewing a $108 million grant application from MassDOT and rail companies Amtrak and CSX Corp.,” according to the news outlet. “The federal transportation money would help fund improvements along the 53 miles of railroad between Springfield and Worcester. Amtrak would run the trains if east-west commuter rail happens. It has lobbied for the service to go as far west as Albany.”
Final pre-commissioning starts June 28 for the REM automated, electric light rail project between Brossard and Gare Centrale stations, confirmed CDPQ Infra, a subsidiary of Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. “The final phase consists of simulating the future service, without passengers,” CDPQ reported June 26. “Over the next few days, REM cars will run at frequencies similar to those of the future service. To reach this final stage, the teams have completed a number of decisive milestones over the past 12 months, including the complete electrification of the 16.6-kilometer [10.3-mile] South Shore antenna, the crossing of the Samuel-De Champlain Bridge and a third consecutive winter of intensive testing.” It noted that it will soon confirm a commissioning date for Brossard-Gard Centrale service.
REM is a 67-kilometer (41.6-mile), 26-station transit project to link downtown Montreal, South Shore, West Island, North Shore and Montreal-Trudeau airport. It is slated to operate seven days per week, 20 hours per day.
On Oct. 21, 2022, CDPQ Infra reported that the project’s five South Shore stations would not open before spring 2023. The South Shore “portion of the REM was expected to be up and running” in 2021, according to a CBC News report in October 2022. “The timeline has been delayed several times since then. The opening of most of the other stations on the network has been pushed back to the end of 2024.”
Last October, CDPQ Infra CEO Jean-Marc Arbaud said, “Since 2020, the pandemic and the war in Ukraine have led to a certain number of consequences difficult to predict,” according to CBC News, noting that Arbaud referred to such challenges as inflation, supply chains and the labor shortage. Crews have also dealt “with complications in the Mount Royal Tunnel, where century-old explosives were discovered [left behind from the tunnel’s original construction],” CBC News added.
SkyTrain’s new Capstan Station in Richmond is now slated to open in early 2024, TransLink confirmed to the Daily Hive Urbanized. The station, located on the Canada Line, is being delayed due to “supply chain issues,” the media outlet reported. “As recently as March 2023, the public transit authority indicated Capstan Station is targeted for an opening later in 2023, with construction reaching completion this summer and the opening as early as this fall,” the Daily Hive Urbanized said. “Construction has now reached an advanced stage, including the roof over the platforms, with crews now progressing on the finishings of the station.”
The Capstan Station is located between SkyTrain’s existing Bridgeport and Aberdeen stations. On the average weekday in 2019, there were more than 37,000 passengers riding the Canada Line between those two stations, according to TransLink. The Capstan Station is being added to support growing development in the area.
“When construction first began in September 2021, the project carried a budget of [C]$52 million, with the City of Richmond providing [C]$32 million it collected from the Captan Village area’s developers specifically towards building the station, and TransLink covering the remainder of [C]$20 million,” according to Daily Hive Urbanized.