NEC Future: HSR "High Line", FRA, Amtrak Infrastructure Plan

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Re: NEC Future: HSR "High Line", FRA, Amtrak Infrastructure

Postby seacoast » Thu Apr 13, 2017 7:42 am

A significant news article on NEC Future from Ana Radelat at the Connecticut Mirror. It looks like a late May/early June Record of Decision. A lot of wiggle room on plans for Fairfield County, less wiggle room in southern Rhode Island and southeastern Connecticut. Worth a read.

https://ctmirror.org/2017/04/13/ct-rebe ... ve-impact/
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Re: NEC Future: HSR "High Line", FRA, Amtrak Infrastructure

Postby Ridgefielder » Thu Apr 13, 2017 11:00 am

Have to say I hadn't heard about this:

The Connecticut Mirror wrote:Meanwhile, in Fairfield County there’s growing pushback on the plan’s proposal plan to lay down a new two-track line from New Rochelle, N.Y., to Greens Farms in Westport.

Did anyone at the FRA take a look at the average house price in Greenwich, Darien and Westport and figure out how much ROW acquisition is going to cost?
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Re: NEC Future: HSR "High Line", FRA, Amtrak Infrastructure

Postby seacoast » Fri Apr 14, 2017 9:51 am

Something probably needs to be done to accomodate additional commuter rail travel in Fairfield, but yes, the NEC Future plan would be almost impossible impactful. It appears that the preferred solution to avoiding geologic and infrastructure impediments is to build high in the air. At the moment, the opposition in Fairfield is not that fierce, but it is growing exponentially and quietly. I just got a flier in the mail for a roundtable to prepare lawyers for questions on eminent domain, because apparently clients are freaking out (quietly) about Let's Go CT! and the widening of I-95. Perhaps an inland route could take some of the pressure off the corridor, I don't know.

My question, is to what extent commuter rail can be sped up, from an average of 45 mph, to something closer to 65 mph. What are the key impediments, and to would this help speed alleviate impediments to longer-distance and higher-speed service? I know that Joe McGee of the Business Council of Fairfield County has been pushing the idea of 30 30 30. Meaning reducing the times between Stamford and NY, Stamford and New Haven, and New Haven to Hartford, to 30 minutes as key for the state.
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Re: NEC Future: HSR "High Line", FRA, Amtrak Infrastructure

Postby electricron » Fri Apr 14, 2017 10:29 am

seacoast wrote: My question, is to what extent commuter rail can be sped up, from an average of 45 mph, to something closer to 65 mph. What are the key impediments, and to would this help speed alleviate impediments to longer-distance and higher-speed service? I know that Joe McGee of the Business Council of Fairfield County has been pushing the idea of 30 30 30. Meaning reducing the times between Stamford and NY, Stamford and New Haven, and New Haven to Hartford, to 30 minutes as key for the state.

The realistic and easiest way to speed up commuter rail trains is to stop at fewer stations along their way, at which point it's not really commuter rail anymore stopping at every station. That doesn't mean MTA North couldn't run a few express trains running through many stations, but they will still have to continue to run many more all stop trains anyways. So only the few express trains will average higher speeds, most of the trains will still be slower.

Assuming MTA North decided to do so, they would have trains proceeding through their corridor at three different speeds, and that would complicate scheduling very much, as faster moving trains will have to pass the slower moving trains. On a four track corridor, with two tracks in each direction, it's easy to run slow and fast trains on different tracks. But with trains running at three different speeds, the trains running at the middle speed would have to switch to the fast track to pass the slower trains, and move to the slow track to allow faster trains to pass it. That's means having many more interlockings along the corridor than what is present today. It would probably also require rebuilding some of the stations with more platforms - so both the fast and slow tracks have platforms. Most likely just the few stations that these new express commuter trains will stop at.
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Re: NEC Future: HSR "High Line", FRA, Amtrak Infrastructure

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Sat Apr 15, 2017 9:37 am

seacoast wrote:My question, is to what extent commuter rail can be sped up, from an average of 45 mph, to something closer to 65 mph. What are the key impediments, and to would this help speed alleviate impediments to longer-distance and higher-speed service? I know that Joe McGee of the Business Council of Fairfield County has been pushing the idea of 30 30 30. Meaning reducing the times between Stamford and NY, Stamford and New Haven, and New Haven to Hartford, to 30 minutes as key for the state.


I would say it's still state-of-repair that makes the most difference, simply because that is still such an extremely deep bucket to fill. And it's not so much a matter of raw speeds--45 to 65, or whatever--as it is further stabilizing the service reliability to chop out more variability in the schedules. There's still some inefficiency fudge factor baked into the commuter schedule for the physical condition of the line...not the sort of thing you can time with a 1-on-1 overtake, but which still adds up one pinprick at a time over the course of a service day. The constant-tension catenary made a big difference for that, as no longer having constant little bouncing-wire brownouts onboard trains saves countless brake applications across the whole schedule that add up over time. Every vertical/lateral bounce over shot bridge joints that gets smoothed out with an overpass replacement, every lumpy water-breached stretch of trackbed substrate that gets fixed by new/better culverts, and so on. Think all the little blips like that projected across a full day's schedule on all 4 tracks, and what regular old SGR labor does to collectively tighten those bolts.

Then consider the remaining 3 unfunded movable bridges...especially Cos Cob, which accounts for 50% of the total openings of all five New Haven Line movables. A fast-moving, adjustable-height lift bridge with thin rigid decks reduces the schedule impact on the most-congested New Rochelle-Stamford portion of the line on all 4 tracks and induces way fewer openings.

Consider what lengthening all platforms to a uniform 10 cars does to MNRR dwell times at rush where some extremely packed trains do overspill the platforms on a daily basis. CDOT only has two 6-car platforms left to lengthen before the Stamford/New Caanan mainline stops are all buffed out. They've got several more shorties to the east to pick off: Rowayton (6 cars), East Norwalk (4), Green's Farms (6), Southport (4), Fairfield (6), Stratford (4), Milford (westbound: 4). Those are all short by big enough margins that the local dwells make make tangible difference in schedule variability for the GCT expresses. Trim that dwell fat everywhere and the slotting of expresses on that most-congested New Rochelle-Stamford stretch is easier to manage. Trim it on the east-of-Stamford locals and you won't have service increases on the branchlines, and SLE + Hartford Line to Bridgeport gumming the locals up en route to Stamford.


It's a whole lot of baby steps like that. And we still don't know how much they matter because the Commission never took the NEC Infrastructure Improvements Master Plan data as a baseline, much less revised it upwards for more aggressive SGR investment, before embarking on its empire-building scheme chucking such large chunks of the NEC aside. We don't have traffic modeling of what a 100% bolt-tightened New Haven Line can or can't do because they weren't interested in seeing that; it would've defeated their political leverage game. They aren't saying New Haven Line congestion is what breaks the whole NEC BOS-WSH, full-stop...because then they'd need to focus on the Fairfield bypass first and not drop the LIRR + cross-Sound tunnel option so quickly from consideration. Their actions don't reflect some pervasive fear that the whole project is going to die between New Rochelle and Stamford if they don't build an entirely separate railroad. On the contrary, we've been led to believe the more traffic-diffuse Shoreline is what's going to ruin it for everybody if they don't get all the eminent domain they want on that Old Saybrook bypass.
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Re: NEC Future: HSR "High Line", FRA, Amtrak Infrastructure

Postby seacoast » Tue Apr 18, 2017 8:16 am

And we still don't know how much they matter because the Commission never took the NEC Infrastructure Improvements Master Plan data as a baseline, much less revised it upwards for more aggressive SGR investment, before embarking on its empire-building scheme chucking such large chunks of the NEC aside. We don't have traffic modeling of what a 100% bolt-tightened New Haven Line can or can't do because they weren't interested in seeing that; it would've defeated their political leverage game. They aren't saying New Haven Line congestion is what breaks the whole NEC BOS-WSH, full-stop...because then they'd need to focus on the Fairfield bypass first and not drop the LIRR + cross-Sound tunnel option so quickly from consideration.


It's pretty clear that the baseline comparison used by NEC Future as part of the NEPA process is deficient, which undercuts the entire project both in terms of planning and in terms of legal sufficiency. It is likely causing some last minute excisions and revisions. Sort like a little foundation work, after they finished painting and putting in the shrubs. Apparently, there was quite a bit of in-fighting and second-guessing over dropping the cross-sound tunnel.

I see that the planned victory lap at the APA, "A Mid-Century Vision for the Northeast Corridor," now has a new set of speakers... no David Carol, no Rebecca Reyes-Alecia. Neither are with the project as it closes out. https://www.planning.org/events/nationa ... y/9109865/
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Re: NEC Future: HSR "High Line", FRA, Amtrak Infrastructure

Postby bostontrainguy » Tue Apr 18, 2017 8:40 am

seacoast wrote:
It's pretty clear that the baseline comparison used by NEC Future as part of the NEPA process is deficient, which undercuts the entire project both in terms of planning and in terms of legal sufficiency. It is likely causing some last minute excisions and revisions. Sort like a little foundation work, after they finished painting and putting in the shrubs. Apparently, there was quite a bit of in-fighting and second-guessing over dropping the cross-sound tunnel.


That's it. Propose using the Long Island Sound tunnel option and then Connecticut will be so upset about being almost totally bypassed by new high-speed rail they will compromise and accept the bypass.
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Re: NEC Future: HSR "High Line", FRA, Amtrak Infrastructure

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Tue Apr 18, 2017 4:51 pm

No, they won't...because Long Island already blew a gasket over the crayon drawings for their bypass ensuring it would be eliminated in Round 1. Crossing the Sound wasn't the problem here, though. It was the nonsensical map doodles for getting across the Island, all the maps that showed land-takings in heavily residential areas, and the FRA playing the "oh, that's just a placeholder alignment" card then refusing to speculate where it would actually go. They got run out on a rail quicker than they were in New London County. The reason they clung so hard to the Shoreline bypass is because they already shot themselves in the foot with horrendous outreach over those questions in the prelim alignments and boxed themselves into a corner way too soon.

It's the same deal. If they don't even know what the existing NEC can handle because they refuse to use state-of-repair from the IIMP as a baseline, all of the NYP-BOS bypasses are suspect. Stopping the Shoreline bypass was the political move to keep the much more property-destructive New Rochelle-Stamford bypass from creating even more havoc. By stuffing both of those into the "aspirational" box it drags the Commission kicking and screaming into re-drawing its entire baseline around an update of the IIMP. That is...the very place they should have started all along. Take the existing Corridor with a full SGR and capacity enhancement baseline, plot the shortfalls from there, and toss around solutions from there. Like any sane planner would do. The FRA just has to be beaten into submission to accept that baseline...hence all this overwrought drama about scrubbing those shoot-first bypasses into the "aspirational" column.

Once they are forced hell or high water to deal in the real world evaluating the existing corridor...THEN the states can offer some aspirational suggestions of their own while not being shut out from the process. In CT that means talking Midland options via Hartford once the two total-poopshow bypasses are stuffed safely in that lockbox. In NY that can even mean putting the cross-Sound tunnel back under review...but offering up their own reality-based routings on how to traverse LIRR without land-taking. e.g. Restore the full Central Branch, cleanroom build due-north on the 300 ft. wide LIRR-owned power line ROW that spans the Main Line east of 'Koma to the Port Jeff Branch west of Port Jeff station unbroken without land-takings...then load-spread traffic all around LIRR by having multiple distributed routes choose-your-adventure style for reaching the Port Jeff tunnel. A far more sensible plan than just plowing random lines across central LI. But unfortunately they don't have the leverage to make their own reality-based suggestions for re-study until the ritualistic killing of these FRA bypasses is complete. For the sole reason that until you force them to do so at gunpoint by stuffing all their real estate schemes in the "aspirational" lockbox, the existing Corridor won't be properly modeled to tell the real story on where the remaining bottlenecks are after full SGR is achieved.
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Re: NEC Future: HSR "High Line", FRA, Amtrak Infrastructure

Postby east point » Tue Apr 18, 2017 9:37 pm

It would seem to this poster that getting most of the NEC rebuilt to SOGR on the present track alignment and slowly easing curves will decrease enroute times. Then one section at a time can be built to the new alignments if the upgraded times prove insufficient. We could imagine 45 minutes NYP <> PHL at 160 MPH on present alignments and with Gateway bores, Portal bridge, straighten to Trenton and straighten the Frankford mess.>
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Re: NEC Future: HSR "High Line", FRA, Amtrak Infrastructure

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Wed Apr 19, 2017 5:25 am

In fact, there are only 2 bypasses that make a lot of potential sense on their merits...and each has nothing to do with HSR/Regional travel times:


-- Gunpowder + Bush River bypasses in MD along the CSX ROW. Provided that CSX can be accommodated on a dispach-separated unpowered Track 5/6 as an ironclad commitment, something that shouldn't be an issue since P&W in Pawtucket & Providence has operated its mainline the same exact way on a shared ROW for 40+ years without butting heads with AMTK. This would get them out of having to rebuild those two very expensive bridges, solve the 2-track pinch at those bridges while keeping a unified ROW, and solve for the scary flood map on the current ROW at those rivers in a sea level rise era. It's a lateral trade on performance as the new alignment is virtually identical on curvature, but it would solve for capacity management while being massively less expensive to maintain than the current alignment (which I guess could be abandoned to just a power line carrier).

Land is generally available with only a couple close shaves around existing development. A cost-cutting Hunter Harrison-era CSX would probably welcome the opportunity for a rebuilt freight main on consolidated infrastructure IF they had no loss of capacity or functionality on their dispatch-separated track, IF the division of MOW labor on the 4 AMTK tracks and 1-2 CSX tracks were well-enumerated, and IF negotiations were friendly (MDOT is more trustworthy than the feds for leading that negotiation, since the state and CSX have been productively buddy-buddy over Port of Baltimore improvements). Aberdeen station would trade places 3 blocks up Bel Air Ave. from its current location, MARC Edgewood would move about 2 miles up the road, and MARC Martin State Airport would move 3 miles up MD 43 into downtown Nottingham (though that might be an improvement for surrounding ridership catchment so long as shuttle buses served the airport).

NEC FUTURE predictably bungled this one by separating it out as 2 x 2 parallel trunks and burying the lede on what happens to CSX. Under the Commission's plan both bridges would be rebuilt anyway per the IIMP...then presumably shoved onto MDOT and CSX while Amtrak eminent-domains the cheaper ROW for itself. They couldn't even see all those ^^obvious efficiencies^^ right below their noses in their quest to run roughshod over every other stakeholder. When all else is stuffed in the "aspirational" lockbox and re-study is anchored to IIMP state-of-repair, this bypass deserves a closer look. But not for superduper HSR...a closer look for graduating into the next revision of the IIMP because its merits are so much more closely tied to SGR and decisions on rebuilding the 2 bridges.


-- Philly Airport bypass. Not as the transparently obvious air travel empire-building scheme the Commission was engaging in, but as a purely local transit initiative. The bypass on an easy-as-pie ROW would skip over 10 SEPTA intermediate stops sandwiched between the diverging points at U. City and Chester Transpo Ctr., allowing for hyper-frequent Chester-terminating local service in the Regional Rail district free from the delicate balancing act of all the other service layers. Unlike the local intermediates between N. Philly and Trenton on the Trenton Line where SEPTA's going to have a difficult time increasing frequencies on a shared corridor, the sky's the limit here. It would also help DelDOT's dilemmas with service increases on a shared corridor to divorce Wilmington/Newark service a little bit more from the hyper-local SEPTA stops and run that schedule with longer stop spacing on the bypass U. City<-->Airport<-->Chester and retrench its primary bread-and-butter around the Delaware stops. Much faster schedule and less overcrowding opening up some capacity management headroom for service increases DelDOT wouldn't get if it were permanently shackled to the in-district SEPTA locals. And Delaware residents do have a little more skin in the airport commuter rail access game than Greater Philly.

Cheapie since the bypass has plenty of land for >2 tracks and needs few grade separations. It just needs a less-clunky mission statement than "Amtrak-only", because the value proposition just isn't good enough for the locals who aren't as inclined as the feds to severely overrate direct airport connectors. The hyper-local Chester increases and DelDOT upside more than sell it on the modest cost. Would also be a golden opportunity to convert the SEPTA Airport Line to light rail where it can run faster/more frequent and serve the individual terminals much better with luggage rack-equipped trolleys.

Hell...if SEPTA wants to think big for a change they can shoot for a total mode conversion of the old corridor into a grade separated light rail or heavy rail line to Chester. The NEC runs at the mid-block of 2 parallel streetcar corridors (Routes 11/34 and 36) before they diverge at Island Ave., and comes within 2 blocks of the terminus of Route 102 @ Sharon Hill. Whole lot of grist for remaking the light rail system around a high-capacity grade separated feeder splitting off onto those branches if all mainline traffic were shifted onto a quad-track airport bypass and the old corridor between the line splits were given over to a light rail trunk fed from new subway tunnel capacity downtown. Not that this has to be so, as there's plenty they can do with plain old Regional Rail frequencies on a traffic-lightened corridor...but that's the kind of boundless upside making this bypass pure local-transit initiative serves up.

The exclusionary fed vs. state pissing match sells the Philly area senselessly short. Conceptualized the right way this pretty inexpensive bypass could be the greatest gift to SEPTA/DelDOT service ever...full-stop. But it's not going to be conceptualized that way until every one of these political turf wars is stuffed in the "aspirational" box and they have no choice but to engage the baseline corridor and its other users.
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Re: NEC Future: HSR "High Line", FRA, Amtrak Infrastructure

Postby Ridgefielder » Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:28 am

Part of me suspects that the sole reason for proposing a "Fairfield Bypass" is the realization in DC that from New Rochelle to New Haven it's not Uncle Sam's railroad. Amtrak is the tenant, always has been, always will be.
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Re: NEC Future: HSR "High Line", FRA, Amtrak Infrastructure

Postby seacoast » Fri May 12, 2017 6:10 pm

I was surprised to learn that CT DOT is now opposing electrification of the New Haven - Hartford - Springfield corridor. Apparently, they are claiming this is due to public opposition, but I'm pretty certain that there is no opposition to the plan, nor will there be. Is this simply cost-savings conveniently blamed on NIMBY? Is it rooted in a capacity issue west of New Haven?

It's odd because I was under the impression that this project was top priority for the Malloy administration, and that in fact CT DOT was diverting money from other projects (including the CT River Bridge replacement) to help pay for the electrification.

A few months ago, CT DOT/Malloy wrote the FRA to ask that they not electrify Hartford to Springfield, and that seemed odd, but this downright bizarre. Thoughts?
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Re: NEC Future: HSR "High Line", FRA, Amtrak Infrastructure

Postby electricron » Fri May 12, 2017 6:31 pm

CTDOT doesn't own electric locomotives, although they do won EMUs. CTDOT owns diesel locomotives they're planning to use with older coach trailers on this line, and both have plenty of life expectancy remaining. Maybe in the future when the older stuff is retiring they might wish to buy new electric locomotives, or more new EMUs? At that time they might be more accepting of electrifying the Springfield line?
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Re: NEC Future: HSR "High Line", FRA, Amtrak Infrastructure

Postby Ken W2KB » Sat May 13, 2017 1:52 pm

With respect to electrification, if the experience of electric utilities is a fair comparison and I believe that it is, it is likely that there will be substantial opposition from environmental organizations and the public due to concerns with respect to health impacts of electric and magnetic fields from the transmission and catenary conductor operation. See for example: https://einarflydal.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/jerryflynn-rf-emf-part-two-march-15-2016.pdf
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Re: NEC Future: HSR "High Line", FRA, Amtrak Infrastructure

Postby SRich » Sat May 13, 2017 3:03 pm

Ridgefielder wrote:Part of me suspects that the sole reason for proposing a "Fairfield Bypass" is the realization in DC that from New Rochelle to New Haven it's not Uncle Sam's railroad. Amtrak is the tenant, always has been, always will be.

I thought that Amtrak is the owner of that, but why isn't it Uncle Sam RR, Amtrak is part of Uncle Sam( US DOT?) ?
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