Discussion relating to the operations of MTA MetroNorth Railroad including west of Hudson operations and discussion of CtDOT sponsored rail operations such as Shore Line East and the Springfield to New Haven Hartford Line

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, nomis, FL9AC, Jeff Smith

  by Ridgefielder
Sounds like I should quit my job and just get a contract from the State of CT to "study" transportation... would probably pay better, and all I'd need to do is be on rr.net all day :wink:
  by Jeff Smith
I mean no kidding. Like NHHS, which has been going on how many years, and it turns out they only need an EA yet still dither on it. The biggest hurdle is the abandoned ROW mentioned.

P.S. I am not necessarily advocating for a full build of this project all the way to Waterbury, but I think the folks in Bristol have a point? Before they study this, though, they need to finish the studies already in the hopper.
  by fordhamroad
-curious for a "ballpark figure". About how much does it cost to put in a passing siding for 6-8 cars at some fairly level spot along the main line?? The issue has come up in discussing several places on this forum , the Waterbury line, but also extending the Danbury, modernizing the New Haven to Hartford line etc.
-how does the old fashioned alternative of "just build a passing siding" compare to some of the elaborate schemes proposed to improve frequency of service?

  by Noel Weaver
Here is a link to an article in this AM's Waterbury rag concerning improvements to the Metro-North line between Waterbury
and Bridgeport. I am not encouraged that anything will actually happen here and have to wonder why they go through the
motions when they are not sincere in accomplishing anything constructive.

http://www.rep-am.com/articles/2010/03/ ... 471509.txt

Noel Weaver
  by Jeff Smith
From the above linked article:
Two of the options could be implemented within the next few years, if funding were available, because they don't require an environmental impact assessment. The first calls for a $20 million siding in Beacon Falls, which would allow trains to pass each other. A second option is to add signalization at a cost of $128 million.

Perhaps the most efficient solution would be to build a storage yard and maintenance facility in Waterbury, according to the consultant's report. For $3 million, a rail yard would allow trains to stay in the city overnight, eliminating the need for them to backtrack when they travel from Bridgeport to Waterbury.
Out of $297m in recommendations, the siding and yard are peanuts compared to some spending. The signalling will be mandated anyway. I know the yard in Waterbury has been discussed before; right now, everything goes back to Bridgeport or New Haven, right? It seems like operationally this might actually save some money.

How much freight does Pan Am run on this line anyway?
  by Jeff Smith
Some links I found in a search (may have appeared elsewhere):

http://www.railtec.org/Site/News/Entrie ... rvice.html

http://www.railtec.org/Site/Whats_new/E ... ation.html

Couldn't actually find the study itself; maybe it will be posted soon.

Edit: found a link: it's combined with a New Canaan Study:

  by Noel Weaver
The ROW is still there for a siding so the 20 million for a siding at Beacon Falls seems far off the wall to me. Probably 16
million for another study and 4 million for the siding itself which would still be too much.
As for Waterbury, there used to be two additional tracks between the present track and the station but that probably is no
longer an option. Springfield Terminal only goes to Waterbury once or twice a week and not with very many cars either.
Some of the property is already state owned but I do not know just what's what there anymore. There were a lot of tracks
there at one time and now only maybe three or four can still be used, the rest of them are either gone or deteriorated to a
point where they might as well be gone. Between Waterbury and Derby I think there is only one customer in maybe
Seymour so ST operations between Waterbury and Derby are infrequent at best.
As I have said many times, I remember this line when there were freight customers all over the place and more than one
train every day of the week and locals every day, even Sundays too. Very sad to see the current situation, Metro-North is
basically just about has the whole line to itself.
Noel Weaver
  by TomNelligan
I too am astonished by the quoted $20 million price tag for a siding in Beacon Falls, even for a government project (hey, it's only tax money). Maybe that includes some signalling too, since a simple siding with hand-thrown switches on an existing right-of-way couldn't possibly cost that much. There was a passing siding at Beacon Falls into the 1980s at least, so the right-of-way should be relatively intact.
  by Jeff Smith
News: http://articles.courant.com/2011-11-13/ ... ranch-line

My opinion? I don't think through service is necessary or smart. I think somewhere it's been mentioned that they could add a station at Devon. I think that's reasonable. I'll add more to this "train" of thought when I have some time.
Nicasto, chief of the Chambers of Commerce of Central Connecticut, late last month joined state transportation officials in a tour of the rail tracks from Berlin to Waterbury. He's hoping to build momentum for at least rebuilding the Waterbury to Plainville stretch soon, a move that could extend Metro-North's Waterbury branch line schedule into the center of the state.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy earlier this year committed $1 million to study whether it makes sense to rehabilitate the entire Berlin-to-Waterbury section of tracks, bridges, crossings and other infrastructure. The line is now used only for occasional freight trains; bringing it up to standards for new commuter service would cost about $125 million to $130 million and could be done in 18 to 30 months, Nicastro said.

But if the job is divided into stages, the first one — from Waterbury to the Plainville railyard — would cost just $50 million or so, Nicastro said. That would offer thousands of central Connecticut people a new way to get to their jobs in the Naugatuck Valley and Fairfield County, he said, and also would give easy access to New York City for the region's biggest employer, ESPN.

The late Peter Lynch, a widely respected railroad manager and consultant, concluded two years ago that Connecticut could restore passenger service on the route for a relatively low cost. But advocates were pitching the plan as an alternative to the $569 million New Britain busway, and encountered stiff resistance at the time from busway supporters in the DOT and elsewhere.
  by F-line to Dudley via Park
I know of the Nicastros Bros. well, growing up in Bristol when Frank was mayor. They're abrasive pests, but there's method to the madness. The issue is being ignored by Malloy's camp in hopes that it'll go away quietly in the aura of inevitability being projected about the busway. Mike is determined to outlast the shunning and force that throwaway rail study to count (i.e. weaponize himself with it). He knows damn well the busway's not shovel-ready, that the engineers are barely two-thirds done with design from all the unsolveable problems, and that supporting lawmakers know this and are brushing it aside with "Well, we gotta build something now and this is the only thing in front of us." That screws Mike's Chamber district and Frank's House district forever, but every other supporting pol right up to Malloy can get off scot free in the aftermath by saying "Why we had no idea it would ever get complicated, but oh well." He's going to extract his pound of flesh by making them justify blind busway support vs. an empirical study on the public record refuting every last bit of BS they've been messaging as gospel. And give the risk-averse pause by making them swallow a poison pill in defending their busway vote. They are scared to death of this prospect.

These are the sorts of battles the Nicastros win. Not reel-in-bacon trophies, but preventing windows of opportunity from getting slammed shut on easily-ignored Bristol and tactically winning attention span to continue conversations. Survival move, and it's the only move Bristol has on a lot of issues because it's so effortless to ignore vs. politically more advantageous towns. Previous City Hall and Chamber regimes just sat in a room and stared at the floor because nobody would ever come to talk to them. Stuff definitely started moving or kept fighting chance of moving in the 20 years the Bros. have been in and around the top seats of power. They do it with maniacal energy, charisma, and will to simply outlast the opposition into saying "Alright! Alright! Jeez, if I give you this will you get off my @#$% back?!?!" And then they're driving the conversation. I don't want to overstate...expectations are so low in Bristol for a reason, and a lot of activity that have been pushed to happen (like redeveloping the demolished downtown mall) still hasn't after decades because the city's means are so meager. But hope is a good thing when it comes to windows of opportunity not getting shut and taken elsewhere like they automatically used to. This is one of those situations where they're trying to play good defense for Bristol by having a good offense.

I think this increases the chances of a good, solid study coming out of this. He'll sick his cavalry on it, whip the supporters into a frenzy for the polling, and try to seize control of it by overpowering the state's passive-aggressiveness with unyielding aggressive-aggressiveness. He's already worked over enough PAR officials to get them sprouting off-the-reservation in his and not the state's favor. And the local pep squad will be out in force...there's not a NIMBY to be found here, Plymouth, Plainville and adjoining areas because lack of highway access is shared suffering for everyone. If the state wants to sink the study, they'll have to blow their cover with aggressive-aggressiveness against his aggressive-aggressiveness. And then the poison pill takes effect on owning up to the busway votes. Probably with West Hartford timed to launch the project-halting lawsuit everyone thinks they're keeping in wait.

I don't like all the Nicastros' fixations because some of them truly are OCD running amok. Frank as mayor would fight to the death on causes as asinine as students wearing baseball caps to school (he also kept his pre-Mayor job as town truancy officer because he liked it just that intensely much; play hooky and the Mayor was personally showing up at your house to haul your ass to school). And Mike can definitely turn people off with his overzealousness at pounding this issue into the floor. They can be easy to roll eyes at and write off when in total cause warfare mode. But when they are on-point with a big idea they can be deftly effective at seizing mindshare and exploiting loopholes. 98 lb. weaklings who always have a puncher's chance: very dangerous opponent. I think this game will be an interesting follow. Not necessarily for any result involving trains running (that's very remote until proven otherwise), but for laying bare the busway scam.

MNRR to Plainville Yard is a nonstarter, and they know that. Just remember that 1) Frank's House district ends 1 mile west of the yard, 2) Plainville is in vocal busway opponent and Nicastro ally Betty Boukus' district, 3) Boukus carries a 4-block wide sliver of New Britain running along I-84 and served by the only 2 New Britain CTTransit buses oriented west to Plainville/Bristol away from the busway, and 4) the busway's biggest legislative backer Tim O'Brien has a heavily gerrymandered district anchored in downtown but with a northwest sliver abutting Boukus' that's even narrower than hers on those same westward bus lines. Galvanize points west of New Britain, divide and conquer northwest NB and Operation Chaos the fringes of O'Brien's district, force a punt that focuses outrage on the busway waste, and buy time for a rematch with more favorable momentum. That's the playbook here. I won't wager favorable odds, but it's the best play they could run in this situation and they're not up against high-wattage brainpower in that Capitol building.
  by NH2060
RE: Torrington and Plainville, one problem that hasn't been addressed here is the fact that Litchfield and Hartford counties would probably have to be added to the MTA charter and, thus, would be subject to new taxes. Now since CDOT does have its say when it comes to Metro-North in CT idk if that'd be necessary. If not, they could always just remove the Waterbury Branch from MNRR control and have it (and any expanded service) operate in a fashion similar to Shore Line East.

Personally, though, I don't think extending to Plainville goes far enough. Even if restoring full Waterbury-Hartford service means routing it via Berlin it could still be faster and draw more riders (in particular those from New Britain) than the busway could, especially in bad weather. It's only a matter of time before someone or something brings this $60M per mile (makes me shudder just typing that) debacle down. If it's still only 2/3 through the DESIGN phase the price tag will, in years to come, skyrocket to the point that no one in their right mind could ever support it. Just look at what's happened to the California HSR proposal. $100B... outrageous. And heck this "busway to nowhere" is already nearing the $1B mark (if it hasn't already) for something that doesn't even run 10 miles long! That $130M or so figure for restoring train service is looking like a pretty good deal right now...
  by F-line to Dudley via Park
MNRR charter doesn't make a difference at the county level like it does in NY because there are no county gov'ts in CT. The main haggle would be operating agreements. But MNRR could always become the contracted operator for NHHS service in the same way that Amtrak's the contracted operator for SLE. It's just competitive bidding for a chunk of operating subsidy from CDOT. Doesn't become part of their system map unless the MTA really wants it to. They can absolutely be the operators of service past Waterbury if it's amenable to the parties. It's just more likely to go on a map as a CDOT, not MNRR line. I think the whole line should get transferred to CDOT-exclusive if the New Britain extension gets built and there's never any plans for it to be more than a shuttle service south of Waterbury. Let the MNRR system map be defined by lines that have some trains that run thru to GCC, and let the Waterbury Branch + New Britain, NHHS, and SLE be defined as a CT-only system. Going to be operationally a lot better to have that train bounce back and forth between Hartford and Devon on single runs save for peak-hour schedules that short-turn from each direction at Waterbury. Would make no sense to throw up a brick wall at Waterbury for potential service patterns. There's a good enough plurality of commuters who need service most badly as a means of getting around the horn of the 84/8 interchange vs. two separate and strictly unidirectional commuting demographics terminating in Waterbury.

New Britain isn't far enough for this service, either. It needs to go all the way to Hartford. New Britain is easy to get to from Bristol. Hartford is pure pain. If they did a good job on the Berlin Secondary track upgrades a Berlin swing wouldn't noticeably add much to the trip. But it looks so inconvenient on a map perception-wise, makes the busway look even worse (esp. when people abandon it in droves to take the train the wrong way to Berlin to get to Hartford faster), and it chews up the expansion space on Amtrak's ROW. If you go to Berlin, you're going to need 3 tracks to Hartford in 10 years flat to handle both lines' worth of growth. You probably don't from Newington Jct. It will be a rueful experience to be running late because of congestion up the tracks and then see a three-fifths empty bus poking next to you on its lovely 30 MPH speed-restricted lane descending like the angel of death to hose crossing road traffic at the next light.

But, like I said...Nicastro's quote about Plainville is a divide-and-conquer wedge for the legislative map, not a real service proposal. It convinces any colleagues in his bloc who might've been swayed to go with the flow to harden their advocacy for rail, bluffs an alternative to get a realer/less-fake study going that he can then hijack, while at same time pitting some New Britain constituents who won't be served by the busway against their civic leaders who are all being paid off by the busway. He is a clever bugger, bluster and all.

And I will believe until the first shovel is in the ground--which won't happen for 5 years no matter what Malloy says because the engineering is physically FAR, FAR from complete--that it's going to get killed. The Feds will proceed with funding it and it'll look a go. There'll be ribbon-cuttings and project webpages and meetings and constant media PR. And then the second final overpass designs are shown to West Hartford with the awful scars it'll carve through them they will file the nuclear-option lawsuit to halt it. They just formed a town busway advisory committee ostensibly to oversee planning at the town level...and qualified that announcement to say that their #1 goal was still defeating it. The advisory committee is their fact-finding arm for crafting the lawsuit. It'll get delayed while the army of lawyers get dispatched, the coalition of supporters tacitly in support but keeping kind of quiet like Newington will turn against it, Greater Bristol will pour as much gasoline on it as it can pump, and New Britain is going to be fighting an increasingly lonelier battle. The only question is how many years and hundreds of millions are going to be wasted before the writing's on the wall and the plug gets pulled for political expediency. The risk is not that there'll be a hideously mismanaged sinkhole of a busway constructed that makes the feds gun-shy of approving another CT project, it's nothing whatsoever being built and everybody being so disgusted and humiliated by the insanity that vows are made to punish CT by never allowing another project until hell freezes over. That is the unfolding horror show we're facing. How much waste is going to get racked up before the nuclear option gets launched and all the profiteers cut and run?
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