Digest: Report offers final alternatives for Massachusetts East-West rail project

News Wire Digest for Jan. 5: Amtrak makes cuts to Keystone Service; new landslide keeps Sounder service shut down
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Tuesday morning rail news:

MassDOT narrows East-West options to three, sees funding challenges

The three final alternatives for the proposed East-West rail project connecting Boston and Pittsfield, Mass., would cost between $2.4 billion and $4.6 billion, but will face hurdles in qualifying  for federal funding, according to a report released Monday by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. The three alternatives vary in the amount of new or upgraded trackage involved, and therefore in travel time; travel time, in turn, effects the projected ridership. The lowest-cost alternative, at $2.4 billion, would feature travel times of 1 hour, 57 minutes between Boston and Springfield, Mass., and 3:09 between Boston and Pittsfield, and would be used by a projected 922 to 1,188 passengers per weekday by 2040. The middle-priced alternative, at $3.9 billion, would take 1:47 between Springfield and Boston and 2:59 between Pittsfield and Boston, with projected ridership of 1,157 to 1,379 passengers. The highest-priced plan, at $4.6 billion, would take 1:37 between Springfield and Boston and 2:49 between Pittsfield and Boston, and would be used by 1,296 to 1,557 passengers per weekday. The report’s executive summary says the project would likely require “a combination of many different funding sources and strategies, but that, under current federal methodology, the project would “likely not qualify for federal funding.”

Amtrak makes cuts to Keystone Service
Citing continuing low ridership because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Amtrak is making significant cuts to its Keystone Service between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pa. Service is being reduced to seven weekday round trips and six on weekends. Patch.com reports 13 trains — representing six round trips and one additional westbound train — have been suspended on weekdays, along with three weekend trains. Amtrak said in a statement that the reduced schedule is “in order to adapt to changing demand.” The cuts were announced and took effect on Monday. Three round trips each day will provide through service to and from New York.

Sounder service again disrupted by slide
Sound Transit’s Sounder North commuter rail service will remain shut down through at least Wednesday, Jan. 6, after another landslide, this one between the downtown King Street Station and Edmonds. Monday’s service was cancelled because of a weekend slide between Edmonds and Mukilteo, Wash. The agency says service will resume Jan. 7 if there are no additional events. Information on bus alternatives is available here.

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