New England roundup #11

Platform at Springfield's current Amtrak station, adjacent to the old Union Station (cc photo by NatalieMaynor)
Platform at Springfield's current Amtrak station, adjacent to the old Union Station (cc photo by NatalieMaynor)

It’s August already?

  • If you missed it on Twitter earlier this week, I have a guest post at The Lazy Scholar on Connecticut’s online archives.
  • There’s been lots of news this week on the future of passenger rail service in New England:
    • On Thursday, an official at Connecticut’s Department of Transportation publicly discussed plans for both the New Haven-Springfield corridor and the longer New Haven-St. Albans route.  The AP has an overview, and the Brattleboro Reformer covers the Vermont angle. Initial work on double-tracking in Connecticut and other track upgrades in Massachusetts and Vermont will be completed in two to three years and will cut the St. Albans-to-New York trip of Amtrak’s Vermont service—which has seen strong ridership growth in the last year—by about 90 minutes. Prospective longer-term projects would further cut travel times and increase train frequencies, from six roundtrips to 25 at Hartford and from one to three at Brattleboro. And Connecticut’s latest application for additional federal grant money “got a fairly good reception,” likely aided by the state’s plan to sell $260 million in bonds to further fund work to support New Haven-Springfield commuter rail service.
    • In another positive development for the same corridor, the Federal Transit Administration on Tuesday unfroze funding for the rehabilitation and redevelopment of Union Station in Springfield. The project aims to make the station, which has been abandoned since 1973, into a hub for Amtrak and commuter rail as well as local and inter-city bus service. The Republican cheered the development in an editorial today. (You can take a look inside the empty facility as it stood in 2007 via the Flickr feed of Heather Brandon, who writes about Springfield and Hartford at the blog Urban Compass.)
    • Finally, Amtrak’s Downeaster service between Portland and Boston attracted record ticket revenues during the just-ended fiscal year. Work begins Monday to extend service past Portland to Brunswick and is projected to finish in fall 2012. I look forward to testing out the Boston-to-Wells portion of the route in a couple of weeks!
  • Published earlier this month: Lost Ski Areas of Southern Vermont, by Jeremy K. Davis, which “looks into the over-investment, local competition, weather variation, changing skier habits, insurance costs and just plain bad luck that caused these ski areas to succumb and melt back into the landscape.” The author is founder of the extensive New England Lost Ski Areas Project, which records over 100 areas in Vermont alone, including Maple Valley, which I pass by every time I visit my parents.
  • Boston, Hartford, and Providence all failed to break July records for days over 90 degrees.  Hartford, though, saw a tie for the highest average July temperature on record, Ryan Hanrahan reports.
  • The latest Beige Book from the Federal Reserve sees continued economic expansion but “signs of slowing” in New England, according to the Globe.

About this feature: Each week, I compile recent articles and other items relating to New England’s history, its regional identity, and its future. If you come across something interesting or relevant, please submit it for inclusion in a future post. Click here for previous roundups.

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