Rail Performance

Amtrak Train on Tracks

The MassDOT Rail Division manages freight, passenger, and seasonal rail lines across the state and maintains its rail assets. In 2019, the Rail Division completed an Asset Management Plan which presents the current state of the Commonwealth’s rail assets and defines what is needed to achieve State of Good Repair across the system.

This section presents information on the condition of the MassDOT-owned rail assets as well as rail safety data. The maps below show rail assets across the Commonwealth.

Rail Ownership

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[Data Table]

Rail Use

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[Data Table]

System Condition

The Rail and Transit Division completed an asset management inventory for its rail assets in 2019, grading the system condition of bridges, culverts, grade crossings, track segments, and signals.

 

The above chart shows the FY20 condition of MassDOT-owned rail assets as catalogued in the Asset Management Plan. Over 88 percent of assets in each category are rated as marginal or better. Additionally, all signals on MassDOT-owned rail were replaced in the last six years and are rated as in good condition. Short- and medium-term targets for system condition were set in FY2020 and focus on increasing the proportion of assets rated at “good” or “excellent” and decreasing the proportion rated at “poor” and “non-operable”. The targets are listed in the table below. Compared to FY2020, the proportion of assets evaluated at “good” or “excellent” increased for culverts (10 percent to 12 percent), grade crossings (35 percent to 46 percent), and track segments (from 28 percent to 35 percent); and remained the same for bridges (23 percent).

 

Asset FY21 performance FY20 performance 2022 Target 2024 Target Long Term Target
Track Segment (% good and excellent condition) 35% 28% 72% 80% 85%
Track Segment (% poor and non-operable) 1% 2% 1% 1% 1%
Bridge (% good and excellent condition) 23% 23% 33% 39% 85%
Bridge (% poor and non-operable) 7% 7% 2% 3% 1%
Culvert (% good and excellent condition) 12% 10% 12% 15% 85%
Culvert (% poor and non-operable) 12% 13% 11% 9% 1%
Grade Crossing (% good and excellent condition) 46% 35% 48% 51% 85%
Grade Crossing (% poor and non-operable) 2% 11% 7% 4% 1%

Additionally, all four asset types need to be re-inspected on an annual basis. In FY2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most but not all assets were inspected:

Inspections by Asset Type FY21 performance Target
Inspections by Asset Type – Track Segment 93% 100%
Inspections by Asset Type – Bridge 96% 100%
Inspections by Asset Type – Culvert 94% 100%
Inspections by Asset Type – Grade Crossing 92% 100%

Safety

Rate of Derailments

A derailment occurs when on-track equipment leaves the rail for a reason other than a collision, explosion, highway-rail crossing impact, or similar event. Derailments can be reduced by inspection and maintenance of the rail and rolling stock and by operators following the speed limits. This measure is reported using a 5-year rolling average and normalized per 1,000 miles of rail.

The rate of derailments decreased in FY21 to 1.6 per 1,000 miles of rail in Massachusetts. The rolling average decreased from 6.2 in FY20 to 4.9 per 1,000 miles of rail over the 5-year period of FY17 to FY21.

Rate of Reported Hazmat Incidents

This measure tracks the reported incidents involving hazardous material transported via rail. It is reported using a 5-year rolling average and normalized per 1000 miles of rail.

The rate of crashes with hazardous materials decreased in FY20 to 0.0 per 1,000 rail miles. The rolling average decreased accordingly, to 1.3 crashes per 1,000 rail miles.

Rate of Highway-Rail Incidents

This measure tracks the total number of reported incidents at highway-rail grade crossings. Highway-rail grade crossing means a location where a public highway, road, street, or private roadway, including associated sidewalks and pathways, crosses one or more railroad tracks at grade.

There were 1.1 highway-rail incidents per 1,000 crossings in FY21. This lowered the rolling average to 2.9 over the FY17 to FY21 time period.

Budget & Capital Performance

The percent of capital dollars spent by the end of the fiscal year refers to the portion of the capital budget that was utilized compared to what was budgeted in MassDOT’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).

In FY21 the rail programs, combined, spent 89% of the original amount budgeted in the CIP. This is a two percent decrease compared to FY20 expenditures.

Healthy and Sustainable Transportation

The Rail & Transit Division tracks the performance of several regional rail programs and pilots such as the CapeFLYER and the ValleyFlyer. This year, the CapeFLYER served 6,923 trips between  Memorial Day and Labor Day 2021 – a more than three-fold increase from FY20. The ValleyFlyer served 5,418 trips between October 2020 and June 2021. MassDOT contributes support for Amtrak’s Vermonter and Hartford (formerly “Springfield Shuttle”) services. The Vermonter, suspended due to COVID-19-related declines in demand, did not resume service until after the close of FY21. The , the Hartford line served 29,386 trips between October 2020 and June 2021.

Additionally, MassDOT-owned rail is also utilized by the MTBA and Amtrak to provide transit services to the region. Currently, the MBTA Commuter Rail uses 82 miles of MassDOT owned rail to provide its service and Amtrak uses 94.3 miles.