Rail Performance

Amtrak Train on Tracks
Photo Credit: Susana Hey, MBTA

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.

System Condition for Rail Assets

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[Data Table]
The above chart shows the FY20 condition of MassDOT-owned rail assets as catalogued in the Asset Management Plan. Over 70 percent of assets in each category are rated as marginal or better. Additionally, all signals on MassDOT-owned rail were replaced in the last 5 years and are rated as Good. Short- and medium-term targets for system condition were set in FY20 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 FY19, the proportion of assets evaluated at “good” or “excellent” increased for bridges (from 15 percent to 23 percent), culverts (8 percent to 10 percent), but decreased for grade crossings (from 50 percent to 25 percent) and for track segments (from 62 percent to 28 percent).

 

Asset FY20 performance FY19 performance 2-year target 4-year target
Track Segment (% good and excellent condition) 28% 62% 72% 80%
Track Segment (% poor and non-operable) 2% 1% 1% 1%
Bridge (% good and excellent condition) 23% 15% 33% 39%
Bridge (% poor and non-operable) 7% 12% 2% 3%
Culvert (% good and excellent condition) 10% 8% 12% 15%
Culvert (% poor and non-operable) 13% 10% 11% 9%
Grade Crossing (% good and excellent condition) 35% 50% 48% 51%
Grade Crossing (% poor and non-operable) 11% 2% 7% 4%

Additionally, all four asset types need to be re-inspected on an annual basis. In FY20, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most but not all assets were inspected:

Inspections by Asset Type FY20 performance Target
Inspections by Asset Type – Track Segment 93% 100%
Inspections by Asset Type – Bridge 92% 100%
Inspections by Asset Type – Culvert 91% 100%
Inspections by Asset Type – Grade Crossing 90% 100%

Rate of Derailments

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[Data Table]

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 FY20 to 4.3 per 1,000 miles of rail in Massachusetts. The rolling average maintained at roughly similar levels at 6.2 per 1,000 miles of rail over the 5-year period of FY16 to FY20.

Rate of Reported Hazmat Incidents

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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 0.5 per 1,000 rail miles. The rolling average decreased accordingly, to 1.7 crashes per 1,000 rail miles.

Rate of Highway-Rail Incidents

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[Data Table]

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 1.7 highway-rail incidents per 1,000 crossings in FY20. This lowered the rolling average to 3.3 over the FY16 to FY20 time period.

 

Budget & Capital Performance

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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 FY20 the rail programs, combined, spent 91% of the original amount budgeted in the CIP. This is a three percent increase when compared to FY19.

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 2,027 trips between June and August 2020, the ValleyFlyer served 6,793 trips between October 2019 and June 2020, and the Vermonter served 15,428 trips between October 2019 and June 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MassDOT reduced the Valley Flyer to a single roundtrip per day and put the evaluation of the pilot on hold. MassDOT is now developing criteria for restarting the second roundtrip and the pilot’s evaluation metrics.

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.