Mayor’s Email Update – 2.9.10

From the office of Mayor Clare Higgins:

In this Update:

  • High Speed Rail – Good News for Northampton!
  • Connect CTY: Connecting the City in times of Emergency
  • Blue Light Alert System for Winter Parking Bans
  • Volunteers wanted for Charter Review, Planning Board, Conservation Commission, Board of Public Works
  • More Kudos for Northampton

High Speed Rail – Good News for Northampton
I am very pleased that passenger rail service will return to Northampton!  With it will come increased public transportation access to urban areas such as Hartford, New Haven, and New York City; alternative transportation access for students to Smith College and the Five College system;  increased intercity transportation access for commuters and workers in the Pioneer Valley; alternative access to Northampton for tourism to our downtown; and enhanced economic development potential in our business districts.

The Federal Railroad Administration announced last week that $70 million in stimulus funds will be provided to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to improve the rail tracks on the Connecticut River Rail Line to reestablish passenger rail service on the west side of the Connecticut River from the Connecticut border to the Vermont border.  Additional funding was provided for track improvements in Vermont and Connecticut.  The funding includes track improvements in Northampton including refurbishing the rail platform at Union Station with a covered self service ticket kiosk.  As matching money to the federal funding, the State Department of Transportation has committed to building the tunnel under the railroad tracks at King Street to connect the Northampton Rail Trail with the Norwottuck Rail Trail.    As a long term downtown improvement, the City will be undertaking an analysis to evaluate locations for a multi-modal facility near to the railroad tracks which would include an indoor train station, bus connections, and commuter parking. 

I was pleased to work with the MA Department of Transportation, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, and the Vermont Department of Transportation over two years ago to support the Pioneer Valley Rail Study which laid the groundwork for the track improvements.  I am also pleased that the MA Department of Transportation agreed to my request to include the bike tunnel which is an important safety feature to increasing train service along the tracks in Northampton.   It will also significantly increase the commuter and recreational use of the bike trails with a direct link to the newly proposed passenger rail stop at Union Station.  Community & Economic Development Director, Teri Anderson, has represented my office on the Rail Study Advisory Committee providing community and economic data on Northampton for the economic impact study.   We will continue to coordinate and collaborate with state and regional agencies as this project proceeds to the construction phase.  Construction is expected to begin in this year and will be complete in two years.  Improved tracks and rail infrastructure will allow for phased improvements in passenger rail service.

Phase 1 – Return Amtrak service to the Connecticut River with 1-2 round trips per day between St. Albans, VT and New Haven, CT with stops in Springfield, Holyoke, Northampton, and Greenfield.

Phase 2 – Enhanced passenger service increasing round trip service to 4-6 round trips per day.  This service is dependent upon enhanced rail improvements on the track in Connecticut that is yet to be funded. 

Phase 3 – Commuter rail service with 7-9 trips per day also dependent upon track improvements in Connecticut.

For more information on the Connecticut River Rail Improvement Project and the Knowledge Corridor Rail Study can be found on the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission website at:


Connect CTY: Connecting the City in times of Emergency
As you may have read in the newspaper, I recently signed a contract with Connect CTY, a software company which will allow the city to contact residents in times of emergency, and I want to keep you updated with where we are in the process.  Connect CTY has established an account for the city of Northampton. We have a team with representatives from our public safety departments and DPW who are working together to finalize our policies and procedures.  There will be a brief training for city staff who will be authorized to send out emergency messages.  As we near completion, we will add a link to the city’s website where residents can opt-out of the program, or add additional phone numbers to receive calls on cell phones or second or third phone lines. I am meeting with the implementation team this week, and we will be finalizing the kinds of emergencies we will use ConnectCTY to alert residents about.  Please watch the newspapers for additional information as we get close to going ‘live’, probably by early spring.

Blue Light Alert System for Winter Parking Bans
The City has purchased and has begun installation of a new alert system to let residents know when there is an on-street parking ban in effect in Northampton. As I hope you are aware, Northampton bans parking on the roads only when an emergency is called.  The ban affects on-street parking during the overnight hours only.  Each year, we again release information about the parking ban rules via the city website, through press releases to local media outlets, through the email alerts set up through my office and the Department of Public Works, and through distribution of 5,000 fliers on cars parked in the dense downtown neighborhoods which are frequently targets of the parking ban.  The ban is costly to implement and time-consuming for our public safety and public works employees.  It can also be costly for residents, whose cars may be towed in order to clear the streets completely, which involves a parking ticket and more than $100 to towing companies. We also have a 24-hour phone line (586-6969) where people can check if there is a parking ban on the nights of or following winter storms, and we ask people to keep an eye out for their neighbors who might not be aware of any of these other ways to learn about the winter parking ban.  (Details on the parking ban can be found here:  In an effort to add another method of notification for residents, we are installing a series of 6 blue lights onto traffic lights at intersections of roads leading into Northampton.  When those lights are on, a winter parking ban is in effect.  The first two have been installed, and it looks as though they may be pressed into service this Wednesday!  The first of the blue lights to look for are on Pleasant Street, near its intersection with Holyoke Street, the gateway leading into Northampton from the Route 91 exit, Easthampton, and Holyoke.  The second installed light is at the Bridge Street intersection with Hawley and Market Streets, the gateway to Northampton from Route 9 east, Hadley and Amherst.  Be on the lookout for these lights, and if you haven’t already, please sign up to receive the DPW automatic notifications of winter parking bans to your email or cell phone (, call the hotline when in doubt (586-6969) and let your neighbors know if you see them parked on the street!  Remember that parking bans may extend beyond the day of the actual storm to allow for clean up and picking of snow mounds to make sure emergency vehicles can travel safely.

Volunteers wanted for Charter Review, Planning Board, Conservation Commission, Board of Public Works

I want to pass along this notice from the City Council:
The City council is seeking four volunteers to help conduct a review of the City Charter in accordance with Section 22-1 (4) of the Northampton Code of Ordinances:
“At least once in every 10 years, in every year ending in a zero, the City Council shall conduct a comprehensive review of the City Charter via a special Charter Review Committee comprised of three Councilors and four residents to be appointed by the City Council President.  Within one year following the appointment of its memebrs, said committee shall file a written report to the City Council outlining its review and recommending any changes to the City Charter that it deems necessary or desirable for the effective function of government in the City of Northampton.”
Northampton residents interested in serving on the Charter Review Committee should send letters of interest to City Council President David Narkewicz, 210 Main Street, Room 18, Northampton, MA 01060
The deadline to apply is February 26, 2010.  Please call 587-1210 if you have questions.
And I also want to let you know that there are vacancies on several city boards and committees.  If you are interested in serving, please download an application and check out the board and committee webpages here: .  Completed applications can be dropped off at my office, mailed to 210 Main Street, Room 12, or emailed to

More Kudos for No
I am also happy to share this good review of our fair city, excerpted from the online article:

America’s Top Places For Boomers To Retire

Paul Toscano,,  Feb 5th, 2010

“Northampton, Massachusetts

A northeastern retirement destination, Northampton Massachusetts is described by AARP Magazine as a “liberal enclave with rural roots.” The town is built around a college environment, but it shouldn’t be overlooked as simply a destination for university students. The town is set near the picturesque Berkshire Mountains, and is in close proximity to the Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary and the Mount Tom State Reservation.

Northampton also hosts the twice-yearly Paradise City Arts Festival, Smith College’s art museum and boasts a vibrant music scene, with numerous groups calling the town home. Northampton is also several hours from Boston and New York City, so the lights of a metropolis are never too far away.”

Thank you for taking the time to read the Mayor’s Email Update.  If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact the Mayor’s office at 587-1249, or by email at  Mayor Higgins also holds regular open office hours for drop in conversations every Wednseday from 4:00 – 6:00.  This week’s office hours may be canceled if the projected snowstorm is severe.

See also:

Mayor’s Email Update: How To Help, Where To Give (12/31/09)

Mayor’s Email Update – 11.10.09