State: Land deal clears way for Green Line extension, new commuter-rail service, massive development

MassDOT today announced an agreement to swap land at Lechmere with land by North Station that will lead to a new rail service north and west of Boston - and actual construction of the long stalled North Point development.

Under the deal, the state will give Pan Am Railways the land used for the current Lechmere Green Line station in exchange for the former Pan Am rail yard, which is across the Charles River from Massachusetts General Hospital, and rights to use other Pan Am tracks in the area.

The move means the state can begin work to bring some Worcester Line commuter-rail trains into North Station via tracks in Cambridge and a bridge over the Charles River by Boston University.

A related agreement for use of Pan Am tracks between Boston and New Hampshire paves the way for new commuter-rail service to that state, MassDOT says. The state is also kicking in $12.5 million - about $5 million less than it had originally thought track rights would cost, MassDOT says.

The Lechmere land swap, meanwhile, is part of a deal in which the state will move the current Lechmere station to a new location on the east side of O'Brien Highway as part of the extension of the Green Line into Somerville and Medford.

Pan Am and the HYM Investment Group will use the Lechmere land as part of their planned mixed-use development of 2,800 residential units, more than 2 million square feet of office space and 185,000 square feet of retail.

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Moving forward

By Grant on

This is great news, and the push for an Allston commuter rail station needs to become stronger. People are DESPERATE for an easier way to get around the city, even if it's just during rush hour. A one-seat ride form Allston to MIT or North Station would really help.

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That should be happening when

By on

That should be happening when CSX vacates Beacon Park. It's already a done deal, supposedly set for 2012.

You do know that the 64 bus does run from Allston to near-MIT, btw? It would be nice if it ran more often of course.

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I didn't know that, actually.

By Grant on

I didn't know that, actually.

This was never part of my regular commute, I've just always been a strong advocate of a transit connection there.

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Sorry I'm in a pessimistic mood!

By on

The Somerville Green Line extension with probably have significant ridership because of it's location but is DOT kidding about the Worcester and New Hampshire possibilites?

In case they didn't notice, the current system is crumbling daily. Forget NH, they just like to dump on high Mass. taxes while taking advantage of our economy. Let them build their own railroad. Let's worry about running the existing system before costly expansions to nowhere.

How about fixing the gosh darn green line so it doesn't take as much time to get to BC as it does to get to the NH border?

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and tax/fee/living wise

By on

NH and MA are pretty much next to each other, tax wise.

NH just puts a lot more of their burden on homeowners and commuters, Go figure!

The biggest difference between the two states is housing prices, which are much cheaper in NH because of more land, longer commutes, less demand, and not giving in to the penchant of making McMansions.

But NH still get theirs in outrageous property taxes, fee's and their state run monopoly on liquor.

But yeah, let's keep repeating the myth.

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Wait, why don't we charge

By on

Wait, why don't we charge people coming from NH to cross the border on the Interstate like they do to us?

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Forget NH, they just like to

By on

Forget NH, they just like to dump on high Mass. taxes while taking advantage of our economy. Let them build their own railroad.

Mommy - New Hampshire calls me names!

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(No subject)

By on

IMAGE(http://www.imglols.com/wp-content/main/2009_04/i-see-what-you-did-there.jpg)

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Foolish

By on

How anyone in their right mind, can even CONSIDER expanding the current system when it, without a shadow of a doubt, can't handle it's current day to day operations is beyond me.

I seriously feel like there are 4th graders running the show over there. It's pathetic.

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Because...

Because not building it will leave not make the system any better. As I explained before, do you think that not building, means the money to build will be moved to fix the problems? No, the money will go to other stuff. The Fed money to other states. The State money to other project. Don't build, we'll still have the same crappy breakdown that happens nearly everyday.

Build it, we'll still have the same crappy breakdowns that happens nearly everyday (or perhaps by that point, every hour). The only difference, is one system have a line that servers Somerville and Medford, the other will not. If the system improves, it will improve regardless if we build or do not build this line.

Plus people been pushing this line since the 1970's. I think those people probably want to see it before they die. Putting it off will not improve anything.

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Also, having more people use

By on

Also, having more people use the service means more people willing to petition their representatives to do something about it.

Someone in Medford might read about the problems and say "so?". Someone in Medford that rides the green line extension every day will say "WTF, fix this"

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This Medford branch has been

By on

This Medford branch has been in planning of some kind or another since the 1940s at least, I think.

It's now legally mandated by the Big Dig agreement, so it's not just a matter of people wanting to see it, it's the law.

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Worcester to North Station

By on

Interesting. The MassDOT article states:

Trackage rights off the Worcester Main Line to allow potential future passenger service from Worcester to Ayer. This will provide a connection between the Worcester and Fitchburg Commuter Rail Lines, and a potential future connection to North Station.

This would send trains down through the Porter Square route and into North Station on the existing MBTA tracks, which doesn't sound like the Lt. Governor's wish to use the Grand Junction right-of-way. This sounds like a much better alternative.

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North Station via Ayer?

By on

Worcester to North Station via Ayer makes no sense. It adds a ~20 mile detour to a ~40 mile trip.

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Worcester to South Station

By on

Worcester to South Station already takes 90 minutes (when everything's running right). Ayer to North Station is about 75 as it is. I don't even want to surmise how long Worcester to North Station via Ayer would be, but it in no way shape or form adds up to being a better alternative than the Grand Junction (not that I'm a fan of that myself, truth be told).

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The key phrase here is

By on

"trackage rights". In other words, MassDOT doesn't own the Worcester to Ayer line, and would be subject to Pan Am Railways for the dispatching.

And almost anybody who rides early morning trains out of Haverhill can tell you how well THAT arrangement has been working out for the MBCR north of Lawrence

The Grand Junction alternative is a better and far less expensive solution, and would result in faster point to point times than the Ayer alternative would. It already sees more daily train traffic that the Ayer line, so there's no legitimate need to waste the time and money on environmental studies of questionable value. Upgrade the track to allow 40 mph service, upgrade the signals and equipment at the at-grade crossings, and you can start running regular train service in three to four months at minimal cost.

And if Cambridge wants a passenger station, fine. But the lack of a local passenger station in Kendall Square is not a valid excuse to prevent the T from using the Grand Junction to run service between North Station and Worcester.

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The train would have to make

By on

The train would have to make a big detour, though. I'd prefer a new connection in the 128 right of way between the Worcester tracks and the Fitchburg tracks instead. Going from the Weston Tolls area to behind Brandeis would be tricky but quite useful and not at all far.

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BU Bridge

By on

I was to understand the Worcester line would be crossing the Charles on the BU Bridge tracks somehow, and traversing Camby via those tracks that run more or less down Vassar? NOT through Ayer, or whatever.

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To the pessimists

By on

Sometimes in the wheels of big gov projects like this, system upgrades happen because of expansion. It could mean that instead of continually putting a bandaid on an antiquated signal system the greenline gets a whole new modernized system.

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This is the T we're talking about?

By on

Jeff-

Yes and no. Just look at the orange line for example. In 1987 when the Southwest section opened, it contained a new signalling system that was modern for the 1980s. You'd think that they would have upgraded the otherside of the line too (Haymarket and above), but they didnt, so this is why a few years ago the T spent millions upgrading the signalling system on the Haymarket North Orange Line to match the signalling system on the Southwest section... 20 years later after 1987 extension opened.

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Short Sighted

By on

It is hillarious that anyone is criticizing this. It: (a) saves the MBTA/Commonwealth MILLIONS of dollars on the Green line extension; and (b) obtains rights for future public transportation expansion IF they decide to do it. I assume that the people criticizing this were too lazy to read the actual press release, which sets all of this out. Moreover, public transportation in the greater Boston area (which now incredibly includes Southern New Hampshire) is an economic engine that pays for itself in jobs and commerce. Long term planning like this is exactly what the T/Commonwealth should be doing.

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I agree with you on this one.

By on

I agree with you on this one. People shouldnt knock it, its going to save the T a ton of money.

And as far as New Hampshire is concerned. I'm all for it. It would alleviate traffic on 93 and route 3 from NH. NH already recognizes how horrible traffic is getting TO the NH/MA line (where it becomes 3-4 lanes), that they are making improvements to the roads. Transit is included in this plan, and so is the money to support it.

I think it would be great to be able to ride the T from Boston to Manchester, NH. Boston Metro has slowly included Providence and Southern NH as apart of the equation. Why don't we have transit throughout the whole area to promote growth is beyond me. If the state of Georgia realizes that they need a commuter rail system to connect three cities (Athens, Macon, and Chattanooga, TN) to Atlanta, why has it taken our states so long to realize the power of regional planning?

If you are a nut like me, you can read more about I-93 plans by going to http://www.rebuildingi93.com/ to read all about it.

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To their credit, NH has been

By on

To their credit, NH has been improving commuter bus service from Manchester, Nashua, Derry, and Salem NH to Boston. But all of these buses run express once they enter Massachusetts.

It would be nice if they could figure out an efficient way to provide service to the thousands of jobs in the Woburn-Burlington-Lexington-Waltham corridor. But it would be tricky, since the office parks are spread out and not easy to serve by a single bus stop.

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Ok, since I am transit nut

By on

Ok, since I am transit nut I'll chime in.

First off, this is great news for the green line extension. This layover facility has been one of the sticking points on getting the ground broken on this project. Glad to see land swap has taken place and we're moving forward. I do hope Guilford Railroads follows the T's plan for the old Lechmere stop, which in very short terms means they are going to reconfigure that awful intersection at Cambridge, First, and O Brien Hwy. That and include good pedestrian access from the new station to the mall and areas around the new station.

I'm also glad to see this Northpoint Development moving forward. Its been kind of an eyesore since it is half completed. Considering that the new station will be built on the property, these condos and rentals will become hot commodities since the T will be steps away.

As far as bringing Metro West-bound trains to North Station? Is there really a need for this? Not really. There's also some mitigation things that will have to take place before a single train can be run along this track. Everything from track upgrades, to 'at grade' crossings that need better signally, to the Grand Junction bridge, which will need repair. Plus this rail line goes thru several residential neighborhoods (East Cambridge & Cambridge Port), and I'm sure the residents will have a lot to say about this.

It's a nice idea, but I think its a crap shoot, and not worth the expensive. And I wonder, if they upgrade the tracks here, what kind of room does that leave for the future (canceled) "Urban Ring". Many sections of the Urban Ring that run thru cambridge use this old railraod track as the Right-Of-Way for a busway. In some spaces, there isn't any room for an additional track (its single track all the way from Grand Junction). So this just makes me wonder how this is going to work.

The T has thrown around using Grand Junction, and this track for many years but nothing ever materializes.

Nice Idea..

Incendently, I was reading an article about Lechmere Station a few days ago.. and way back when there were trolleys running all over boston. Lechmere was a transfer station for other trolleys, which now would be the 80, 88, 69, and 87 buses. What's funny about this is two routes, the 88 and the 87 would join the central subway at Lechemere and continue downtown. (instead of forcing people to switch trains). I just find this ironic because the 88 and 87 buses follow the route of the Green Line extension. This document was from the 1920s, so they've been trying to extend the green line for over 100 years.

and in another document.. Google "East Cambridge Development 1976" for the doc, talks about a super-regional shopping mall being apart of the plan (which was built as the CambridgeSide Galleria), and a relocation of Lechmere to the otherside of McGrath Highway so the green line could be extended beyond lechmere. Funny, they've known they've needed to do this since the 1970s.. and 30 years later its JUST getting started. Gotta love the T.

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Really the rail tracks

By on

Really the rail tracks through Cambridge should be used to have a train go from metro north to Cambridge. Any Worcester or south shore train goes to south station, then people can take the redline to Cambridge. Any north shore people have to go to north station, then orange line to redline to get to Cambridge, or take the EZ Ride bus, which sucks.

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"As far as bringing Metro

By on

"As far as bringing Metro West-bound trains to North Station? Is there really a need for this? Not really. "

Yes really. The worcester line is getting more service in 2012. South Station has no room (indigo line will gobble up all the extra slots, and still be limited to 20 minute hedways due to a lack of capacity), North Station has too much room. Easy math right there.

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OK

By on

OK you do have me there, point taken. But also note that within the next few years the Post Office is moving to South Boston, and South Station will be expanded to have more tracks.

Kinda funny for a station that was nearly abandoned in 1978.

Of course the time it takes for the new tracks at SS to be build vs the time it will take to perform necessary track improvements on the grand junction branch.. its a crap shoot. Knowing how long it takes for the T to build anything, we should start taking bets on what will be completed first. South Station? or Upgrades to the Grand Junction line?

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New tracks

By on

Won't those be largely filled by the Indigo line, which is supposed to be run closer to subway frequency than leisurely commuter-rail frequency and the fabled New Beford line?

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How long does it take the T

By on

How long does it take the T to turn a commuter rail train in South Station? And how much quicker could they do it if they used the practices of other commuter rail systems around the world?

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Well, you could run trains on

By on

Well, you could run trains on the line TODAY if you wanted to, just restricted at 15mph or so. 4 non-passenger trains a day use the line.

Making the line 40mph accessible would take only a summer's worth of construction. The only thing that would take longer is building a 3rd bridge to use the tracks that are disconnected, but I dont think that would be necessary immediately.

Meanwhile, demolishing the post office, adding tracks, expanding the building....at least 3 years of speedy construction. Obviously more in real world time.

The "deadline" is 2012, when indigio and worcester+ are supposed to begin. To reach that 18 month time frame, I think only the grand junction option is doable.

Of course, south station needs to be expanded anyway for other reasons (southcoast fail, more amtrak departures etc)

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They still have to add an

By on

They still have to add an inbound connection to Grand Junction, unless I'm mistaken. I thought they were waiting to takeover Beacon Park before doing that.

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There is no legal obligation

By on

There is no legal obligation for the MBTA to run more Worcester trains in 2012, just Tim Murray's desire, and the 2012 legal obligation for the Fairmount line is just add stations (which is underway), not to improve frequency.

http://www.eot.state.ma.us/downloads/sip/SIP_Statu...

Given the MBTA's finances, don't expect to see much service of any type added in 2012.

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Most of the proposed

By on

Most of the proposed additional Worcester service in 2012 is in the off-peak though, when South Station is not at capacity. And where is the money for operating these additional trains coming from?

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