Plans for trains and trucks collide in vacant lot in South Boston

MassDOT and the freight railroad CSX are battling the owner of a vacant parcel next to a currently dormant rail line behind the South Boston convention center over his proposal to lease out the space for construction companies to park their trucks there.

MassDOT says David Pogorelc's plans for 5 Cypher St. could mess up its own plans to revive the line, known as Track 61, to test the scores of new Red Line cars it expects to begin arriving in 2019. CSX doesn't really have anything at all to do with the old track anymore but wants to maintain its rights to one day restart freight services on it to South Boston and has taken the state's side. The line is the only surviving part of a once dense network of train tracks along the South Boston waterfront.

In September, Pogorelc sued the MBTA and CSX in land court, seeking to have their easements revoked so he use it without encumbrance to offer parking space to the construction companies remaking the waterfront.

Today, however, the zoning board refused to give him the permission he requires to turn the vacant parcel into a parking lot. The board rejected Pogorelc's request without prejudice, which means he can return once he straightens out his disputes with the state and the railroad - and the owner of a neighboring parcel, who also opposes the idea, saying it could make it harder for her to redevelop her land.

At today's zoning hearing, a MassDOT attorney said the state has an easement over part of the parcel, as well as access to the long dormant Track 61, and that the state opposes the parking idea for fear it could somehow interfere with the T's plans to upgrade the track and add a third rail for testing the new Red Line cars as they arrive.

"It's a critically important transportation and environmental project for the Commonwealth," he told the board.

Pogorelc's attorney, Joe Hanley, said Pogorelc is willing to keep trucks at least 10.5 fee away from the center line of the track, which he said would satisfy CSX's concerns. CSX's attorney rose to say it would not.

Hanley also said Pogorelc is willing to work with the neighbor to develop "a robust buffering and landscaping plan" to protect the neighboring parcel.

Hanley tried to convince the board to approve the zoning request without considering the lawsuit or other disputes, saying those were not zoning concerns, but board members weren't buying it, saying they didn't want to be in the position of "sort of getting sucked into a morass here" as one member put it.

The meeting briefly grew testy. When the state and CSX attorneys both rose during the board's deliberations to make points, board Chairwoman Christine Araujo asked: "What is happening? Am I the chair or am I just sitting here?" She then sarcastically asked the landowner's attorney, Larry DiCara, if he had anything he'd like to add. DiCara demurred.

Ad:

Neighborhoods: 

Topics: 

Free tagging: 

Comments

Preserving the possibility of

By on

Preserving the possibility of restoring rail freight service from the port is far more important to the future of the city and state than providing convenient parking to some developer.

up
Voting is closed. 36

Since when do MassDOT, CSX care to preserve freight to the port?

By on

If they did they wouldn't be removing perfectly good heavy rail to "upgrade the track" with light rail used for subway cars and add an electrified third rail, which all but makes freight use impossible. Wait and see how many more trucks go through Southie when the harbor is dredged for larger ships. The least they could do is use the track for passenger service, but that's a whole other story.

And if keeping the track clear for freight is far more important than parking, then maybe someone should let MassPort and the BCEC know, since they have both graveled over or paved over parts of the track for - you guessed it - parking...

up
Voting is closed. 20

Freight rail and "heavy rail

Freight rail and "heavy rail transit" track have diffrent "profiles" so some additional work to grind the rails would be needed

up
Voting is closed. 24

The Red Line test track is

By on

The Red Line test track is going to install new rail on that portion of Track 61. After the new cars are tested, however, and they return the track to the RR network all it takes is for a rail grinder to do a once-over and re-grind it to a RR profile. Quick and simple. The resulting track will be in better shape than it is today for RR traffic despite that re-grind because it'll be brand new rail and not the God-knows-what age of the brittle old stick currently rusting there.

Not that the dinky to BCEC ever projected to be all that useful transit at the frequencies achievable by crossing straight through the gut of the Amtrak yard, but that proposal wasn't happening without a lot or rail replacement...and now a half-mile's worth of rail is being replaced for the test track. Call it a small down payment.

up
Voting is closed. 22

I don't get it. If the state

By on

I don't get it. If the state isn't using the easement in the near future, and the land is vacant, why can't the state and property owner come up with an agreement to use the land for truck parking on a temporary basis?

up
Voting is closed. 28

You try to do something nice

By on

You try to do something nice like Temporary Protected Status and you've opened Pandora's box.

up
Voting is closed. 42

I assume they are waiting for

By on

I assume they are waiting for an expert title firm to get back to them. Worth the money to protect yourselves down the road. I would order a full title exam. Since they are railroads, you may have to go back a long, long, long, time to find out the chain of conveyances of the parcel. Read the deed(s). Look at the plans of record at the registry or at the land court (if it is registered land). What do the deeds say? Any references of the railroad on the parcel? I would suggest also contacting a title insurance company to see what they would require. What a mess.

up
Voting is closed. 26

Must be nice ..

Geez. Those rich white people in the Seaport get to enjoy truck parking lots and unused railways and subway cars and even a convention center??! Sounds like heaven.

up
Voting is closed. 26

Location