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Wu continues to look at reusing abandoned West Roxbury High for a school, if not the O'Bryant - and is looking at building a commuter-rail stop there

CommonWealth Beacon reports Mayor Wu is continuing to look at putting some sort of education in a rebuilt West Roxbury Education Complex - and has begun talks with the T about the city building a commuter-rail stop on the Needham Line, which passes by the school. A near complete lack of transportation from the rest of the city to nearly the Dedham line was one of the reasons opponents fought to keep the O'Bryant away.

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Makes all the sense in the world to provide a community dense with kids a public school option now that the exam schools are out (and never were geographically close). Should have happened in Charlestown two years ago but the prior Superintendent is an insane person who prefers to keep a largely empty building in the middle of a thicket of families . . . empty. Tanisha Sullivan and her friends have done a remarkable job of breathing life into BC High, CM and Xaverian. The populist left may hate WR and Charlestown but it is costly financially and culturally to push families with resources out of public institutions.

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And make it a stop instead

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There’s not enough room on the right of way to add a subway track.

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The new Needham Line bridge over Robert Street in Roslindale Square, for example, was designed to have room for a second track. In fact, the line has a short two-track section not all that far from the high school.

So it's an issue, but not an, um, intracktable one (OK, I should not have written that). The bigger issue is where the money would come from, given all the other issues the T already has. It's one thing for Boston to pay for a new commuter-rail station, but converting the entire line? That would cost a bit more (and you get into the issue of Needham fighting tooth and nail to keep the subway out, but maybe it's not fair to compare them to Arlington in the 1980s).

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The Needham line is cobbled together from three separate railroads, the West Roxbury Branch (opened 1849 Forest Hills to Westie), the Charles River Railroad (1854 Fenway to, eventually, Woonsocket) and the Needham cutoff, connecting the two, which was originally built in 1906, one of the last mainline railroads built in the state. All of these were built out with two tracks, it is fully grade-separated, and all of the bridges are two tracks wide, with a third track from Forest Hills until west of the South Street bridge by the Arbs (see any number of maps on MapJunction or Atlasscope, and yes, having two local repositories of historic maps is an embarrassment of riches).

There are two bridges which would have to be rebuilt, one of which was Roberts Street and which someone wrote a comment on this site which must have been good because it got >100 upvotes and one RESPONSE with a lot of CAPITALIZED WORDS which made NO SENSE. The abutments are in place so adding a new track bed would be relatively easy (the replacement bridge cost $10 million). The big cost for any of this would be stations, which would all require new platforms and vertical circulation (elevators/ramps, and bridges or tunnels connecting the two sides) although some of the existing infrastructure might be able to be used (like the underpass at Rozzie Square or road bridges by Holy Name Rotary).

TL;DR: plenty of room for two tracks out to Temple Street to West Rox. Beyond there was originally doubled, but has more bridges that would need to be rebuilt. The Orange Line only really works by pairing it with a Green Line branch from Newton Highlands to Needham Junction, which requires several new bridges (in the case of 128, I think the highway side of the house at MassDOT would be on the hook for rebuilding it since they took it out a few years ago) and I'm sure the good citizens of Newton would take kindly to new transit service in town which might bring evil development which would allow them to have enough tax money to, you know, pay their teachers. The section between Needham Junction and West Roxbury could probably be run as a shuttle service and maintained as a single track.

Anyway … any station could be designed to be converted from Commuter Rail to Orange Line. Basically build it so that the platform supports could be lowered by a few inches and that some additional material could be added to the edge of the platform, which is all that would be required to move in that direction. The rest (ramps, stairs, elevators) would be pretty easy to adjust if designed appropriately. Maybe the City will consider this!

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The OL in this scenario would replace, not supplement, the Needham Line

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So there’s a TransitMatters paper that advocates doing exactly this - I’ve been going around and handed copies of it to city staff whenever I see them and sent it to a bunch of state legislators. I also made a petition for this that has about 130 signatures and really want to try and make an effort to get this on the radar with people who can actually get the funding in place to make it happen - especially to try to get some federal funds sent our way and official support from the city. If any one wants to work with me on making a push, please send an email! It’s more likely to be taken seriously if there are more people advocating together in an organized way! Mary - [email protected]

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When there is already another train that goes there? That’s some Lynn logic you’ve got going on.

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Because the train that already goes there is more expensive and runs a handful of times a day.

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Because it's tricky to squeeze more trains into the Northeast Corridor, which means it's tricky to increase service on the Needham Line.

Because the amount of bus usage coming from Roslindale and beyond to Forest Hills is extremely high, showing there is a lot of demand for transit in the corridor.

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Blue Line to Lynn basically duplicates the Commuter Rail and adds service to … Point of Pines, Oak Island and Kelly's, although you can walk to Kelly's in less than 15 minutes from Wonderland. And the right-of-way is obliterated, and no one can explain how you get over the Saugus River (or under) without a massive piece of infrastructure or a movable bridge.

Replacing the Needham Line with a combination of Orange and Green extensions doesn't create any additional transit, but provides arguable better service for everyone. Both ends of the Needham Line become much more frequent than once-an-hour. Travel times stay about the same, although Needham gets better access to the LMA via Longwood instead of Ruggles. And as pointed out elsewhere, this frees up capacity on the NEC with the added benefit of removing some of the interlocking complexities at Hills.

As for cost, a competent transit agency could probably keep this under a billion. Too bad we don't have one of those here. Back of the envelope.

Bridges: $80 million

New Orange Line bridges ($15 million each unless noted, based on $10m for Roberts Street + inflation): $30 million (Roberts, Lagrange)

New Green Line single-track bridges: Charles River ($30 million)

New Green Line double-track bridges Charles River ($20 million), 128 (paid for by highway funding)

New track and signals ($12m/mi, based on Franklin Double Track + inflation), about 13 miles = $155 million. The connection at the Forest Hills end would be simple since the Orange Line tracks extend past the station almost as if they are designed to be tied into the Needham Line right-of-way. A new junction between Newton Highlands and Eliot would be required. Tack on $5 million for that, so $160 million.

Electrification: Most of Europe manages to electrify for about $5 million per route mile, so $60 million.

Orange Line stations: Including the new station here, five fully grade-separated stations. Those are expensive, ranging from maybe $17 million (Blue Hill Ave) to $50 million (Winchester). These are probably closer to the BHA level of complexity but those costs are old, so, say, $40 million per station, $200 million overall. (Maine is building five miles of double track and a new station for $20 million, although those costs have likely risen, but still.)

Green Line stations: These are shorter and at-grade, probably $10 million or maybe even less, and there would be five to seven of them. Let's say $60 million.

So that's $560 million. Let's add in a 30% contingency and 30% design and engineering. Brings it up to $950 million

Also would need some new cars, maybe 10 Green Line Type 10s ($8m each, although the T gets ripped off on light rail cars) and 24 Orange Line cars ($5 million each). So $200 million for cars. Probably need somewhere to store them. Maybe a few storage tracks in West Roxbury, and Green Line tracks near Needham Junction. Would guess this would be $100 million. (Less engineering here since we have the designs.)

So $1.3 billion-ish. But these trains would be a direct replacement for current Needham Line trains which will have to be replaced anyway, so a good portion of that might not really be applicable to this project. Round it down and it's probably around a billion, but a good, non-MBTA design team could probably get it built for half that. (In much of Europe, this would be a $300 million project, of course.)

Now compare that to South Station Expansion, which is estimated at $4.7 billion (why we need it or why it costs that much, I don't know). But assuming we need it, this project would be a fraction of the cost, and would reduce the demand that makes this project "necessary."

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I get that frequency and and fares would be better but your statement travel times being equivalent doesn't track for me. It's hard to believe it'll be close given the Needham line overtakes an orange line train every morning travelling at least 3 times as fast since it expresses through most stops on the south west corridor. And the green line from needham would probably take an age.

Also using a European cost per mile construction estimate is unrealistic - it's like an American project can simply try harder an get something done that cheaply. There are multiple fundamental differences that can't be corrected for, most importantly the legal and political climate, healthcare costs being born by the contractors etc

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Because the commuter rail comes once an hour at best and it's not actually a legitimate form of rapid transit. Because if the Orange line terminated at Home Depot and not Forest Hills, you could redesign the entire southern bus network including additional bus service into Dedham, Norwood, etc.

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I don’t even care if this is the expansion that ends up getting built or not. I just wish someone at the MBTA/state/city had the vision to see what the MBTA could be if it lived up to its full potential. A transit system that serves more than a handful of routes out of the urban core with rapid transit would be nice.

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Put a Commuter Rail stop on the edge of the Home Depot parking lot. There are more and more people living in that area and it would be a boon to the new school (or whatever goes into the old WR High.)

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Drove by by that building this past weekend and it’s living up to its WREC acronym. It’s a mess of a building built on a wetland. It looks like it should be completely demolished and rebuilt. I can’t imagine gutting and renovating would have acceptable results. Money pit would be an understatement. Regardless, there should be some public transit out that way.

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It was a school for many many years. It's in disrepair yes but it is worth rebuilding--it's huge and could easily be used for many other purposes. The Needham line literally goes right by it--just need to build a stop and some access roads/paths. Just because the idea comes from Mayor Wu doesn't mean you have to immediately reject it.

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I have nothing against Mayor Wu at all. I just really don't think that it's feasible to rebuild that complex as it's too far gone.

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but my daughter’s school doesn’t have a library.

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Most likely not a librarian if it has a library.

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In the past two years 60 new librarians have hired for Boston Public Schools! This was an initiative from Casselius as part of her "quality guarantee" - that every school should have a library staffed by a certified school librarian. It remains to be seen if the initiative will continue under Skipper. Most schools now that do no have libraries do not have the space for them.

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BPD continues to use the high school building but unclear for what use. Just yesterday there was a sign with BPD seal indicating “Boston Police” parking this way. The lower lot had at least 10 BPD cruisers and there were many more unmarked jeeps, pickup trucks, etc. in that parking area.

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That's what has been going on at WREC. Also riot control training. All required by law with the new POST Commision

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I think this property could be great affordable housing. Schools are empty 80% of the time.

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I think if the city wants to invest in this building they could put in a Senior Center and maybe a pre school. When covid hit they closed preschools at the Ohrenberger School and the Roche center and nothing has come back. A low cost pre school would be nice for this area or maybe more slots for K1 classes .

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If there is any talk about new T stations, I remind Mayor Wu that it is long past time for a Neponset Station on the Braintree Line. I have to believe that it would serve more people than a new station at the West Roxbury Education Complex

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Where are you going to put Neponset Station?

Remember, the Red Line tracks are on the easterly side of the line. The commuter rail tracks are on the west.

You need to split the tracks of the line to allow for a station.

You are talking about the removal of a lot buildings and sites to get a station built in a filled swamp.

Nearly every business along Tenean Street would have to go for a few passengers a day. It would cost hundreds of millions for a station.

Trust me, I have been lamenting this since I was about 9.

The rotary at Lamberts is too small to put a station. Clam Point is too close to Fields Corner to justify a station.

There is a bus along Neponset Avenue. Lower your apparently too high standards and take the 20 to Fields Corner. Buses run well. Some friends and I were at the Sly Fox in Quincy a few weeks ago and I noticed the 215 runs pretty well and often. So does the 20.

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There's a tiny MBTA maintenance area there, with a crossover and a spur. It's probably too small, but might be just barely large enough for the re-alignment of the northbound track to accommodate a RL-length center platform, with fare lobby built above, though it would probably need to extend at least under 93 and that might be tough due to the onramp limiting vertical clearance. There's both a RL train and a CR train partially visible for scale in that link.

It does seem like the sort of idea that's frustratingly close to being low-hanging fruit.

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...sounds like a good idea.

The distance
between Mill St.and Fields Corner
Is roughly the same as the
distance Savin Hill and JFK/UMass
(give or take a couple of feet)
I suspect that this is just another case of
"NIMBYism"

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Alot of it needs to be rebuilt because of sea rise any way. Thats where all the new Highrise apartments are being built too.

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I live in West Roxbury and am glad you posted this, Adam. I heard about the O'Bryant but have heard nothing about this new station. Our state elected officials Rush and MacGregor haven't said anything that I've seen. I don't even know if they're involved or aware of this. This would be a great thing for the neighborhood if it happens. Not the biggest Wu fan but credit to her if she can get this one done.

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