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The North-South Rail Link is a proposed pair of approximately 1.5 mile (2.4 km)-long rail tunnels below downtown Boston, Massachusetts.[1] The tunnels would serve the goals of better unification for Boston's separate northern and southern MBTA Commuter Rail terminals, and provide direct linkage between Amtrak's southerly service to Washington D.C. and its northeastern service to Portland, Maine. The Amtrak Downeaster line from Maine, arriving from the north, has no direct connection to Amtrak's Northeast Corridor carrying the Acela service to points south, or to the Lake Shore Limited service to points west.[2] Both Amtrak and the commuter rail networks terminate at North and South Stations. The proposed tunnels would span the gap between the two termini.

Contents

Amtrak

The gap between the termini requires at least one local transfer on the city's MBTA public transportation system, or a taxi.

Present connections

Public transit connects North Station to South Station only indirectly, requiring two rail lines, either the Green Line and the Red Line or the Orange Line and the Red Line. Amtrak recommends that passengers with luggage take a taxi between the stations.[3]

It is possible to traverse the gap via the Orange Line from Back Bay Station to North Station, but not all of the southern lines pass through Back Bay; the Old Colony Lines, Fairmount Line and Greenbush Line on the Commuter Rail do not. The North-South Rail Link is proposed to fill this gap.

Proposal

There are several similar proposals for linking South Station and North Station by rail. The leading proposal involves construction of two 41-foot diameter deep-bore tunnels up to 130 feet beneath the city of Boston, extending beyond the present rail yards north and south of the city. Because the tunnels would continue well south of downtown, three portals would accommodate separate connections to Back Bay Station to the west, the Old Colony Lines to the south, and the Fairmount Line running southwest. To the north, the two tunnels would cross the Charles River approximately seventy feet below its surface (bypassing an existing drawbridge), connecting to two portals separately accommodating connections to the Fitchburg Line and the other northbound rail lines. Up to four tracks are proposed. The plan would require completely new underground stations downtown. Stations are proposed roughly beneath the current North and South Stations, plus the possibility of an entirely new Central Station near Aquarium Station.

The tunnels would have steep inclines. Trains entering or exiting the tunnels would climb or descend three percent grades each nearly a mile long.[4] The tunnels would pass approximately twenty feet beneath the I-90 extension, and would be bored to a depth of 130 feet at Central Station and North Station. Central Station would have a shorter 800-foot platform while North Station and South Station would have 1050-foot platforms.

Pilings for a planned high-rise tower at South Station complicate a proposal for aligning the tunnels directly beneath the present South Station. Instead, the leading proposal (called the Dorchester Avenue Alignment) would reposition tracks just to the east of South Station, and would construct an underground facility approximately 100 feet below the surface of the Fort Point Channel at the Summer Street crossing.[5] Tracks at the underground South Station would have a 0.61% incline.

The new downtown Central Station would connect with the Blue Line, the only rapid transit line in Boston that does not already connect with either North or South Station. The new station also would eliminate or reduce transfers to the light rail system for many commuter rail passengers with destinations in the central part of the business district. This would relieve transit congestion in the downtown core. The project is also expected to convert tens of thousands of automobile commuters to rail riders, relieving congestion somewhat on the reconstituted but still crowded Central Artery.

Like Philadelphia’s SEPTA system after the similar Center City Commuter Connection tunnel was built and connected two commuter rail systems, some of Boston’s trains would be through-routed from one side of the system to the other. Many services would still continue to terminate at North and South Stations, on existing tracks that do not lead into the tunnels. This could also accommodate the passing of trains to facilitate the parking of train carriages.

The DEIR/MIS assumes that about one third of Amtrak service to and from points south would be routed through the tunnel, stopping only at South Station, but with a stop north of Boston in Woburn, Massachusetts. The Downeaster service from Maine and New Hampshire was assumed to stop at North Station only, with a direct connection to more southerly service in Woburn rather than Boston. Thus, some operations would continue above ground at North Station and South Station, and all track and facility would remain in place.[6]

The tunnels would not be equipped to handle diesel locomotives, and even if they were, the performance of the locomotives might be unsuited to negotiating the steep tunnel grades and frequent, closely spaced stops that are planned.[7] Locomotives equipped for electric operation would be required; that would be a significant change for the MBTA.

Status

As of May 2006, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has withdrawn its sponsorship of the project due to its high capital cost (projected at several billion dollars, with wide variations depending on which option is chosen). Without matching local funds, the project is ineligible for federal funding, and is no longer listed as an approved project in state and Boston MPO capital plans.

However, the April 2007 document JOURNEY TO 2030: Transportation Plan of the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization says "the MPO feels that a study of the right-of-way requirements should be conducted for preservation of that right-of-way so as to not preclude this project's going forward in the future."[8]

As of December 2007, the Federal Railroad Administration is interested in funding this project if the Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation is interested in sponsoring it.[9]

As of August 2009, the project was brought back into the spotlight as a component of the New England transportation plan, a coordinated effort by the six New England states to improve rail transportation infrastructure by competing for the $8 billion dollars allocated for high speed rail in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.[10]

Alternatives

Currently the MBTA and Amtrak use the Grand Junction Line for non-revenue moves between the two sides of its network. The line splits from the Framingham/Worcester Line near Boston University and the Mass Turnpike Allston/Brighton tolls, the track then crosses the Charles River into Cambridge. From there it runs through the East Cambridge neighborhood and into Somerville, where it connects to the commuter rail lines running from North Station just below the McGrath-O'Brien Highway. The line is single-tracked and slow, with a large number of at-grade crossings. Several of the crossings (Massachusetts Avenue, several streets around Kendall Square, Cambridge Street, and Gore Street) require trains to come to a near-complete stop before proceeding at their allowed track speed of 10 MPH.[11][11]

If it were to be upgraded, the right-of-way is severely limited and the corridor has been proposed as part of the Urban Ring project or a possible pedestrian trail.[12] Additionally, only Worcester Line trains would be directly served. Trains from other southern lines would have to detour and reverse all the way to the west of Back Bay and Yawkey stations to reach it.

An above-ground rail link between South and North Stations was once proposed by the local Association for Public Transportation (which also supports the underground North-South Rail Link).[4] This would eliminate the need to take multiple rapid transit lines to get between terminals, but would still require two transfers for Amtrak and commuter rail passengers passing through downtown Boston.

Footnotes

  1. ^ Sigmund, Pete (2007-06-06). "Triumph, Tragedy Mark Boston's Big Dig Project". Construction Equipment Guide. http://cegltd.com/story.asp?story=8751&headline=Triumph,%20Tragedy%20Mark%20Boston%E2%80%99s%20Big%20Dig%20Project. Retrieved 2007-12-10.  
  2. ^ http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer/AM_Route_C/1241245668499/1237405732511 "Please note that in Boston, Amtrak Downeaster trains arrive and depart from Boston's North Station. All other Amtrak services in Boston depart from South Station and Back Bay Station. Passengers transferring between the Downeaster and other Amtrak services must make their own arrangements for the transfer between stations in Boston."
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ MBTA, et al., North South Rail Link Project, Major Investment Study, vol. I, figure 2.5-7 (June 2003).
  5. ^ MBTA, et al., North South Rail Link Project, Major Investment Study, vol. I, figure 2.5-4 (June 2003).
  6. ^ MBTA, et al., North South Rail Link Project, Major Investment Study, vol. I, figure 2-38 (June 2003).
  7. ^ MBTA, et al., North South Rail Link Project, Major Investment Study, vol. I, 2-36 (June 2003).
  8. ^ [2] (see pages 2-10).
  9. ^ [3]
  10. ^ http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2009/08/23/finally_a_rail_plan_for_new_england/
  11. ^ a b City of Cambridge, Mass.: GRAND JUNCTION RAIL-WITH-TRAIL FEASIBILITY STUDY - Oct. 2006 (Page 12)
  12. ^ City of Cambridge, Mass.: GRAND JUNCTION RAIL-WITH-TRAIL FEASIBILITY STUDY - Oct. 2006

References

External links

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The North-South Rail Link is the name for a proposed approximately 1.5 mile (2.4 km)-long[1] pair of rail tunnels below downtown Boston, Massachusetts. The tunnels would serve the goals of better unification for Boston's separate northern and southern MBTA Commuter Rail terminals, along with providing direct linkage between Amtrak's southerly service running between Boston and Washington D.C. and its northeastern service between Boston and Portland, Maine.

At present both Amtrak and the Commuter Rail networks terminate at North and South Stations. The proposed tunnels would span the gap between the termini of the two rail segments.

Contents

Amtrak

As of 2009, there is no easy direct rail connection between the two rail terminating points in the city of Boston. All Amtrak passengers transiting through Boston from either the northern or southern edge of historic Boston end at separate stations; leaving no through services provided directly by Amtrak. The current gap of service splits the passenger rail system, and requires at least one local transfer on the city's metropolitan public transportation system or a taxi. For example, the Amtrak Downeaster line from Maine, arriving to the north, has no direct connection to Amtrak's Northeast Corridor carrying the Acela service heading south, or to the Lake Shore Limited service heading west.

Present connections

Boston's local public transit connects North Station to South Station only indirectly. Transit directly from North Station to South Station requires using two rail lines, either the Green Line and the Red Line or the Orange Line and the Red Line. Amtrak recommends that passengers with luggage take a taxi between the stations.[1]

It is possible to traverse the gap via the Orange Line from Back Bay Station to North Station, but not all of the southern lines pass through Back Bay; the Old Colony Lines, Fairmount Line and Greenbush Line on the Commuter Rail do not.

The North-South Rail Link is intended to fill this gap.

Proposal

There are several similar proposals for linking South Station and North Station by rail. The leading proposal involves construction of two 41-foot diameter deep-bore tunnels up to 130 feet beneath the city of Boston, extending beyond the present rail yards north and south of the city. Because the tunnels would continue well south of downtown, three portals would accommodate separate connections to Back Bay Station to the west, the Old Colony Lines to the south, and the Fairmount Line running southwest. To the north, the two tunnels would cross the Charles River approximately seventy feet below its surface (bypassing an existing drawbridge), connecting to two portals separately accommodating connections to the Fitchburg Line and the other northbound rail lines. Up to four tracks are proposed. The plan would require completely new underground stations downtown. Stations are proposed roughly beneath the current North and South Stations, plus the possibility of an entirely new Central Station near Aquarium Station.

The tunnels would have steep inclines. Trains entering or exiting the tunnels would climb or descend three percent grades each nearly a mile long.[2] The tunnels would pass approximately twenty feet beneath the I-90 extension, and would be bored to a depth of 130 feet at Central Station and North Station. Central Station would have a shorter 800-foot platform while North Station and South Station would have 1050-foot platforms.

Pilings for a planned high-rise tower at South Station complicate a proposal for aligning the tunnels directly beneath the present South Station. Instead, the leading proposal (called the Dorchester Avenue Alignment) would reposition tracks just to the east of South Station, and would construct an underground facility approximately 100 feet below the surface of the Fort Point Channel at the Summer Street crossing.[3] Tracks at the underground South Station would have a 0.61% incline.

The new downtown Central Station would connect with the Blue Line, the only rapid transit line in Boston that does not already connect with either North or South Station. The new station also would eliminate or reduce transfers to the light rail system for many commuter rail passengers with destinations in the central part of the business district. This would relieve transit congestion in the downtown core. The project is also expected to convert tens of thousands of automobile commuters to rail riders, relieving congestion somewhat on the reconstituted but still crowded Central Artery.

Like Philadelphia’s SEPTA system after the similar Center City Commuter Connection tunnel was built and connected two commuter rail systems, some of Boston’s trains would be through-routed from one side of the system to the other. Many services would still continue to terminate at North and South Stations, on existing tracks that do not lead into the tunnels.

The DEIR/MIS assumes that about one third of Amtrak service to and from points south would be routed through the tunnel, stopping only at South Station, but with a stop north of Boston in Woburn, Massachusetts. The Downeaster service from Maine and New Hampshire was assumed to stop at North Station only, with a direct connection to more southerly service in Woburn rather than Boston. Thus, some operations would continue above ground at North Station and South Station, and all track and facility would remain in place.[4]

The tunnels would not be equipped to handle diesel locomotives, and even if they were, the performance of the locomotives might be unsuited to negotiating the steep tunnel grades and frequent, closely spaced stops that are planned.[5] Locomotives equipped for electric operation would be required; that would be a significant change for the MBTA.

Status

As of May 2006, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has withdrawn its sponsorship of the project due to its high capital cost (projected at several billion dollars, with wide variations depending on which option is chosen). Without matching local funds, the project is ineligible for federal funding, and is no longer listed as an approved project in state and Boston MPO capital plans.

However, the April 2007 document JOURNEY TO 2030: Transportation Plan of the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization[2] says (on page 2-10), "the MPO feels that a study of the right-of-way requirements should be conducted for preservation of that right-of-way so as to not preclude this project's going forward in the future."

As of December 2007, the Federal Railroad Administration is interested in funding this project if the Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation is interested in sponsoring it.[3]

Alternatives

Currently the MBTA and Amtrak use the Grand Junction Line for non-revenue moves between the two sides of its network. The line splits from the Framingham/Worcester Line near Boston University and the Mass Turnpike Allston/Brighton tolls, the track then crosses the Charles River into Cambridge. From there it runs through the East Cambridge neighborhood and into Somerville, where it connects to the commuter rail lines running from North Station just below the McGrath-O'Brien Highway. The line is single-tracked and slow, with a large number of at-grade crossings. Several of the crossings (Massachusetts Avenue, several streets around Kendall Square, Cambridge Street, and Gore Street) require trains to come to a near-complete stop[6] before proceeding at their allowed track speed of 10 MPH.[6]

If it were to be upgraded, the right-of-way is severely limited and the corridor has been proposed as part of the Urban Ring project or a possible pedestrian trail.[7] Additionally, only Worcester Line trains would be directly served. Trains from other southern lines would have to detour and reverse all the way to the west of Back Bay and Yawkey stations to reach it.

An above-ground rail link between South and North Stations was once proposed by the local Association for Public Transportation (which also supports the underground North-South Rail Link).[4] This would eliminate the need to take multiple rapid transit lines to get between terminals, but would still require two transfers for Amtrak and commuter rail passengers passing through downtown Boston.

Footnotes

  1. Sigmund, Pete (2007-06-06). "Triumph, Tragedy Mark Boston's Big Dig Project". Construction Equipment Guide. http://cegltd.com/story.asp?story=8751&headline=Triumph,%20Tragedy%20Mark%20Boston%E2%80%99s%20Big%20Dig%20Project. Retrieved on 2007-12-10. 
  2. MBTA, et al., North South Rail Link Project, Major Investment Study, vol. I, figure 2.5-7 (June 2003).
  3. MBTA, et al., North South Rail Link Project, Major Investment Study, vol. I, figure 2.5-4 (June 2003).
  4. MBTA, et al., North South Rail Link Project, Major Investment Study, vol. I, figure 2-38 (June 2003).
  5. MBTA, et al., North South Rail Link Project, Major Investment Study, vol. I, 2-36 (June 2003).
  6. 6.0 6.1 City of Cambridge, Mass.: GRAND JUNCTION RAIL-WITH-TRAIL FEASIBILITY STUDY - Oct. 2006 (Page 12)
  7. City of Cambridge, Mass.: GRAND JUNCTION RAIL-WITH-TRAIL FEASIBILITY STUDY - Oct. 2006

References

External links


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