Conley Terminal cranes arriving

citydweller

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Maybe by the time that is done, rail will be brought into the property and Boston will become a true gateway port.
I wondered if City planners considered extending track 61 to the terminal. Last time I was in the Seaport, I was amazed at the number of hauler trucks passing through Summer St. There was gridlock. Maybe I just happen to catch it at a peak time.
 
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DrFreewind

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How much did that like.. cost?
Massport is investing $850 million in waterside and landside infrastructure to keep Conley Terminal competitive and cost-effective. The Boston Harbor Dredging Project is a $350 million partnership between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and Massport.
 

erom

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The first crane is off the boat as of lunchtime today. It took them about half a day to do the move itself, so I'm not sure if they were planning on moving a second one today.
 

fatnoah

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From https://www.mass.gov/doc/2017-massachusetts-freight-plan/download, MassDOT's reply to the Eastern Mass Freight Rail Coalition's statements that track 61 should be extended to Conley:

Massport is investing in improvements to Conley Terminal, including participating in the Boston Harbor Dredging project, development of the recently opened Thomas Butler Dedicated Freight Corridor, and upcoming construction of landside improvements including a new deepwater berth to accommodate larger vessels. Due to landside constraints, Massachusetts Freight Plan B-18 Massport has carefully programmed Conley to accommodate efficient existing and future operations; freight rail would require significant physical footprint on the site.
 

BostonTrainGuy

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From https://www.mass.gov/doc/2017-massachusetts-freight-plan/download, MassDOT's reply to the Eastern Mass Freight Rail Coalition's statements that track 61 should be extended to Conley:
Really? Look at the below image. That green shaded area on the left is mostly vacant land unused for years. The yellow shaded area on the far right is used primarily for storage since that east pier is in such poor condition that ships can't dock there. Also due to its proximity to Logan it will never see any type of large ship crane.

I would think there is definitely space to put in a loading pad with a couple of parallel tracks. If Portland can do it, Massport certainly can do it.

Conley 2.jpg
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I wondered if City planners considered extending track 61 to the terminal. Last time I was in the Seaport, I was amazed at the number of hauler trucks passing through Summer St. There was gridlock. Maybe I just happen to catch it at a peak time.
I would think there is definitely space to put in a loading pad with a couple of parallel tracks. If Portland can do it, Massport certainly can do it.
You have to have a market for where the goods are going before that makes sense. Conley's loads are mostly local, in a 100-mile or less radius around Boston. Truck drayage usually slays at moving goods around when it's a 200-mile-or-less radius from a terminal. Beyond about 200 is where intermodal rail starts to flex its economies. You are never, ever, ever in a million years going to load stuff from Conley onto a railcar then unload it in Worcester, Ayer, or Springfield to the third mode, truck. The extra step is stupidly expensive and inefficient. Inefficient even for the superficial reductions in CBD truck traffic. To get idealized cost from that extra step these goods we're unloading from Conley would have to be going to Syracuse, Scranton, Long Island, Quebec or something like that. Incoming loads to Southie don't go those places. Other local ports, plus the megaports that run circles around all the local ports, send their stuff there instead.

Yes, they left a provision to easily spur off the Massport Running Track, trestle across Reserve Channel next to Summer St., and take a single-track through the set-aside reservation with some minor sorting area. No...nobody has come up with an economic case for doing it yet. Strictly the stuff of 50-year-provisions where if flow of goods changes drastically such that we are someday sending shipping cubes 200 miles away in bulk there'll be a means of executing it. But nobody anticipates that business materializing right now.

Frankly, nobody sees it materializing in Portland, either. MEDOT is still trying to find actual ship-to-rail usage cases for Yard 8. Right now they're the poster child for "provisioning stupid" because they built it cloaked in a flowery sell job, but its usage is totally half-assed and detrimentally duplicated what used to be a better rail-to-truck 'inland' terminal @ Auburn. CSX isn't even batting an eye at the shipping port as they buy their way into Pan Am's system; that was and continues to be all the State's folly. Portland is the poster child for Massport not doing Conley rail until somebody can actually prove the revenues are there.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I guess its a chicken or the egg type of thing, eh?
No, it's a $$$$$ thing. The revenue is flat-out not there. The incoming goods at Conley are all locally distributed. Straight-to-truck handles local business enormously more efficiently than a rail intermediary ever would at local distances, whether one finds the truck traffic that close to the CBD appetizing or not. To produce the $$$$ to put the rail option on the table you would have to find an out-of-state market that so badly needs South Boston and South Boston goods only such that a manifested train can go from here to there before they unload to truck and final destination. There is no such potential business. PANYNJ, St. John, Montreal...they all outslug us mega for any destination 200+ miles away, and even Albany has its own "sea"-port on the Hudson taking hyper-local loads. So where's the usage case going to come from?

Then consider the complexity of the rail moves involved. CSX is quid-pro-quo'd to (today largely unused) overnight slots because of the complexity of crossing Amtrak Southampton Yard during passenger service hours...the same thing that ends up upending every crackpot Track 61 passenger scheme. That requires Train #1: a Readville-based overnight crew for the fetch job in Southie. Now, a couple tracks of loading space @ Conley isn't enough to sort a manifest onsite...make sure each car is arranged in the correct order of strings for splitting/combining trains to final destinations. Sorting for the manifest takes a yard with very many parallel tracks for switching, which is why CSX headquarters all sorting/classification functions in Framingham. That's Train #2: the daily Framingham-Readville yard-to-yard stocking job...and Train #3: the on-duty Framingham yard switcher for actually doing the pry-apart/recombine ordering work. Sorting gets doubly difficult when you have to work the third dimension in the form of the stacking. That takes even more space (compare Conley with PANYNJ or other ports that double-stack train cars right off the ship...nowhere near enough real estate), and absolutely none of the mainlines out of Boston have anywhere within 3+ feet of the required vertical clearances. Framingham itself doesn't have the clearance, so you'd probably have to sink a small fortune in raising a bunch of Westborough-Framingham B&A clearances another foot lest Train #4 have to be summoned to 'filet' the second stack in Worcester (which then requires moving some existing IM functions out of Worcester to West Springfield or elsewhere, because Worcester's currently tapped out). Then and only then can you send the road freight out to fulfill its manifest...on Train Not-Less-Than-#4-But-Potentially-#5.

But...fulfill its manifest to where, exactly??? Because nothing that goes into Conley travels 200 miles anywhere where the ^^above^^ sequence has a prayer of amortizing itself. It's only when you get further flung than what a single trucking shift can do that rail starts to get competitive. And, honestly, the fact that Conley already can't sort/classify onsite probably means the "break-even" drayage range is way more than 200 miles...probably more like 300-350. There's no way that'll economically wash. >200 miles out in any direction gets you into the drayage sheds of ginormously bigger ports like PANYNJ, Montreal, and St. John, so Boston does not have an effective range beyond what a single trucking shift can serve. Anything further out than what a single trucking shift can serve is going to be picking up the same cubed goods in New York, Montreal, etc...never here.

Is there a possibility that could change in 50 years? Sure. Maybe some white-hot IM commodity gets so hyper-specialized by port that it's sourced here instead of at the megaports, but gets shipped in standard cubes all the same. Like...if some import country were spatting with us but "truced" to serving Boston but not some other city. I couldn't even begin to fathom the mechanics of how things would flip on their head like that, because it's a pretty wack scenario on-spec. But stranger things can/could happen. There isn't, however, a usage case foreseeable today for how containerized ship-to-rail could work in Boston without enormous subsidized losses. So, no, it's not "chicken or egg" at all...it's "how big a loss do you want to run at for taking a few trucks off 93?"


I see you've also posited these questions on the RR.net port threads (Pan Am, New England Railfan, etc.), and are getting much the same answers there. Trust me...some of the people there doing the replying there know about a million times more about what they speak of re: shipping macroeconomics than I ever would. I would take those guys at their word. Conley rail is future-provisioned if there's ever a usage case...but the chances of that usage case ever materializing are extremely slim.
 

BostonTrainGuy

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I hear you and you are right about how things are. But now we have new larger ships coming in with many more containers. Who's to say where all this new business is going? Saint John was a sleepy small port too. Now it's generating double-stack container train loads of new business.

As you say, it's a $$$$$ thing. If a company has an option to import/export through Boston which has zero congestion and might be cheaper (?) than NY/NJ, why not give it a try? I'm not thinking of mile long double-stacks every day. I'm thinking of short single stack shuttles to Worcester via the B&A for adding to existing trains. These trains can be assembled in the unused three track yard east of the Amtrak Southampton yard and will not have to cross anything down there. It would be a short fast run to Worcester.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I hear you and you are right about how things are. But now we have new larger ships coming in with many more containers. Who's to say where all this new business is going? Saint John was a sleepy small port too. Now it's generating double-stack container train loads of new business.

As you say, it's a $$$$$ thing. If a company has an option to import/export through Boston which has zero congestion and might be cheaper (?) than NY/NJ, why not give it a try? I'm not thinking of mile long double-stacks every day. I'm thinking of short single stack shuttles to Worcester via the B&A for adding to existing trains. These trains can be assembled in the unused three track yard east of the Amtrak Southampton yard and will not have to cross anything down there. It would be a short fast run to Worcester.
This is kind of where you need the RR.net macroecon guys to plain-English it further, but the way it's been described to me is that Boston can't do it cheaper than NY/NJ because of the scaling challenges. As in: if you can't pump a mile-long string of cars of stacks per day and must either make do with nooks-and-crannies for sorting or stage a multi-legged trip to get that manifest sorted, the terminal is not going to overcome its inherent inefficiencies and carve out a market any larger than the single truck-shift drayage it currently does. The rail loads to out-of-region simply won't be there. Worcester is the end point for rail-to-truck IM from out-of-region to in-region...it doesn't serve any market whatsoever for the opposite direction. There's a very specific volume threshold that's well out of reach for Conley, and bigger ships aren't the impediment. Therefore, there's nothing to "give a try" on.

The only thing running a rail shuttle from Conley gets you is **perhaps** a very slight reduction in Southeast Expressway big rig traffic, paid for at huge daily losses on a Massport budget by cutting CSX checks to force-run a shuttle. Which is a pretty crappy proposition for the money, and no qualitative improvement in life around the CBD as big rig traffic is barely a drop in the bucket vs. total I-93 volumes. Yes, market conditions can theoretically change...but because the threshold for competitive efficiency is so specifically high in this case it's extremely unlikely that any conditions will align with the stars to make it so. It would take shippers specifically shunning the big ports to hyper-specialize on Conley, but do so in a way that doesn't hyper-specialize so much it that it becomes something other than conventional cube intermodal. It would take some pretty fricking warped market conditions to make things just so, and that's not a thing you can plan around.


There are port functions that can be niche'd...perishables warehousing (what they envision rail to Marine Terminal for), autos (what Quonset Point, RI does), and others. But IM doesn't happen to be one of those niches. Conley scales merely-OK enough for pure-local truck drayage, but is an order of magnitude off (including order of magnitude off St. John, which is cosmically bigger than us even if "sleepy" compared to PANYNJ). And the possibles simply don't add up to cover that order of magnitude.
 

Stlin

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This is kind of where you need the RR.net macroecon guys to plain-English it further, but the way it's been described to me is that Boston can't do it cheaper than NY/NJ because of the scaling challenges. As in: if you can't pump a mile-long string of cars of stacks per day and must either make do with nooks-and-crannies for sorting or stage a multi-legged trip to get that manifest sorted, the terminal is not going to overcome its inherent inefficiencies and carve out a market any larger than the single truck-shift drayage it currently does. The rail loads to out-of-region simply won't be there. Worcester is the end point for rail-to-truck IM from out-of-region to in-region...it doesn't serve any market whatsoever for the opposite direction. There's a very specific volume threshold that's well out of reach for Conley, and bigger ships aren't the impediment. Therefore, there's nothing to "give a try" on.

The only thing running a rail shuttle from Conley gets you is **perhaps** a very slight reduction in Southeast Expressway big rig traffic, paid for at huge daily losses on a Massport budget by cutting CSX checks to force-run a shuttle. Which is a pretty crappy proposition for the money, and no qualitative improvement in life around the CBD as big rig traffic is barely a drop in the bucket vs. total I-93 volumes. Yes, market conditions can theoretically change...but because the threshold for competitive efficiency is so specifically high in this case it's extremely unlikely that any conditions will align with the stars to make it so. It would take shippers specifically shunning the big ports to hyper-specialize on Conley, but do so in a way that doesn't hyper-specialize so much it that it becomes something other than conventional cube intermodal. It would take some pretty fricking warped market conditions to make things just so, and that's not a thing you can plan around.


There are port functions that can be niche'd...perishables warehousing (what they envision rail to Marine Terminal for), autos (what Quonset Point, RI does), and others. But IM doesn't happen to be one of those niches. Conley scales merely-OK enough for pure-local truck drayage, but is an order of magnitude off (including order of magnitude off St. John, which is cosmically bigger than us even if "sleepy" compared to PANYNJ). And the possibles simply don't add up to cover that order of magnitude.
Any chance you can link, or point me to where to find, some of those RR.net posts? I'd love to read them, the logistics nerd in me is v curious.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Any chance you can link, or point me to where to find, some of those RR.net posts? I'd love to read them, the logistics nerd in me is v curious.
Shitloads of ports discussion in the 174-page CSX/Pan Am megathread in the Pan Am subforum, since a lot of that covers CSX competitiveness @ St. John. Some in the "Potential PAR/PAS traffic growth" thread on that subforum's front page. CSX subforum has "Boston Waterfront Industrial Track Reactivation" thread.

I wish that were less of a firehose-in-the-face, but unfortunately RR.net has the most godawful board search function imaginable so it's nearly impossible to precision-search posts. Of the main participants in the CSX-PAR megathread, the ones who really know what they're talking about at an otherworldly level are posters "newpylong" (ex-Pan Am employee and current employee of some unnamed Class I RR), "CN9634" (holds some industry position on the numbers side), and "PBMcGinnis" (also somewhere in the shipping industry). There are others, and generally the posters who are hanging around the megathread constantly are conversant in all the stuff...but those three seem to get a lot of insider tips that hold up true in the end.

It's dense reading, for sure. I've learned a ton over the years from those same guys, but I'm still not comfortable at all with my overall grasp of freight economics because there's still so much I don't know. I would've called myself a "Why not Boston?" questioner until only a couple years ago, and that's largely a factor of how much the CSX-PAR deal has since backfilled my brain with new info about shipping macroecon.
 

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