I read the Corps EIS too. There was literally zero justification given for selecting the trestle alternative over the causeway. The closet the report gets is a single line reference; "A trestle section is proposed in Easton and Raynham to minimize environmental impacts to the Hockomock Swamp Area of Critical Environmental Concern," with no explanation of how a trestle in this section reduces environmental impacts to the wetlands vs the causeway. In fact, the at grade Hockomock section of the causeway was not even evaluated as an alternative. Also not considered were any double track alternatives. Maybe behind the scenes there was some valid reason for the choices, but they sure didn't put it in the report.I appreciate the wudda cudda shoulda on the Army Corps study, but I keep coming back to this. People seem extremely confident that a new assessment would yield a significant reduction in costs. As best I can tell this is based on F-Line's opinion. I appreciate his technical knowledge as much as the next poster, but take a step back for a second. I don't believe he works for the Corps nor does he have any actual influence on the study. So what are the odds these new cost savings actually happen? You would have put off transit for years with the real possibility or probability of the same assessment. This is before you get to the inevitable litigation over any changes to the project particularly anything environmental. That's a big gamble but what this entire alternative seems to be predicated on.
The environmental angle for the trestle seems to be more focused on reducing any hypothetical impacts to endangered species, rather than runoff. It does this by pretending that the embankment in it's present state provides no barrier to animal migration, but would become an insurmountable obstacle if the tracks were rebuilt, and a trestle would magically have zero impact. Not less, zero. Curiously enough, the EIS has no issue with reusing the embankment in the nearby Pine Swamp.The main cost issue with the Stoughton route that the Corps' meddling caused was that they demanded that the state build a (single-track) trestle through a long stretch of wetlands, despite the fact that there's a pre-existing (disused) railroad embankment graded for two tracks, and despite them never requiring anything similar apparently anywhere (including basically the same situation on the Greenbush Line, where it was fine to re-use the old embankment through the wetlands; their dressing the trestle requirement as an environmental issue was also curious given that they had no apparent concern for all of the runoff from the nearby highway, which is more of a threat to the wetlands than a railroad on the embankment). The single-track (primarily but I don't think exclusively the trestle) then gave rise to an electrification requirement (again I believe ostensibly on environmental grounds, and again not common practice) which was actually necessary to make the schedule work at all on paper because of the single-track meet staging forced by the trestle requirement.
In my experience with wetland permits with the Army Corps, generally bridges and trestles were considered much more acceptable across a wetland than a fill (causeway) would be. I don't know the particulars of this case, but the piers of a trestle are generally considered minimal impact, especially if the structure can be built with construction equipment kept on the completed part of the trestle and out of the wetland.I read the Corps EIS too. There was literally zero justification given for selecting the trestle alternative over the causeway. The closet the report gets is a single line reference; "A trestle section is proposed in Easton and Raynham to minimize environmental impacts to the Hockomock Swamp Area of Critical Environmental Concern," with no explanation of how a trestle in this section reduces environmental impacts to the wetlands vs the causeway. In fact, the at grade Hockomock section of the causeway was not even evaluated as an alternative.
Would that be true in a situation where there was already an existing railroad embankment? I can understand the Corps preferring a lower-impact situation for new construction, but why they insisted the embankment already in place was a no-no here (and said nothing of the sort for a similar situation on the Greenbush Line) is the part that's drawing all the questions.In my experience with wetland permits with the Army Corps, generally bridges and trestles were considered much more acceptable across a wetland than a fill (causeway) would be. I don't know the particulars of this case, but the piers of a trestle are generally considered minimal impact, especially if the structure can be built with construction equipment kept on the completed part of the trestle and out of the wetland.
This is the most egregious part of Phase II, IMO. If it's supposedly necessary to build a trestle over Hockomock Swamp, it would be ridiculous to build the trestle at single track width instead of building it at double track width so that adding the second track later is at least a possibility.In fact, the at grade Hockomock section of the causeway was not even evaluated as an alternative. Also not considered were any double track alternatives.
So, you've got nothing then. For your employer's sake I hope you aren't in any way involved in hiring people, because if you have a blanket policy against hiring people from certain areas (Fall River to use your example) you are exposing your company to millions of dollars of lawsuits any time a qualified female or non white candidate gets disqualified merely due to their place of residence. I think it's more likely you have no clue what you're talking about.Umm... reality. Plus renting in something like Lynn might not even be that much more expensive when you consider you'd need a car to live in FR and a Zone 10 pass is over $400/month.
That's exactly what driving this and the Springfield proposal. Some pols think the above will happen. They are wrong, and I don't know who they are going to blame when it's multiple hundred thou a rider. Maybe Baker if he's gone by then.But to the larger question, it's unlikely people from metro Boston with no connection to the area will relocate there
Agreed, if Phase II is part of the plan. My objection isn't to Phase I so much as it is to the prospect that if Phase I fails, we don't get Phase II, and it breaks Buzzards/Cape's prospects of service, while also saddling FR/NB with permanently inadequate service. It's not an objection to the project, it's a lack of trust that the state will follow through.But, I'm all for going back to the Army Corps for a new analysis. What I stand by is that there was no good reason not to do Phase I while we wait for phase II to play out. Especially since much of the phase I work is needed for phase II, namely the work from Taunton to FR and NB.
Well, I don't know if I missed something that triggered this line of conversation, but okay. Are you a lawyer? Because while I could potentially see someone suing, I don't think you'd be talking "millions of dollars", and I'm not a lawyer but I don't know that "place of residence" is grounds for a discrimination suit, especially if the concern is "employee may not be able to get to the place of business reliably". This is a tangent way off the main topic of the thread, so I'm going to leave the matter there.So, you've got nothing then. For your employer's sake I hope you aren't in any way involved in hiring people, because if you have a blanket policy against hiring people from certain areas (Fall River to use your example) you are exposing your company to millions of dollars of lawsuits any time a qualified female or non white candidate gets disqualified merely due to their place of residence. I think it's more likely you have no clue what you're talking about.
If you're conceding that this is mostly about FR/NB getting better transit access - not that that's a bad thing - rather than providing significant overall economic benefit to the state, then the cost-benefit analysis becomes that much more relevant and concerning. At the ridership numbers they're projecting for Phase I, the cost-per-rider is very high, even compared to some of the other CR projects they've done (cough*Greenbush*cough), which from a financial perspective is an inefficient use of capital. The counterargument in justification of the project is one of fairness and equity, which is not an inherently bad argument (it's political rather than economic, but that's not a strike against it), but one that is inherently based on the idea that the South Coast and its denizens "deserve" transit, which is a valid argument to make but one which you previously complained about (which is why I bring it up). (Potential future changes in commuting patterns are of questionable relevance to this discussion. We're probably still too early to know what those changes are going to look like, and there's probably especially little evidence to suggest that future changes could produce a significant change in the desirability of the South Coast that would be sufficient to change the project calculus.)But to the larger question, it's unlikely people from metro Boston with no connection to the area will relocate there due to the long commute. That's not the point. The point is people currently living there now have better access to better jobs (and recent college grads don't necessarily have to relocate). This isn't going to "save" any depressed city like FR or NB if that means restoring them to their former glory of 100+ years ago but it will certainly help. Especially if commuting patterns for professionals do indeed change and you don't need to do 5 days in the office.
If the post-pandemic work world manages some increase in location flexibility while maintaining salary levels, you may see some migration away from the high-cost areas to places like Happy Valley. However, most companies are setting salary based on cost-of-labor in a localized area, which means folks can’t take their Silicon Valley salary to the Berkshires.That's exactly what driving this and the Springfield proposal. Some pols think the above will happen. They are wrong, and I don't know who they are going to blame when it's multiple hundred thou a rider. Maybe Baker if he's gone by then.
That it's the largest population center in Eastern Mass not served by the CR can be true and irrelevant at the same time. If the service is too poor, because of the limitations inherent in using the Old Colony routing (especially with no plan whatsoever for widening the single-track main), that the population doesn't really use it much, then it doesn't much matter how big the population center is, it'd still be under-utilized. (And may well kill Phase II, and with it any hopes of a proper-capacity SCR schedule and proper Buzzards/Cape service.) More to the point, the size of the population center is absolutely irrelevant when we're talking about cost-per-rider being as high as it's projected here. (At least some of which is probably down to the less-than-robust peak schedule depressing projected ridership.) "Boston needs workers" plus "South Coast needs access to better-paying jobs" (statements so generic as to be effectively unfalsifiable) does not add up to "we must build a rail connection at whatever the cost". Because the cost is considerable, not just in financial terms (though the cost-per-rider based on the state's own projections is very high), but also in terms of what it does (hopefully temporarily, potentially permanently) to other (if smaller) population centers' prospects for service, as well as for the South Coast's accessibility itself.@ Brattle Loop, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be conceding here as I've repeatedly said that this project is a win-win. Boston area needs workers, South Coast needs access to better paying jobs. It's not about equity or owing anybody anything. It's that the largest population in Eastern Mass currently not served by commuter rail is the South Coast and there's some opportunities there to solve a few of those problems.
Obviously the lack of ridership projections makes life difficult when it comes to comparing projects. I should say I don't necessarily think it's likely that Buzzards/Cape would have higher ridership than FR/NB (because the population differential cuts against that), just that it's possible for that phenomenon to happen (and in this case, it might well happen seasonally given the Cape's heavy tourist skew). Cape service proper has to solve the Corps' who-knows-what with the canal bridge (someone, possibly F-Line, speculated they might just want to sell the dang thing and are annoying the state to get them to pay for it), Buzzards Bay service doesn't touch the bridge and does not depend on cutting through any Corps shenanigans. As for SCR holding things up, it's unambiguously holding up even consideration of Buzzards Bay service, because there's not enough spare capacity on the Old Colony main with SCR coming to provide an acceptable schedule to Buzzards. They were justifiably outraged by the state's greenlighting of Phase I because they knew it killed their chances of service at least for a while. Broader-picture, Phase I's inefficient use of money is a drain on all other projects by spending an outsize chunk of the transportation budget; even if we can't necessarily trace specific project delays or cancellations to it does not mean it was harmless to other projects.Some are advocating for Cape access and that's cool but absent some ridership projections I'm not sure how a much smaller population than the Taunton/FR/NB triangle would send more potential commuters into Boston not to mention whatever is going on with the Corps operating the bridge over the Canal. Regardless this project is nearing completion while many others haven't gotten off the drawing board yet so I don't think SCR is holding anything else up.
Thank you for finding those numbers, it's extremely helpful to the discussion.The ridership projections have been provided for both South Coast Rail Phase 1 and an extension of commuter rail service to Buzzards Bay or to Bourne.
Table 2-9 on page 2-66 of the linked SCR phase 1 report shows an incremental increase of 2030 (I assume daily) inbound boardings along the Middleborough Route of 1,500 (4,400 Phase 1 versus 2,900 No Action).
Section 3.3.2 on page 38 of the linked Cape Rail Study report shows the Alternative 1 (service to Buzzards Bay, north of the canal) would result in an increase of 1,710 daily commuter rail boardings. These are daily boardings, so that figure should be cut in half for inbound versus outbound, resulting in 855 one-way passengers, resulting in more than half the count for SCR phase 1, at one tenth the cost.
I'm not arguing against South Coast Rail. It should be restored, via the Stoughton route. But based on SCR phase 1 versus Cape Rail Study cost per passenger, Buzzards Bay rail should clearly be the priority.
Hey, I'm not a teacher or professor, there won't be a book report or an essay question, feel free to skim if you like@ Brattle, I'm enjoying the discussion but can you maybe try to keep it to a short story next time instead of a novel?
I assume you were reading a different, fictional novel when you got that impression about what I was saying. I was making an argument, in the SCR context but not inherently SCR-related, that inefficient use of transportation money (represented by high cost-per-rider, SCR Phase I's cost-per-rider is quite high) is a bad thing, not because it's unaffordable in a vacuum or because it somehow sucks up all transportation money in the state for an indefinite time, but because it is wasteful. (And harmful to other projects...including Phase II, potentially.) We obviously don't have the numbers to make a firm determination, but I strongly suspect that a Phase II-only build (with Army Corps' mangling removed, anyway) with its inherently-better schedule potential could well have a better (or at least equivalent) cost-per-rider even if it costs more in a vacuum than Phase I-only, which would be a more efficient use of money. It's not about specific dollars, it's about how well they're used. (Because if, hypothetically, and I'm making these numbers up for argument's sake, if Cape Rail could get riders for $10 a rider and SCR Phase I cost $30 a rider, that's a big difference that needs to be justified somehow, especially if Phase II was $15 a rider. That's the limited-budget element; the state ought to get the most for its money.)But I'll try to pick out the relevant stuff. You're stuck on the idea that there's not unlimited transit dollars and that's a reason to oppose the project because there won't be funding left for other, more worthy in your opinion, projects. That's false. Yes, there isn't unlimited funding but this project isn't causing everything else to dry up. I believe it was part of an 18bn bond bill. The state's budget is 45bn a year, and the state is getting 10bn extra from the feds. SCR phase I is a 1bn project over an almost 10 year construction window.
Regarding the notion the South Coast wins while everyone else is stuck with the costs, ALL public transit works that way as the MBTA is not a moneymaking or even break even enterprise. I doubt the Cape rail project would pay for itself either if that's the standard we're using...
Buzzards (which was not Cape-dependent and has no kinks related to the bridge to work out, was already advocating for its service. Baker & Company chose to ignore them in favor of a political gift to the South Coast in characteristic cheap-and-flawed form. Again, while I don't like that Buzzards got screwed by Phase I, I don't inherently mind its existence (it does get service to FR/NB faster) but I do not trust this administration to build Phase II, and worry that Phase I was designed to fail to get them off the hook for that cost, and if that is the case (either intentionally flawed or simply not useful enough to justify Phase II) then Buzzards doesn't get the room to advocate for service, because it would be physically impossible without either removing (some) SCR service or a potential megaproject-scale full double-tracking of the Old Colony main line.Finally if the Buzzards Bay crowd feels like they're getting hosed, let them get together and advocate for themselves. They could even partner with the South Coast to push for phase II as that would be mutually beneficial. But that project seems like it's got a few more kinks to work out, particularly how often the Corps are going to allow them to use the railroad bridge. Until that's sorted out, there's no reason to delay other projects benefitted more people. I'm sorry if that's gotten you worked up but they've got more work to do. Meantime SCR is nearing completion.
They have been advocating for themselves for quite some time now, and yet they are still getting screwed over due to the lack of capacity on the Old Colony Mainline (exacerbated by SCR Phase I). According to the Cape Rail Study, the vast majority of service to/from Buzzards Bay or Bourne would be a shuttle train going between Middleborough and the Cape, as the Old Colony Mainline will basically be maxed-out on capacity once SCR Phase I comes online.Finally if the Buzzards Bay crowd feels like they're getting hosed, let them get together and advocate for themselves.
That's not true. Cape Rail is a pretty straightforward project. The uncertainty regarding usage of the bridge is pretty much the only "kink" to work out, and that would only be if the extension went beyond Buzzards Bay.But that project seems like it's got a few more kinks to work out, particularly how often the Corps are going to allow them to use the railroad bridge. Until that's sorted out, there's no reason to delay other projects benefitted more people. I'm sorry if that's gotten you worked up but they've got more work to do.
First of all, that assumes that FR/NB care a.) what happens to Buzzards/Cape (who by definition are not their political constituency) and b.) care if SCR works well, as opposed to whether it exists at all. (The politicians will all show up at the groundbreakings/station openings/first service runs. How many of them are really going to care if the schedule's good? I don't know, but it's a good bet not as many as who want the photo op.) Saying they should all work together is all well and good, but the incentive structure is way different between the South Coast who's getting service either way and thus has far less reason to care (cynically speaking) than Buzzards who can't have meaningful service as long as Phase I is operating. Doesn't mean they shouldn't collaborate as much as possible, but it's cold comfort to ask Buzzards to go begging FR/NB to help them out, when they're the ones whose service is screwing Buzzards in the first place.Again though, it sounds like the Cape and the South Coast should work as one to get Phase II built for both of their benefits.
Baker's track record is thin on things that are actually praiseworthy. The GLX contract was one of the few, because that was bloated all to hell. Even there, negotiating tactic or no, he at least credibly threatened to kill a much-needed, highly-desired transit project that had been in discussion in one form or another for something like seventy years. Sure, if that was a bluff I'm good with it, but if he had actually killed it if the costs hadn't come down it'd probably be another twenty years of waiting, which is a pretty big price to pay to save some money. And not everything that got cut was a good idea; as I recall they cut down the stations (which is defensible) but frakked up fare control when they did, because now they don't have FVMs but also have island platforms (meaning boarding away from the fareboxes). They were probably counting on AFC 2.0 to fix that problem, but that's late as hell too (which was predictable), meaning their unforced error has no solution beyond clunky kludges in the interim period until Cubic gets its act together on the new fare system.Regarding Baker, I'm guessing this all plays out after he's retired but he seems have to a decent track record of getting some stuff built (GLX, SCR) so perhaps he'll surprise you if he goes for another term.
On September 12th, 2016, Rep. William M. Straus, who represents Fairhaven, Mattapoisett, Rochester, Marion and portions of New Bedford, presented a dog and pony show in Buzzards Bay village and town of Wareham to advocate for SCR phase 1, claiming it would help Wareham and Bourne's effort to restore commuter rail service to the canal. To the (likely naive) credit of Wareham and Bourne officials, they in turn provided their support for SCR phase 1.
IMO it doesn't really make sense to extend service past Buzzards Bay over the bridge unless it's going all the way to Hyannis. Service to Hyannis was not included as part of the study, here's their reasoning for omitting it:particularly around details for a terminus for "Cape" service at Buzzards Bay, versus a terminus at a Bourne station on the Cape which would need frequent canal bridge movements, requiring cooperation from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.