Green Line extension Newton to Needham

choo

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Came across this from the globe. It is an interesting, and relatively simple extension of the Green line into Needham on an existing rail bed. If you go to the link and look at the comments tho, you find some real NIMBYs
By Srdjan S. Nedeljkovic, Guest columnist

The best option for ?Smart Growth? in Newton and Needham may lie in the unused rail bed that runs parallel to Needham Street and Highland Avenue.

A proposal to restore light rail service between Newton Highlands and Needham Heights would create significant opportunities for further modest-scaled growth in the corridor. In addition, the new light rail extension would have significant environmental benefits to our communities by reducing energy consumptions and traffic pollutants in this otherwise congested part of our community.

The rail line behind Needham Street and Highland Avenue was formerly part of the old Charles River line that was used to haul fill from Needham to the Back Bay in the late 1800?s. Once used as a passenger line, it remained active for freight use until several years ago. The unused rail bed connects the Riverside ?D? line just west of Newton Highlands to the existing commuter station at Needham Heights for a distance of about 2 miles, extending across the Charles River and Route 128.

The proposal to reestablish rail service calls for a dual track, electrified light rail line, similar to the existing Green line, that would use modern, quiet, environmentally sensitive light rail vehicles. Passengers would be able to board the line at 4 stations: Needham Heights, the Needham Business Center, Newton Upper Falls, and Needham Street. They would then be able to take the line to stops on the existing Green line, including Newton Highlands, Newton Centre, Reservoir, Brookline Village, Longwood, Fenway, and into Copley and Park Street Stations. Connecting the Needham Street ? Highland Avenue corridor and the Needham Business Park to employment and population centers in the central core of Boston would place our area ?on the map? for fast, frequent light rail transit service.

Many municipalities have recognized the positive benefits that light rail has on local and regional economies and on the environment. New light rail systems have been built in places such as Portland (Oregon), New Jersey, Baltimore, Dallas, San Francisco, San Diego, and most recently Phoenix, Arizona. The effects of having light rail include new and expanded business opportunities, increased employment, a stronger local tax base, higher real estate values, greater perceived safety, decreased air pollution, and heightened tourist revenues.

Rail facilities can enhance economic activity in a number of ways. Light rail offers improved access to businesses for a potentially significant pool of customers. The public senses that a community with light rail is a desirable place to live and work, which tends to attract new businesses and new jobs. In addition, people and businesses which are near a light rail line have an alternative option to using automobiles, which helps combat auto congestion on roads. Having fast and frequent transit alternatives is one strategy to combat major forms of air pollution and is environmentally ?green.?

Newton?s recently approved Comprehensive Plan projects a build out potential of approximately 2 million square feet of commercial real estate in the Needham Street corridor. Needham has projected at least 2 million additional square feet of commercial real estate to be developed in the New England Business Center, in addition to the existing 2.5 million square feet. Both communities have been open to residential uses in the corridor, which now includes the Avalon Bay apartment complex (294 units) and the planned Charles River Landing complex (350 units). And the Northland Corporation has indicated that a large mixed-use project may be developed on the 21-acre Marshall?s Plaza ? IVEX site in Newton.

However important this new growth may be to the economic health of these two communities, there are significant concerns about increased traffic congestion. Full build out of the corridor may increase traffic by more than 10,000 trips per day along Needham Street and Highland Avenue. Many believe that the corridor simply cannot handle this additional traffic and fierce opposition to further development may result, reminiscent of the Stop and Shop battles of the 1990?s. Rehabilitating the rail line would offer a way to offset traffic increases from desired new growth while allowing economically sustainable projects to get approved. Ridership on the new rail line would be at least 6900 daily riders, which is estimated to reduce travel times and air pollution while reducing annual energy consumption by about 50,000 million BTU?s. Having light rail in the corridor will facilitate a new Needham Street to take shape, one that respects the ?complete streets? concept that calls for streets to be equally accessible to pedestrians, bicyclists, transit, as well as cars. (see: www.completestreets.org).

The new rail extension would initially run light rail vehicles every 15 minutes, taking about 30 minutes to get to central Boston. Trips would cost the same as on the rest of the rapid transit system, $2.00 each way or $59 for a monthly pass, which is a significant cost savings over the existing commuter rail line. The capital costs of building the line are estimated at approximately $100 million, and the project could very well be eligible for federal funding. Federal stimulus funding is intended to support projects that expand public transit and that will increase economic activity. However, Newton and Needham will not receive any of that funding unless our communities and our public officials advocate for projects that are eligible. Transportation accounts for about a third of our overall carbon footprint. The Newton-Needham rail extension represents a significant opportunity to reduce the environmental impacts of growth and traffic. The rail proposal also represents a significant opportunity for our business community and would be a great economic stimulus package for our two municipalities.

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http://www.boston.com/yourtown/news/needham/2009/07/by_srdjan_s_nedeljkovic_guest.html
 

Arborway

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Wasn't Needham already offered the Orange Line back in the 1970s to the point where funding was allocated, only for the extension to die after NIMBY freaked out?

Light Rail is extremely popular, but I think people forget about Heavy Rail. And yes, I know the latter is more expensive, but the OL has more excess capacity than the D / Central Subway when it comes to squeezing more trains into the system.
 

Shepard

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Needham Street is an insanely overdeveloped and under-infrastructured corridor. It was busy back when it was only strip malls and parking lots, but with all the talk of mixed-use development, this traffic-choked anti-pedestrian street will become useless. A green line spur would help, but what this street also needs is wider sidewalks and signalized pedestrian crossings in order to get people walking here.
 

Equilibria

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The guy who wrote this article is on a personal crusade for this project. I attended a meeting at Newton City Hall some years back where he presented. He's got a good idea here, but there are a few things wrong.

First and foremost, the rail spur he's talking about, while parallel to and somewhat close to Needham Street, is far enough away that the walk too and from would only be doable once. That is, you could use the line to get from other areas to and from the corridor, but this would not be suitable for intra-corridor movements. Since many of the problems on Needham Street stem from lack of pedestrian facilities within the corridor, and the need to drive (often involving left turns) between stores, the line would not, I believe, solve many of the core issues.

Upper Falls is already well-served by a Green Line station at Eliot, which many parts of the neighborhood are actually closer to than the proposed spur line station. The industrial park is not currently served by transit, but state dollars are already being spent on a Kendrick St. exit from 128 to relieve Highland Avenue in that area.

MBTA Master Plans have rated this a low-priority project in the past, and I don't disagree with them. Now, if we could have a streetcar in the middle of Needham Street (slightly widened), that might do more good.
 

vanshnookenraggen

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The best argument I heard against this extension was that it would actually take longer to get downtown with Green/Orange Line because the T would have to end Commuter Rail service. NIMBYs are one thing but basic service is what matters to most people.
 

maximum927

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To me, what should eventually exist is a suburban network of trolleys that will spplement the lines currently entering the city. these lines could be mainly based around Cleveland Circle, Harvard Sq. and other places like that. Some lines could run from Riverside to Needham, others up the D line to Cleveland Cir. and eventually, others could replace the trackless trolleys out of Harvard Sq.
 

Matthew

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Stumbled on this:

http://www.boston.com/yourtown/news...es_in_community_preservat.html?camp=obnetwork

The final CPA article requests $35,000 for a Rail Trail feasibility study. The town has been discussing the possibility of a rail trail from Needham Junction to the Dover line at the Charles River for several years, and discussions are underway in Dover and Medfield to build connecting sections. The feasibility study would look at safe access points, assess the timber bridge crossing the Charles River, and evaluate parking.
 

Equilibria

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F-Line to Dudley

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Not a new story, since the T already ceded the land on a 99-year lease to Newton and Needham earlier this year. As I recall it, the T retained the ability to build light rail later as long as the trail was preserved alongside or some such thing.

EDIT: I realize your article is about a different section of the trail, but it's the same project.
No, different project. The trail lobby forked into separate Needham Jct.-Medfield Jct. and Needham Heights-Newton Highlands organizations, with the Jct.-Jct. advocacy on the Millis mainline predating the other. The Millis main east of Medfield has been unused since Bay Colony RR finally gave up trying to recruit new customers to Newton after losing its last one in 2005. That segment has frothing NIMBY's in Dover who've been fighting commuter rail restoration on that line pretty much ever since the T canceled that service in 1967. Shame because Millis wanted it bad, Medfield was on-the-fence supportive, it offered up alt routing options to Framingham by hitting the Framingham Secondary at the halfway point between the Franklin and Worcester Lines, and the ridership was one of the highest of any extension up for consideration. But Dover was an utterly immovable object on any trains ever, and this trail lobby was abrasively aggressive. The Medfield-Millis end remains (sorta) freight-active, but it's pretty much shot to hell now as a CR consideration because the zigzag from Walpole via the Franklin Line is too inefficient.

I used to really like Millis as an extension, but I've soured on it. Rapid transit for FH-W. Rox and Newton-Needham Jct. is a the far better option for the greater good and something that needs to eventually happen with Needham being a CR misfit that clogs the NEC too much to have any shot at expanded choo-choo service. "Fairmounting" it to meaningful service levels is impossible with all the higher-priority traffic it has to compete with for NEC slots.


The only real blocker to eventual Green Line in Newton-Needham is the T's own intransigence. Both towns want it...Needham really really wants it and has been holding public meetings about once a year for 35 years now trying to keep the sentiment running hot. They're being careful with this trail to not preclude reactivation of the ROW, even floating some (I don't know how plausible) rail-with-trail designs akin to the Somerville Community Path extension. But they'd be willing to give it up wholesale because the plan also includes a parallel trail on the long industrial park freight siding that peels off at Tower Rd. Newton, hits Needham St., crosses the river, and ends all the way at Kendrick St. It's basically a ped-friendlier Kendrick St. away from having a straight shot to Heights only 1/2 mile or so away from the main ROW. That siding--with no transit potential itself--substantially preserves ped accessibility if the main ROW reverts back to rail use and mitigates the inherent risk of people not wanting to give up a trail once it's there.

MassHighway is also replacing the 128 rail bridge near Highland Ave. with a brand new RR-spec span that'll now be 2 tracks wide. Explicit provision for Green Line. So that's real nice. I am sort of surprised there hasn't been a bigger push for compromise rail transit with a CR extension to Needham Highlands/TV Place, where the 128 exit provides a way better park-and-ride than relatively highway-remote Hersey or Jct. With all the planned redevelopment there that would be a hot one for dirt cheap, swingable on the existing Needham schedule with 1 more passing siding installed on the existing line north of Jct. The trail can always meet it from the Newton side via the 128 bridge.
 

Tallguy

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How do these cost estimates get done? As an outside observer with no background in costing these things out it just seems wild that you could replace Needham for so cheap compared to GLX
So, a big part of the GLX cost was widening the useable ROW. Several bridges were affected. There was a lot of flood mitigation activity. The work wasbeing done next to a very busy set of tracks. A new maintenance facility was built.
In the case of Needham, the first mile requires all new double track, and the afore-mentioned 2nd span across the Charles. Then, a mile of rehabilitation of old track and a 2nd new track alongside, and the bridge across 128.
The bridge estimates are based on research into several comparable projects in Mass. in the last several years. The new track cost is based on the Franklin DT project, although costs should be lower as there is no traffic on these sections right now.
The section between NH and NC are double tracked and that leaves one mile of 2nd track to NJ. Add signalling and catenary.
I am not including any new fleet costs or a new yard, which would be nice but Riversides facilities are not far away or you COULD use the existing layover facilities.
 

BeyondRevenue

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Today I Learned: NH NJ NC are abbreviations for Needham Heights , Junction, and Center
It does seem that aB -- sorry -- archboston leans HEAVY on acronyms. I think I'm fairly seasoned in abrvs but I could do with more entries committing to the full titles of things.
tl;dr = when in doubt, spell it out

Used to be Associated Press (AP) style was to spell out all acronyms in full, followed by the acronym representing it in parentheses, like Pedantic Piece of Crap Post (PPCP).
 

WestMedford

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So, a big part of the GLX cost was widening the useable ROW. Several bridges were affected. There was a lot of flood mitigation activity. The work wasbeing done next to a very busy set of tracks. A new maintenance facility was built.
In the case of Needham, the first mile requires all new double track, and the afore-mentioned 2nd span across the Charles. Then, a mile of rehabilitation of old track and a 2nd new track alongside, and the bridge across 128.
The bridge estimates are based on research into several comparable projects in Mass. in the last several years. The new track cost is based on the Franklin DT project, although costs should be lower as there is no traffic on these sections right now.
The section between NH and NC are double tracked and that leaves one mile of 2nd track to NJ. Add signalling and catenary.
I am not including any new fleet costs or a new yard, which would be nice but Riversides facilities are not far away or you COULD use the existing layover facilities.
First aB post so let’s give it a go.
Extending the OL to Needham makes no sense to me. Needham neither has the density to support or justify heavy rail investment and operations nor does the town (emphasis on town) want it.
To resolve:
  1. Branch GL off D to Needham Center (eliminating Junction and Hersey), keeping Needham Heights and new infill stops at Rt. 128 (if possible given Charles River and highway proximity) and Newton Upper Falls.
  2. Extend OL to new station at VFW Parkway and consolidate existing stops at Highland and Roslindale.
  3. Create mixed use path along now disused Needham Branch ROW from new VFW station over Rt 128 west to Millis with branch to new GL terminus at Needham Center. Removes diesel engines and noise pollution from Cutler Park Reservation.
Honestly, I don’t think Needham deserves any new rail investment given their lack of density or support for any increased development whatsoever. Not an anti-Needham thing, just feel that way about any new fixed rail investment made by MBTA: should be to areas that have existing density to support or approved development plans (such as Newton Upper Falls) or zoning changes in effects to encourage such. Could rattle off several metro Boston cities (emphasis on city) more deserving of fixed rail investment and operations given this criteria. But to contribute to the perpetual Needham branch hypothetical, my two cents.
 

Brattle Loop

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First aB post so let’s give it a go.
Extending the OL to Needham makes no sense to me. Needham neither has the density to support or justify heavy rail investment and operations nor does the town (emphasis on town) want it.
To resolve:
  1. Branch GL off D to Needham Center (eliminating Junction and Hersey), keeping Needham Heights and new infill stops at Rt. 128 (if possible given Charles River and highway proximity) and Newton Upper Falls.
  2. Extend OL to new station at VFW Parkway and consolidate existing stops at Highland and Roslindale.
  3. Create mixed use path along now disused Needham Branch ROW from new VFW station over Rt 128 west to Millis with branch to new GL terminus at Needham Center. Removes diesel engines and noise pollution from Cutler Park Reservation.
Honestly, I don’t think Needham deserves any new rail investment given their lack of density or support for any increased development whatsoever. Not an anti-Needham thing, just feel that way about any new fixed rail investment made by MBTA: should be to areas that have existing density to support or approved development plans (such as Newton Upper Falls) or zoning changes in effects to encourage such. Could rattle off several metro Boston cities (emphasis on city) more deserving of fixed rail investment and operations given this criteria. But to contribute to the perpetual Needham branch hypothetical, my two cents.
Welcome to ArchBoston.

Part of the impetus for discussion of Needham transit (the prevailing idea is Green Line to Needham Heights or Needham Junction, opinions have varied on exact stop placements) has somewhat less to do with Needham's density or relative "deserving" of investment, and more to do with some problems with the existing transit in the form of the Commuter Rail's Needham Line. The Needham Line's growth capacity is inherently constrained by the fact that its trains have to merge onto the increasingly-congested Northeast Corridor at Forest Hills. The NEC's capacity has a ceiling, and even if and when that's increased, the Needham Line trains are inevitably going to get the fewest slots and be the first ones delayed or cancelled when there are problems, because Amtrak and the Providence Line trains are always going to have priority. Taking Needham off the CR mode obviates that problem entirely and gives NEC capacity over to higher-priority services at the same time, so some of the benefit is located outside of Needham and its environs entirely.
 

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