If You Were God... Transit & Infrastructure Sandbox

Brattle Loop

Active Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2020
Messages
874
Reaction score
1,439
Here's a real question unbefitting of a God Mode thread: Why do we/would we want to remove/preclude a rebuild of a freight connection to our Intermodal port? In a desired future where we can see more trucks removed by rail freight, this seems really short sighted. I get that Boston isn't the Hudson and that those days are gone, but I also don't see why Boston shouldn't have more rail freight for it's growing population.
That's a good point. One of my God Mode changes would be increasing freight service (though somewhere in one of these threads I recall someone, probably F-Line, giving a pretty thorough explanation of why rail isn't terribly competitive specifically to the container terminal, and there's not so much industry other than that down in the Seaport as there used to be).
 

Aprehensive_Words

New member
Joined
Oct 18, 2022
Messages
6
Reaction score
15
Long-time listener, first-time caller, but this op-ed in Commonwealth Magazine (https://commonwealthmagazine.org/opinion/stop-repairing-tobin-bridge-replace-it-with-a-tunnel/) and a point @Riverside made up-thread about starting from what we wish we could have and working backwards to what's realistic got me thinking.

The "reasonable" bit: In this day and age, and especially with the current and likely future transit needs in Chelsea and Everett, if you were going to replace the Tobin with a tunnel, I would think you couldn't get away with a project like a Tobin replacement tunnel without building in a transit component. A built-from-scratch harbor crossing pointed straight at a rapid transit desert is just too big of an opportunity to miss.

The question that elevates this to the God-Mode thread: Assuming, for the sake of argument, that Beacon Hill buys the argument of an ex-Turnpike Authority and ex-Massport board member who may not have any sway beyond Winthrop Town Hall, what possibilities does this open up for a new subway line? It seems like there are a number of things you might want to connect with a line that crosses the harbor here (in order from north to south), either with the train itself or a short bus ride from the train:
  1. Overlook Ridge and the Linden Square area (Giant new Amazon warehouse, the multifamily housing and big, developable parcels along Squire Road in Revere, plus potentially even park-and-ride traffic from Route 1)
  2. Either the Broadway corridor in Everett or the 111 bus corridor through Chelsea
  3. Either Everett's growing Commercial Triangle and the commuter rail/SL3 interchange there or Chelsea Square and its existing bus connections and many transit-dependent riders
  4. The Charlestown Navy Yard and the redevelopment of the old Bunker Hill projects, or the proposed Domino Sugar site redevelopment
Once you get close to the CBD, it would seem that you have a tricky problem to solve about where to go next: Another radial route using Congress Street to aim for the Seaport and Southie, or Dorchester via the Fairmount Line and South Station? Or make like a fishhook and swing through Kendall towards places like Longwood and Nubian, taking a page from the Urban Ring to create a semi-circumferential line? "Tricky," because I'm assuming that decision might well rest on the cost each routing.

Could you realistically expect to keep the TBM going past the vicinity of a Tobin-replacement tunnel? Could you even pursue any of these routes without running into an NSRL tunnel?

I would think the transformative potential of finally having circumferential rapid transit and NSRL's potential to turn the Fairmount Line into something close to rapid transit would settle the argument in favor of a Kendall-Kenmore-Longwood-Nubian-?? routing, but maybe I'm missing something.
 

Brattle Loop

Active Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2020
Messages
874
Reaction score
1,439
Once you get close to the CBD, it would seem that you have a tricky problem to solve about where to go next: Another radial route using Congress Street to aim for the Seaport and Southie, or Dorchester via the Fairmount Line and South Station? Or make like a fishhook and swing through Kendall towards places like Longwood and Nubian, taking a page from the Urban Ring to create a semi-circumferential line? "Tricky," because I'm assuming that decision might well rest on the cost each routing.

Could you realistically expect to keep the TBM going past the vicinity of a Tobin-replacement tunnel? Could you even pursue any of these routes without running into an NSRL tunnel?

I would think the transformative potential of finally having circumferential rapid transit and NSRL's potential to turn the Fairmount Line into something close to rapid transit would settle the argument in favor of a Kendall-Kenmore-Longwood-Nubian-?? routing, but maybe I'm missing something.
Hello, and welcome to (posting on) ArchBoston!

Some others here can probably give you a more thorough response (looking at you, Riverside ;)), but I'll give my two cents. Somewhere in the Crazy Transit Pitches thread (I'll add a link if I can find it) there was a discussion about Tobin-routed tunneling and possibilities for where it goes once it reaches Boston proper.

I think it'd definitely be possible not to run into the NSRL alignment. The NSRL would be extremely deep beneath the Central Artery tunnel, and at railroad grades it will take a considerable distance for the approach tracks to reach the surface (which is part of why they're so expensive), meaning there's a good chunk of room to play with to shiv another tunnel in above the NSRL's northern approach, probably on a good alignment for adding a bit of service to Charlestown to boot.

A Chelsea-Kendall-Kenmore-Nubian route would have to have transfers, Community and Lechmere being the best-guess candidates (and Community might be tricky on account of the NSRL incline getting closer to the surface the closer we get to Boston Engine Terminal). Someone with engineering/tunneling knowledge would have to answer whether it'd even be possible (let alone feasible) to blast a TBM through Cambridge as the crow flies to Kendall, because if not the only significant ROW there is the Grand Junction. We've had differing opinions on this board about the feasibility of tunneling the GJ, though if there isn't a portal anywhere in Cambridge it's probably at least mildly more feasible (its western end is built on fill in the river basin, and proximity to the Red Line makes it a doubly-problematic flood risk). Kenmore-Longwood-Nubian is a lot more tunneling, some of it without readily-identifiable ROWs, so I think on the whole that rightly consigns this particular alignment to God Mode rather than Crazy Transit Pitches, maybe unless it was explicitly a phased build only as far as Kenmore in the first instance.

A Congress Street alignment, wherever it takes you after that, has the advantage of having a clear ROW with a number of options of where to go from the South Station vicinity that don't necessarily have as many excruciatingly-difficult questions on the tunneling as does the Kenmore-Nubian quadrant of the circumferential line. Running down to Nubian would provide a proper replacement for the old Elevated at last, and allow for a significant improvement of bus service south of Nubian by adding a new trunk line to serve the demand. Running to the Seaport would take some of the load off the Red Line and allow for some operational improvements to the Silver Line by making it be able to focus on its off-Transitway operations. Eating Fairmount (though that might not be possible outside of God Mode, at least without some payments to CSX if they've still got rights over it) would allow that corridor to have subway-level service without being dependent on the megaproject NSRL.

There's a lot of options, and it's absolutely worth discussing a transit tube in any future Tobin tunnel, though honestly I'd argue (moderators can move this if deemed appropriate) that most of these are Crazy Transit Pitches (or even maybe Reasonable Transit Pitches in some instances) rather than God Mode, because a lot of these are potentially feasible without God Mode rules. Regardless, great first post, thanks for kicking off the conversation.
 

BosMaineiac

New member
Joined
Nov 25, 2020
Messages
29
Reaction score
49
I know RedX has been much discussed with an alignment taking over the GL to Medford in some distant future, but what if it turned after NS and followed a Tobin tunnel alignment? You could have a huge transfer station at Chelsea with a park and ride for Rt 1
 

Brattle Loop

Active Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2020
Messages
874
Reaction score
1,439
I know RedX has been much discussed with an alignment taking over the GL to Medford in some distant future, but what if it turned after NS and followed a Tobin tunnel alignment? You could have a huge transfer station at Chelsea with a park and ride for Rt 1
Certainly feasible in God Mode. It'd probably be feasible in Crazy Transit Pitches terms to find a route that allows service to Chelsea and Everett (maybe swinging from the Tobin alignment along the Eastern Route then under Broadway?), but outside of God Mode we'd have to weigh the relative merits of using one of our limited downtown trunks to serve Chelsea/Everett versus Somerville/Medford (a concern which can be hand-waved per the rules of God Mode here). It might, or might not, make more sense to have Chelsea/Everett be LRT-focused and use a Red-X transit spine for Medford, that would depend on all manner of studies and analyses that don't exist and don't matter for this thread.

I'm not sure how useful a park & ride from Route 1 at Chelsea would be, but that might be because I can't envision dealing with Rt 1's traffic long enough to get to Chelsea. (If we road-dieted the Tobin replacement, though, then I could see it making sense.)
 

Top