MBTA Commuter Rail (Operations, Keolis, & Short Term)

F-Line to Dudley

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I'm not sure of the dimensions but if Passenger equipment could clear that tunnel with two tracks you could build a gauntlet track through it to give freight trains clearance.
There's no need to. The Walpole Jct. northbound wye switch for freights is barely 1500 ft. south of tunnel, which itself is less than 200 ft. long. Diverging traffic is sorting itself in this span, so a gauntlet is 2 interlockings too many for such a very short stretch and would serve nothing but to slow everything down. No traffic whatsoever will ever be inconvenienced by such an incredibly short length of single.

Is that an old '60's GP38?

Widen that bleeping bridge/tunnel relic. Jesus Christ/

It's historic...oldest RR tunnel in Massachusetts, dating to original 1848 Norfolk County RR construction and last modified after the Civil War. Probably the second-oldest surviving in-use RR structure in the state period after Canton Viaduct. No way are you touching that, and (as ^above^) there's zero reason to. As long as the freights stay centered under the arch this one is probably also OK as-is for electrification, too.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Although it would certainly be a complicated and expensive project, has there been any progress at all regarding rebuilding Walpole station?
No...nothing started at so much as the conceptual level because it's such a high-difficulty one, and because Town of Walpole tends to be very hostile to deal with on any sort of community input process so it figures to be slow/painful going anyway. Franklin Station was first on the list of priority ADA jobs on the Franklin Line, as knocking out commuter rail's #3 highest-ridership non-ADA stop (Walpole being #2 and to-be-ADA'd Natick #1) would take some pressure off.

Unfortunately there are very few possibilities that would keep the historic old station depot building in-use. The current platform pinned in by the Foxboro wye is only 4 cars long, the depot is massed up against the tracks preventing a full-high interface with the building, and mini-highs at either end wouldn't work because of building interference or interference with the wye track's clearance envelope. So the only ways to ADA it in place end up shortening the platform to 3 cars by either backing away from the building or the wye. Plus the current location cannot serve both Forge Park and Foxboro directions at once, with the depot parking lot grade crossing making any offset Foxboro platforms just as hopelessly short.

The only way to effectively do this is move the whole station away from the depot and re-center it over Elm St. Widen the double-track bridges over Elm and the Neponset River to quad-track equivalents by eating the side path to the depot building. The widening, which just eats a couple trees between the main station parking lot, allows for a full-high island platform bookending 2 mainline tracks and the northbound freight wye turnout running extra to the side. As a full-regulation 800-footer the platform would run approximately from the corner of the International Paper Building (about where the "T" sign is on the side path in Street View) to a point about 6 parking spaces back from the rear corner of the main lot. Primary egress would be under the Elm bridge on a widened sidewalk, with secondary up-and-over egress possible from the back of the main lot and/or the back of the CVS plaza on the corner of East & Main. Trailing crossover tied into the Foxboro wye switch would allow access to/from Foxboro from either side of the island. And the single-track switch coming out of the downtown tunnel south portal would divide into 3 for turning out Framingham freights on the northbound wye ahead of the station as well as let passenger trains pick either side of the island.

That's probably the most service-robust way to do it, and other than some fairly trivial EIS'ing at the Neponset crossing adjacent to Elm it affects basically nothing with the surroundings. It's a highish price tag relative to other station accessibility projects because the bridge mods are significant and the ADA entrance at Elm may need to include an elevator if ramp interface ends up being difficult (though you should have ample room for a switchback sticking off the southerly tip of the platform). But given that the stop does nearly 1000 daily boardings and would explode in a big way with RUR service levels and new bus routes feeding it from the north out of Medfield/Millis the budget is right in-line with what you'd expect for a showcase-ridership stop. However, any which way expect Town of Walpole to be utterly infuriating to work with and reject nearly anything presented to them on first look...even the stuff that's unequivocally good for them. It'll be howls of bloody murder that the depot building can't continue being 'the' train station, even with that being more or less physically impossible. They own it and have no shortage of re-use opportunities with it being a stone's throw away from the new stop...but the T is almost going to have to outwait their demands of the physically impossible before they calm down enough to bargain on anything. I wouldn't call it NIMBY per se since they're pro-transit, but local attitudes trend to shrill irrationality in a very NIMBY-like way so that's the primary impediment to getting something done.
 
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anthtucker312

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Franklin Station was first on the list of priority ADA jobs on the Franklin Line, as knocking out commuter rail's #3 highest-ridership non-ADA stop (Walpole being #2 and to-be-ADA'd Natick #1) would take some pressure off.
How would the historic building at Franklin/Dean affect the layout of the station if it were to be upgraded to ADA standards?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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How would the historic building at Franklin/Dean affect the layout of the station if it were to be upgraded to ADA standards?
Probably not because it's set way back from the platform. Platform was extended to >12 ft. width over former Track 2, and the original southbound platform was wide to begin with. You could graft a ramp-down interface to the depot from a full-high without much trouble.



At Walpole the platform is under the literal depot overhang instead of well in front of it, so there's no such space allowances for playing around.


Note that Norfolk thru Forge Park are not a freight clearance route, so no passing tricks are needed down there. The CSX Plate F high-and-wide exemption runs from Walpole Jct. northbound wye switch to Readville Yard switch, through the Fairmount Line Readville platform (but not the Forge Park/NEC-turnout Readville platform). Walpole's rebuild would seek to avoid engaging the clearance route by having the freight wye track turn out ahead of the platform on a short stretch of paralleling third track. The Readville Fairmount Line platform will eventually be relocated off the single-track Fairmount-Franklin connector and the clearance route by moving ~200 ft. north behind the "Readville Upper" interlocking switches, where freights would turn out onto the yard lead ahead of an occupied platform and switches would be aligned so Fairmount trains can access either the Franklin Line or NEC from its new platform position.

So it's Endicott, Dedham Corporate, Islington, Norwood Depot, Norwood Central, and Windsor Gardens that would eventually need the bag of freight passer tricks to go full-high, or else they'd be subject to Mass Architectural Board mini-high exemptions like Andover and Ballardvale are getting for their second platforms. Though CSX very rarely brings any high-and-wide loads to Readville, the Worcester Line/Beacon Park bundle of deals guarantees them a perpetual Plate F clearance route from Framingham to Readville in perpetuity, so they will demand the fullest protection from the T if/when those stations are touched (i.e. real passing infrastructure, not just automatic stop-and-protect + 10 MPH speed restriction to crawl the rare high-and-wide load through).
 

F-Line to Dudley

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FCMB to vote on purchasing Milford Branch (Franklin-Milford) from CSX: https://cdn.mbta.com/sites/default/...-milford-secondary-acquisition-accessible.pdf

This includes the track from Franklin Jct. to Forge Park Station that's been used under lease since commuter rail service was extended to FP in 1988, the only remaining southside territory still under the auspices of a private 'foreign' RR. $13M price reflects the cost of 7 years worth of lease payments for continued use of the branch, and locks up ownership to end-of-track in Milford. So they end up saving money by making the buy instead of taking the next cost-of-living adjustment in the 1988 lease agreement. Deft move there. CSX ownership east of Worcester is now relegated to just the Fitchburg Secondary; 3 itty-bitty industrial tracks in East Walpole, Taunton, and Randolph totaling maybe 2-3 cumulative miles; and 3 abandoned branches that have been stymied in sale negotiations for trail landbanking for over a decade (Framingham-Sudbury for Bruce Freeman Trail south, Natick for Cochituate Trail, and Holliston for Upper Charles Trail).

Nothing passenger-related prompted this. CSX will be vacating its weekly Walpole-Franklin-Milford freight this summer and handing all that territory off to Grafton & Upton RR, the plucky shortline that is in the final stages of restoring its long-dormant Milford junction between its mainline and this branch. G&U hopes to re-grow biz on the branch that CSX let slip over the last few years, and establish an I-495 sited intermodal trucking presence along here as a big plank of their overall growth strategy. CSX, wanting to slash its tax burden and get out from being anyone's landlord, was thus chomping at the bit to get the state to pick up its longstanding buy option on the branch before the summer handoff so they can scrape it off the books. Probably have been a few phone calls exchanged to try to needle the state along, which is why this action hit the board agenda.

After the handoff there will no longer be any regularly-scheduled freight whatsoever between Walpole Jct. and Franklin Jct. G&U has already been granted "overhead" rights (meaning...can run non-stop but not serve locally) between Franklin and Walpole by the T so they have a secondary interchange option with CSX, but that is expected to only be used in emergencies since they handle all exchanges at their primary North Grafton interchange with CSX on the Worcester Line. G&U will poke by Forge Park station occasionally on about 2.5 miles of commuter overlap to serve the Franklin Industrial Track (i.e. the 2 miles of remaining old Blackstone mainline track), but otherwise be sight-unseen to T passengers. No real schedule gains to be had from that since CSX was only doing 1 round trip per week down here.


What this does potentially do is clear the jurisdictional decks for the T to search for a new/bigger layover yard site for Forge Park trains. Franklin layover is extremely small and cramped, and as part of the double-tracking project one of the yard tracks is being converted into a mainline track for middays (when the yard is empty enough)...which doesn't exactly help the space crunch. Though Phase 3 of the DT project Norwood-Walpole will clean up the schedule conflicts that are currently bogging down OTP during the Foxboro trial and fortify the line for "full-build" Foxboro service to be built out, the extra double track Walpole-Franklin does not allow for any meaningful Forge Park schedule increases until they find new digs for that layover. The new track whacks some traffic conflicts that affect Forge Park OTP, but doesn't yet allow for more frequencies until they pair it with a new layover. They can hopefully use closeout of this line sale to turn their attention to a brand new search for layover space. The last time that was attempted they ID'd a site at Bellingham Jct. 3 miles outbound of Forge Park, which more or less required all or part of the Milford extension to get built in order to justify its steepish costs. Milford is maybe a medium-low priority, somewhere in there with Northborough-via-Framingham on the wishlist but a bit too blah on projected ridership from the last study to be anyone's idea of a this-decade priority. So they're in a jam with that preferred layover siting, and might now with ownership locked up be able to take a wider second look to see if any properties closer to home shake out. Though I can't imagine where that would be given all the wetlands outbound of Franklin, and given that one of the bigger-acreage brownfield parcels available in spitting distance on the Franklin Industrial Track has now been declared a toxic Superfund site. We'll see if they can get more creative with their search, because RUR and taking advantage of all that luxurious new DT capacity depends on it.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Wrinkle: apparently the Franklin Industrial Track was intended to be included in this sale but was omitted at the last moment because of the Superfund situation at this brownfield parcel, in which site contamination overspills the ROW property lines. The T red-flagged it because transfer to state ownership risks the fed EPA shucking some of the cleanup costs onto Mass DEP with jurisdictional 'dirty' (sic) pool. The $13M buy price for just the Milford Branch is the same calculated payout for the combo of the branch + the Franklin Ind., but they are quid pro quo'ing CSX up-front with an overpay for less trackage to creatively get around the Superfund shennanigans risk.

As in...the fed EPA will conduct the Superfund cleanup process above-board without funny stuff if the track remains in private hands (since CSX bears no responsibility for the contamination and is just a secondary plaintiff to the proceeding), so the T is well-incentivized to take a hard pass. But CSX really, really doesn't want to be anyone's landlord on track it no longer operates...especially when they also have to be party to the Superfund cleanup that's fouled their property lines from the outside. The T, understanding CSX's predicament, forwards them the money anyway so they continue to sit on the property from afar until after the cleanup gets done. Then...after the contamination and its overspill into the track area is completely remediated...CSX and the state wink-wink transact the track belatedly tacked onto the fine print of some future deal for some extremely low-cost nominal fee (since they already forwarded the full-cost valuation), and the transaction belatedly gets completed.

It's arcane "fun with contractual gymnastics", but in the end protects both parties from getting hit with hidden fees by baking in an artificial delay in the sale that nonetheless ensures that the party who wants nothing more to do with this ROW eventually dishes it off to the party that much wants it as a strategic hold. CSX eventually gets out of its hated landlord duties, and T eventually gets the long-term hold for Blackstone/Woonsocket service (which RIDOT has requested a joint MassDOT re-study of this decade) and the useful shorter-term hold that expands the survey field for that all-important replacement layover yard siting that allows Forge Park schedules to finally expand. All cleared after the feds are safely done paying out all their obligated Superfund payments.
 
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The EGE

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Would that Superfund site make for a good layover yard? Looks like there'd be room for 6-8 tracks and a wye towards Milford.
 

BostonBoy

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There's no need to. The Walpole Jct. northbound wye switch for freights is barely 1500 ft. south of tunnel, which itself is less than 200 ft. long. Diverging traffic is sorting itself in this span, so a gauntlet is 2 interlockings too many for such a very short stretch and would serve nothing but to slow everything down. No traffic whatsoever will ever be inconvenienced by such an incredibly short length of single.



It's historic...oldest RR tunnel in Massachusetts, dating to original 1848 Norfolk County RR construction and last modified after the Civil War. Probably the second-oldest surviving in-use RR structure in the state period after Canton Viaduct. No way are you touching that, and (as ^above^) there's zero reason to. As long as the freights stay centered under the arch this one is probably also OK as-is for electrification, too.
Mr. F- Line. When I mentioned a gauntlet track through this tunnel (If it helped with clearance) you mentioned the addition of two extra interlocking to accommodate the gauntlet track as an added expense. But, if the line is double-tracked from Readville all the way to Franklin, then two interlocking will be necessary at each end of the tunnel, regardless. Correct?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Mr. F- Line. When I mentioned a gauntlet track through this tunnel (If it helped with clearance) you mentioned the addition of two extra interlocking to accommodate the gauntlet track as an added expense. But, if the line is double-tracked from Readville all the way to Franklin, then two interlocking will be necessary at each end of the tunnel, regardless. Correct?
Number of switches in very close succession is the problem. Walpole Jct. north wye switch is less than 1000 ft. from the portal. See here: http://www.railroad.net/download/file.php?id=21455&mode=view (Note: not *quite* that close, as photo perspective plays tricks.)

With cab signals the signal system has to verify successful switch throws or else it's going to induce a brake penalty. That can unintentionally whack outbound trains with a speed restriction if they can no longer coast through at same speed as before. For example, in winter auto switches are more likely to recycle during a throw because of freshly-deposited slush; switch heaters aren't perfect, as each successive train is going to slosh a little bit of new gunk in there.

So you have to consider how many switches are ultimately going to be there in final configuration and how likely the throw sequence is going to induce a slower speed with cab signals doing their fault check. As soon as you figure out DT'ing of Walpole Station that existing wye switch in the pic gets modded for splitting to THREE tracks: inbound-outbound-wye. The north tunnel portal switch < 1000 ft. away does double-to-single or double-to-single + gauntlet. And if you're gauntleting the tunnel then you have to add still one more that does gauntlet+single-to-double...AND mod Walpole Jct. North to have wye + crossover for even more complexity.

Now what are the odds with all those throws crammed into 1/6 a mile that the current brisk outbound coast from Windsor Gardens isn't going to be artificially slowed by 10 MPH to give the signal system time to react to that dizzying switch-throw sequence? And keep in mind that with half-hourly bidirectional RUR service to BOTH Forge Park and Foxboro that there'll be a train on average every 6-7 minutes throwing all those switches in alternating directions.

In practice it ends up SLOWER to manage that 1/6 mile with the extra switches a gauntlet requires vs. just having a 2-to-1 switch at the north portal and a 1-to-3 switch a bit after the south portal at Walpole Jct. North in the pic. So the extra tracks don't add capacity...they reduce it. You can clear the area faster keeping the tunnel single.


Now you *can* do a switchless gauntlet by simply mashing the 2 tracks down then up around the pinch, but that forces all traffic to use it which punishes the infrastructure maint (esp. in a very high traffic area like this). Not real relevant here when thete's only 4 daily freights vs. 16 daily pax trains. You usually only see that on unsignaled lines where all switches are hand-throw. And it effectively makes the same tunnel to Walpole Jct. stretch single track all the same so there's zero advantage to try it here with its higher maint overhead (and fact that you'd still have to over-complexify Walpole Jct. North by making it a DT w/crossover split instead of simpler 1-to-3...so why bother).
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Would that Superfund site make for a good layover yard? Looks like there'd be room for 6-8 tracks and a wye towards Milford.
Exactly what I thought. That or end-of-track by Grove St. has the room and the extant service driveway next to it going into the swamp to a small municipal pumphouse. But exactly why they're quid pro quo'ing the shit out of the handoff. CSX wouldn't have transacted the Milford Branch at all if they didn't have an exit in-hand for the Franklin Ind., so the extra forwarded money TBD'd for later transaction was needed. But the T *has* to see the Superfund process run to plan to do a layover siting study inclusive of that track...and that only happens with status-quo CSX ownership where the feds aren't looking for excuses to sack MassDEP with cleanup costs because of the change to public ownership. T benefits from milking the artificial delay for 5+ years until the Superfund has safely paid out.

Wouldn't need to be a wye track. More layovers than not on the system require assisted backup moves; it's no big deal. Nor are sitings 1-2 miles from last stop (Forge Park already requires that). Franklin Jct. has extra turnouts for backing onto the Franklin Ind. as that's how the freights change directions (Grove St. end-of-track is where the runaround passing siding is for changing loco ends).
 

anthtucker312

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If both an extension to Milford and an extension to Woonsocket was constructed, would Franklin/Dean receive an additional track and platform?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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If both an extension to Milford and an extension to Woonsocket was constructed, would Franklin/Dean receive an additional track and platform?
It might re-gain Track 2 regardless when it gets ADA'd, since there's existing DT south of the station for meets before Franklin Jct. and it makes too much sense to just stitch it all the way through rather than stop short.

And, yes, DT to Franklin Jct. is more than enough to support both the Woonsocket and Milford extensions in conjunction with full-time Foxboro service and run it all with RUR frequencies. The Franklin Main is way, way under-capacity as a 2-track railroad, owing to its history as an intercity line to New Haven/New York that used to juggle several more branches inside of 495 than today. On native throughput it's the southside's equivalent to the Eastern Route. The only real dilemma with those extensions is whether you skip-stop some lesser stops with adequate Foxboro coverage to pare back travel times on the uncomfortably end-to-end long schedules (moreso Milford than Woonsocket because that branch's curviness caps max speeds past Franklin/Dean very low).
 

RandomWalk

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Woonsocket would involve reactivating the ROW which has been converted to a bike path, correct? That smells like a pipe dream.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Woonsocket would involve reactivating the ROW which has been converted to a bike path, correct? That smells like a pipe dream.
Rail-with-trail. There's a lot of strategery...and lackthereof...with the disconnected SNE Trunkline Trail rump that runs from Grove St. end-of-track in Franklin to MA 122 in Blackstone. Right now it offered strictly as an "as-is" unlandscaped woodland trail by DCR with no plans for further upgrade. In contrast to the SNE Trunkline on the other side of the Blackstone River which is a paved part of the East Coast Greenway scheduled to run contiguous to downtown Hartford. Next encore for the SNE is infilling the Uxbridge-Woonsocket gap in the Blackstone River rail-with-trail along the active P&W tracks so Hartford, Providence, and Worcester are tied in.

East of the river the only strategic hold for DCR--and it's a deep long-term one--is the 1.2 miles of SNE from MA 122 to Harris Pond in Millerville. Because the Franklin end does not come within 5 miles of any extant or planned DCR trail they don't ever plan to do anything more with that; the utilization projects simply too low. Rather, they are looking at (not-soon) long-term property acquisition along the unencroached Bellingham-Woonsocket leg of the 1938-abandoned Boston & Pascoag ROW (i.e. ex- Needham Line) between rail-active Bellingham Jct. and Harris Pond...currently in the hands of a sand mining company on the lower 2.5 miles and wetlands squatters on the upper 2.5 miles. Upper half has adjacent power line ROW's within 1000 ft. of the ROW all the way to Bellingham, so if trail easements are doable there their private negotiations could be neutralized to just the sand company mileage on the south half. Filling that 5-mile link puts them at the doorstep of 2 crucial links:
  • The planned Millis-West Medway rail trail, which will get in street detour's distance of Bellingham Jct. That trail segment will inevitably get infilled to connect to the ongoing Needham-Medfield trail, as the Millis Industrial Track has now passed the 1 year mark out-of-service after loss of its last customer. With no business prospects remaining Bay Colony can file for abandonment as early as 2021, and there's no reason to think they're going to hold out more than a couple years at most before throwing in the towel. Later, should the Needham Line be converted to rapid transit the Needham Jct.-VFW Parkway portion in between the Green Line and Orange Line termini becomes a trail extension into the City of Boston, where some trail elbow grease along VFW Pkwy. can tie it ultimately into the Emerald Necklace. The East Coast Greenway will thus gain a triple-junction in Blackstone between the downtowns of Hartford, Worcester, and Boston.

  • Milford Depot, 3 miles from Bellingham Jct., is the trail head for the twin-fork Upper Charles trails: the one to Framingham via Holliston and the one to Ashland via Hopkinton. A power line ROW offset 100 ft. from the active Milford Branch tracks traces the entire distance to Milford Depot, and is going to get negotiating attention as soon as the Needham-Millis trail gaps get filled. In Framingham the Upper Charles trail head nicks the City line, sitting 4.5 miles from the planned southern trail head of the Bruce Freeman Trail @ Framingham State U. The City and DCR are studying alt woodland routes through Barber Reservation to lop half the distance off and get the Upper Charles trail to Waushakum Pond a few blocks from downtown. Trails around Farm Pond and through FSU are expected to backfill the rest of the link...and then the East Coast Greenway has its more-or-less contiguous shot to Lowell, New Hampshire, and the east-west Central Mass trail to eventually run east of South Sudbury to Cambridge-via-Waltham and west hopefully all the way to Northampton.
Figure it takes 20 years to string these big junction links together, but DCR's got very big fish to fry...and four-fifths of the landbanked Franklin ROW mileage past Harris Pond doesn't rate with it. There's no advocacy group taking care of the Grove St. rump or lobbying DCR to improve the surface. It's never going to be any more than it currently is.


Rather, restoring the line on its very generously-buffered woodland property lines serves up the rail-with-trail interface to aid the East Coast Greenway build...because the new rail bridge over the Blackstone River can have a path side deck that whacks the current very inconvenient half-mile street detour between SNE segments...and offers the full grade separation to Harris Pond to the B&P connection that really makes the Greenway sizzle. And you could easily enough re-grade the Grove St. rump as a better-manicured side path since the branch will only ever need to be single-track + passing sidings and the property lines are wide enough to offset trail from tracks with a 25+ ft. wooded berm. Anyone who likes that trail probably should be putting their hopes into RIDOT's request for a fresh joint RIDOT-MassDOT restoration study, because it's the only avenue where another cent is going to be put into that stretch of trail. Or where there might be any consideration to bringing rail-with-trail along the very much not-going-anywhere Franklin Industrial Track to span it across the swamp and 495 to be anywhere usefully accessible to Franklin/Dean and downtown. Not all trail politics are the same, as this particular one is a tale of such polar-opposite strategic contrasts. If you're near Franklin and like to bike, you're probably going to be a friend of the Woonsocket study because jack nothing is ever going to happen otherwise to the Grove St. trail head to make that rump any more useful than current conditions.
 

stick n move

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Woonsocket would be one of the best bang for the buck extensions I can think of. Its not thaat far, theres already a ROW, and its a pretty big city with the most affordable housing of anywhere that close to Boston. Theres also supposedly going to be a train from Providence to Woonsocket to Worcester.

Ill believe the Worcester route when I see it, but regardless the MBTA link to Boston would be huge for giving people somewhere they can afford with a reasonable commute. It would probably raise prices a bit, but its still probably a 45 min ride to Boston so I dont think it would become unaffordable. Its right in that sweet spot where its too far to blow up, but close enough to make it worthwhile for the money.

Heres the Prov-Worcester plan.. Again well see, but it would be nice as well.
Link
 

F-Line to Dudley

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https://www.masstransitmag.com/tech...roposed-south-salem-train-station-gains-steam

City of Salem passes joint resolution backing construction of South Salem/Salem State U. infill stop on the Eastern Route. State, which has been dragging its feet on this ever since it was ID'd as a high-priority rec of the 2004 North Shore Transit Improvements Study, still in no hurry to act. But the resolution and bills introduced by the local House rep aim to light a fire under them, and the municipal resolution makes it somewhat easier to apply for grant applications.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Tallguy

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So, we need TWO Amtrak spec platforms for the Lake Shore Limited?
 

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