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

The EGE

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West Medford should be fairly cheap and easy to do. Built the north sections of the platform, open them for service, then tear up the existing platforms and rebuild them. Only building impact will be shaving that old shelter on the back side of the Walgreens. Might be necessary to move the switch to the scarcely-used MOW siding, but you can still fit in a 700-foot (8-car) platform without moving it.

Wedgemere will be a little trickier - the ramps they built in 2013 will be hard to modify - and it really should get elevators. Still, nothing too awful, and smaller scale than Winchester Center.
 

themissinglink

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West Medford should be fairly cheap and easy to do. Built the north sections of the platform, open them for service, then tear up the existing platforms and rebuild them.
I wish they would grade separate the Canal St. & High St. crossings with the station reconstruction.
 

BostonUrbEx

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Any idea if CSX is going to have a different opinion (and, if they do, if they'll be able to do anything about it) on the clearance route issue if and when they manage to eat Pan Am?
Great questions that I do not know the answer to, unfortunately. I'll see if I can get more details.

I wish they would grade separate the Canal St. & High St. crossings with the station reconstruction.
That would be the ideal situation for sure.
 

Arlington

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I wish they would grade separate the Canal St. & High St. crossings with the station reconstruction.
F-Line estimated that grade separation would likely mean
  • a rail tunnel ducking under High St
Given this, it would cost a lot of $$$ for a tunnel, and a long time to get the willpower together, and we might still get 20 or 30 years out of WMed high platforms before the need for a tunnel turned into the political will for a tunnel.

As talked about (somewhere here) other details were:
  • incline would start on or immediately after the bridge over the Mystic River by the U Haul
    • Some part of the bridge was historic
    • Hard to lower the grade "into" the existing bridge
    • Though it did always appear to me that there was a lot of extra ballast above the arch heights on both spans (river & parkway)
    • But you have to stop lowering the railbed when you hit the concrete part of the spans
  • A tall tunnel would be required for future electrification-over-multilevel & Freight Clearance
  • Given a tall tunnel you'd likely close Canal St entirely
    • railbed would be too deep to affordably get the roadbed 14' under
    • catenary clearance would be too high to get over
    • not good value for money keeping Canal open (particularly since it, today, serves partly as a source of extra road capacity across the rail--a problem which grade separation at High St would greatly solve)
  • New station at High St would be in a depth and width similar to Waverly in Belmont
  • Train has plenty of running room to climb out on the outer side alongside Playstead
At the time, given the need for freight width, we thought a 3 track tunnel might be better future proofing, partly to put freight in the center tube and partly to run more expresses, but I think given that inner Lowell is no longer a wide route, the whole thing is going to be two track forever.
 

themissinglink

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At the time, given the need for freight width, we thought a 3 track tunnel might be better future proofing, partly to put freight in the center tube and partly to run more expresses, but I think given that inner Lowell is no longer a wide route, the whole thing is going to be two track forever.
Thanks for all of the great info. I would have assumed that any grade separation would be at four-track width to accommodate for any future GLX through West Medford.
 

The EGE

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I don't think you're ever going to get (or need) a Green Line extension past West Medford. It's 2 miles of minimal density, where you'd have to substantially widen the ROW next to a lake. Then there's the two-track embankment and viaduct into downtown Winchester. Woburn is out of the question - the ROW is entirely sold off.

With Regional Rail, you can get 15-minute all-day headways at Winchester Center and Montvale. That, plus a rerouted/supplemented 134 with an 8-minute ride from Winchester to West Medford, should be plenty sufficient. This isn't Everett or Lynn where the demand justifies heavy engineering to get true rapid transit frequencies.

That leaves you with a stub-end Green Line terminal south of High Street, probably above the CR trench or just to the side. In the unlikely event that the GL ever truly needs to go further, it can just cross High Street with a traffic signal.
 

BosMaineiac

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F-Line estimated that grade separation would likely mean
  • a rail tunnel ducking under High St
Given this, it would cost a lot of $$$ for a tunnel, and a long time to get the willpower together, and we might still get 20 or 30 years out of WMed high platforms before the need for a tunnel turned into the political will for a tunnel.

As talked about (somewhere here) other details were:
  • incline would start on or immediately after the bridge over the Mystic River by the U Haul
    • Some part of the bridge was historic
    • Hard to lower the grade "into" the existing bridge
    • Though it did always appear to me that there was a lot of extra ballast above the arch heights on both spans (river & parkway)
    • But you have to stop lowering the railbed when you hit the concrete part of the spans
  • A tall tunnel would be required for future electrification-over-multilevel & Freight Clearance
  • Given a tall tunnel you'd likely close Canal St entirely
    • railbed would be too deep to affordably get the roadbed 14' under
    • catenary clearance would be too high to get over
    • not good value for money keeping Canal open (particularly since it, today, serves partly as a source of extra road capacity across the rail--a problem which grade separation at High St would greatly solve)
  • New station at High St would be in a depth and width similar to Waverly in Belmont
  • Train has plenty of running room to climb out on the outer side alongside Playstead
At the time, given the need for freight width, we thought a 3 track tunnel might be better future proofing, partly to put freight in the center tube and partly to run more expresses, but I think given that inner Lowell is no longer a wide route, the whole thing is going to be two track forever.
What if instead you started the incline on the other side of the Mystic? That way you can open up the historic bridge and ROW past that to run the green line to W Medford. The commuter rail can have a two-track bore directly underneath the ROW and Mystic, a station below the current W Medford for GL transfers, and an incline right after.
 

Brattle Loop

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What if instead you started the incline on the other side of the Mystic? That way you can open up the historic bridge and ROW past that to run the green line to W Medford. The commuter rail can have a two-track bore directly underneath the ROW and Mystic, a station below the current W Medford for GL transfers, and an incline right after.
That much tunneling plus a subterranean station sends this right to Crazy Transit Pitches territory.
 

BosMaineiac

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That much tunneling plus a subterranean station sends this right to Crazy Transit Pitches territory.
Fair point, but you’d only be moving the start of the incline max 1500’ south of the proposal I was responding to. If you end the GL extension at a station just south of High st, you could have a trenched CR station and eliminate subterranean.
 

BostonUrbEx

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GLX never should have been built within the same ROW as a viable Regional Rail line to begin with, so now especially I don't see why we need to bend over backwards to accommodate GLX through West Medford.

Anyway, the New Hampshire Main Line bridges over the parkway and Mystic River are absolutely ancient (the original stone blocks that made up the bridges are apparently inside the concrete encasement), but I've never found anything that says they're historically protected. I would suggest replacing the spans, raising the new spans higher, and adding a third span in between for a river-side multi-use path and to keep people from using the park space along the Mystic from having to squeeze in alongside the roadway. Going over High St should be much easier than going under. You only have to go 15 feet over instead of 20 feet under, minimal utility impacts.
 

Roxxma

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GLX never should have been built within the same ROW as a viable Regional Rail line to begin with, so now especially I don't see why we need to bend over backwards to accommodate GLX through West Medford.

Anyway, the New Hampshire Main Line bridges over the parkway and Mystic River are absolutely ancient (the original stone blocks that made up the bridges are apparently inside the concrete encasement), but I've never found anything that says they're historically protected. I would suggest replacing the spans, raising the new spans higher, and adding a third span in between for a river-side multi-use path and to keep people from using the park space along the Mystic from having to squeeze in alongside the roadway. Going over High St should be much easier than going under. You only have to go 15 feet over instead of 20 feet under, minimal utility impacts.
Even if they are historically protected, that doesn't mean they can't be expanded, renovated, or even completely replaced. A state or NRHP listing might make the process a little more complicated; any restoration, expansion, or replacement would likely have to reflect or acknowledge the bridges' history, and in the event of a full replacement, a definite requirement would be for the current bridges to be surveyed and intensely documented before being dismantled, but they're not 100% protected from any change or replacement at all.
 
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BostonUrbEx

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What other ROW for GLX would you have preferred?
Right down the middle of the McGrath and Fellsway would be a good one. Go out to least to Rt 60, maybe further. But almost anything would be fine. Ban cars on Cambridge St from Lechmere to Harvard and lay tracks. Or have a Cambridge St GLX be mixed traffic in one direction only and alternate which direction every few blocks. That would kill off through-traffic to speed up service, but still maintain local car access where necessary.

For example, here's a Streetmix for the first few blocks of Cambridge St:


And then after a few blocks it would change to this:


And as I said, keep alternating back and forth to kill the through-traffic volume but maintain local access.
 

The EGE

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That wouldn't have actually served most of the areas served by the GLX. Most of it is within Orange Line catchment to begin with. And it absolutely would not have met the legal requirements established in 1990, not would it have comparable air quality benefits to the GLX.

Given that you'll have at most one local stop (Tufts) inside West Medford, and more likely none, there's not a need for more than two tracks even in the most ambitious Regional Rail scenario. Multiple tracks are needed to allow passing at local stations, or where intercity services have higher maximum speeds than local trains. That's not the case here - absolutely everything will be running at the same speed inbound of Tufts or West Medford.

And no, adding local CR stops would not have been a substitute for the GLX. Headways would be longer, travel times longer, and GLX gives you one-seat service to downtown, Back Bay, and LMA in 2022 rather than 2030+ for NSRL.

That said, the Fellsway (MBTA route 100) could definitely use some BRT features, and there might be a market for a Lechmere-McGrath-Wellington (or Malden Center) bus route.
 

BostonUrbEx

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Well that's because I was intentionally looking to serve areas that would not be covered by Regional Rail. You're right that Commuter Rail would be inadequate, that's why I'm saying we need Regional Rail. Complete with EMUs, one seat rides to downtown, Back Bay, the South Side, and transfers to all Heavy Rail and Regional Rail lines.
 

WestMedford

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I agree the only viable solution is to close Canal Street and two track CR tunnel under High. North of High, build the station in some sort of open cut center island or side platform setup ala Waverly. Ideally, Playstead Road would be relocated to jog southwest across the tunnel to meet Harvard Ave at a four way intersection with High. Its current alignment is a dangerous T (three way) intersection that doesn’t allow large vehicles to make a right turn and the left turn is dangerous unsignalized. Would also open up a development parcel or open space between the current junction and the new Playstead “jog” toward Harvard. What also makes Canal remaining open unviable is that although the Arlington St to Canal St roadway west of tracks is at grade with them, once Canal crosses over them the road dives down about 3 feet at Prescott. There’s really no way to continue Canal over or through if the CR is making its dive to tunnel under High there.
And as The EGE said, closing Canal would facilitate the only reasonable GLX remaining which is stub-end surface terminal south of High. No need to go further north with GL.
 

stick n move

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Having glx in a 100% grade separated right of way is a million times better than any street running alternative. These trains are going to be able to haul ass and have very low headways between trains. Putting along in traffic is really not much better than a bus in many cases, glx is going to be able to operate closer to hrt.
 

themissinglink

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I don't think you're ever going to get (or need) a Green Line extension past West Medford. It's 2 miles of minimal density, where you'd have to substantially widen the ROW next to a lake. Then there's the two-track embankment and viaduct into downtown Winchester. Woburn is out of the question - the ROW is entirely sold off.
closing Canal would facilitate the only reasonable GLX remaining which is stub-end surface terminal south of High. No need to go further north with GL.
IMO a GLX past West Medford to Winchester Center or Anderson/Woburn would be beneficial in the future and is worthy of at least a preliminary level of consideration. Woburn Center is obviously out of the question since the ROW is gone.

FWIW, F-Line to Dudley seemed to think such an extension was build-feasible. Here's what he had to say regarding the hypothetical extension:

When it's time to grade separate West Medford there'll be opportunity to consider extending. The ROW would be sunk in a 4-track width cut coming off the Mystic bridge, with Canal St. overpassing the descending cut on a new bridge, High St. passing over the point of maximum depth, and a slow rise back up through Playstead Park after the platforms. If everything from the side of the Ride Aid building to the Playstead Rd. sidewalk (75-80 ft.) were framed by retaining wall, there would be room down in the pit for both modes side-by-side and any one mode (but not both) to have a platform. Even if only doing it for Lowell Line RER the cut wouldn't be any narrower than this, since any opportunity to build 100-year allowances non-invasively within existing property lines is going to take full advantage of all available width to bank TBD track expansion regardless of which mode uses it.

If that gets built, then it's really not that large a cost justification to consider widening the Route 16 and Mystic River arches to hook it up. Though in this case the extension may as well keep going to Winchester Ctr. because the ROW room is readily available and the wooded areas bordering the tracks through Playstead Park and Mystic Lakes are non-wetlands and easy to widen out. GLX tracks would be traveling along the westerly side of the ROW. To go further you'd need to:
  • Cut trees and track-shift within the property lines.
  • Widen Grove St. overpass.
  • Widen Aberjona River and Bacon St. overpasses @ current Wedgmere Station. Note on Google how the Aberjona bridge has ancient footings for expanding >2 tracks, so shouldn't be a big EIS'ing deal to rebuild within that footprint.
  • Keep widened tree cut on ROW on Ginn Field side north of Bacon St. to stay away from adjacent homes. At start of Winchester Center incline, keep CR on viaduct as today and send GLX stubbing out into the west parking lot. Install pocket track on approach for mini-yard.
Stations would be West Medford, Wedgemere, "Winchester Under". Spacer by Mystic Lakes can be considered if the walking route over the Mystic Boat Club locks can be improved on the Arlington side of the lake to capture the residential catchment...though obviously that's going to be a spartan, low-use station and probably not most folks' idea of an essential get.

That's pretty much all of the buildable segments of the 1945 GLX plan, since the Woburn Branch forking off Winchester Center is now obliterated. Winchester Ctr. wasn't grade separated until the mid-50's, either; the Lowell Line used to just split through the middle of the rotary with grade crossing hilarity. So stubbing out in the parking lot and calling it a day without considering Woburn at the moment is perfectly fine.

Basic, non-invasive, and single-most expensive piece of infrastructure is the non-optional grade separation of West Med that is going to have to be done anyway just for the Lowell Line. So while getting GLX through Somerville was an exercise in torture, further progress--so long as it follows in the footsteps of an RER-initiated grade separation--isn't a big deal. There's also some benefits for CR in eventually whacking all stations south of Winchester, in that under future electrification it's plausible that an EMU could hit 90 MPH on the 3.5 miles between Somerville Junction and Mystic Lakes without West Med being on a stop schedule. And then there might be another short stretch of >80 MPH possible to hit if they played some curve-straightening and/or superlevation games between the Lakes and Winch Ctr.
(source)

Winch Ctr. is the only tricky spot. The viaduct was a 1955 grade crossing elimination project. Before then the tracks used to split smack through the middle of the rotary (!); can see a mid-construction shot of it on Historic Aerials.
  • If you terminated an extension here, it's easy...just stub out in the south parking lot at ground level.
  • If you want to go all the way to Woburn, it's probably:
    • Digging a below-street cut to pass under Waterfield Rd.
    • Claiming the Laraway Rd. parking lot on the west entrance of the station to do a Waverly-style cut station adjacent to the park.
    • Continuing the cut diagonal under the rotary and under the Shore Rd. parking lot (must switch to the east side of the ROW remaining distance to Anderson because the freight sidings start on the west side after Cross St.)
    • Covering Shore Rd. back over with air rights decking.
    • Merging back onto the ROW at-grade at the north end of the viaduct at the former Woburn Branch switch.
^It's^ not a subway per se, just air rights. While not inexpensive, the total construction bill would be less than building GLX-Porter station because that actually is a little bit of real subwaying where it slips under the Fitchburg tracks to interface with the fare lobby. This is just retaining wall construction over the footprint of existing parking spaces, and a project requirement to restore 400 ft. of Shore Rd. into a thru street with decking.
(source)

As for density...there's plenty of it at Winchester Ctr., especially if bus coverage were amplified accordingly. The cavity around Mystic Lakes to Wedgemere isn't indicative of the whole corridor. Unfortunately nothing is going to bring the Woburn Branch back, as it's physically obliterated by new construction. Montvale Ave., however, is as close a walking route as you'll get to downtown, has the equal proximity to Stoneham, has the I-93 access, and has the existing buses plus lots of potential for more (esp. plugging the coverage hole in Stoneham).
(source)

However I can definitely understand why there would be skepticism regarding GLX past West Medford. It's certainly not going to happen anytime soon nor is it any kind of a priority. But I do believe it could be feasible and beneficial someday in the far-future.
 

WestMedford

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If you can get through Winchester Center (and with the Aberjona surrounding l’d be worried about any cut through there), then sure getting all the way through to Anderson with all the developable industry / warehouse parcels to stop at along the way makes sense. It would be a huge investment though. I’m talking more about what could be done feasibly beyond Rt. 16 (presuming MVP station gets built). And I agree there is plenty of ROW to get four tracks north to Wedgemere. Winchester Center seems unlikely even if you get over Bacon St since the west parking lot F-Line mentioned at Waterfield St is up for development. Town voters actually rejected the 60-unit, 2/3 affordable rental project in June 2021.



And Winchester is kind of my point. Similar to another argument I made in the Needham Line thread, if a 60 unit affordable rental literally next to a $50 million full CR station rebuild is so controversial that it required not only a town vote but was then rejected by town voters, why would we even consider giving them capital funding for two new GL stations concurrent existing CR stations? Given that Winchester Center as a CR station has now been made permanent, the only argument for Wedgemere GLX is in replacement of the CR station, not to supplement. To me, anything past Wedgemere would require it continue all the way to Anderson GLX to justify spending more on mass transit in Winchester itself.



Honestly, the West Medford GLX is a weak argument too if MVP station gets built. Similar to Winchester surprisingly, West Medford hasn’t had new residential development in decades. Although the existing density could support a GL station and the city is undergoing a review to revamp the zoning code to allow for more new development. However, the proximity of a West Medford GLX station located south of High St to MVP station means they share a lot of the same 1/2 mile walkshed where the greatest geographic density is in West Medford (which is the part of the walkshed south of High St). And remember the current plan by the state is to value engineer MVP station at ground level vs future proof at viaduct grade, even more evidence they don’t see the need for GLX past MVP (if the infrastructure bill or the state has a change of heart from this stance, I’m all for viaduct vs value engineer).



Given above all real world funding constraints, plus existing plans for GLX, current CR investment in Winchester, and a real need at West Medford to upgrade to high level given the volume and make ADA compliant (because after Winchester Center, that’s the last one left on the Lowell Line), for these reasons I don’t see GLX past MVP station. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have GLX all the way to Anderson too or even to Wedgemere at the least. But there’s already at West Medford an established CR station and if they put a bunch of real money toward finally burying the CR tracks and station, I don’t see them spending more money to extend GL here too and consequently past here either. Especially if Regional Rail really picks up momentum/funding by the time this would ever get done (2030 maybe the earliest? Bury W. Medford has never been in any state PMT I’ve seen so not even on their radar).



Regarding access to MVP station in absence of GLX further north, since the northern half of the MVP walkshed is north of the Mystic River and the only current access points make you also cross the parkway (i.e. highway), better direct access to MVP station across these two barriers will be essential. Instead I see the need for a community path extending along the west side of CR ROW from MVP station with a widened viaduct over parkway and river north to Wedgemere via West Medford. Wedgemere is the southern terminus of the Tri-Community Greenway which heads north via Winchester Center mainly to Stoneham with a jog east before Montvale Ave to take over basically all of the former Stoneham Branch.



In summary:

  • GLX to MVP
  • Buried Lowell Line and CR station with full high levels (freight issues notwithstanding) and of course ADA compliance
  • Community path heading north from MVP station along west CR ROW improving both northern walkshed access to GLX, and
  • continuous bike connection from Woburn and Stoneham to GLX (and the three CR stations) along existing path to Wedgemere and new path to MVP via West Medford ala Minuteman in Arlington (although Winchester Center to north past high school routing needs help)


West Medford gets its GLX access plus a substantially improved CR station and grade crossing (which also helps all Lowell Line, Downeaster, Haverhill Wildcat, and NH extension uses). Community path north to Wedgemere not only opens up another bike commuting channel ala Minuteman in Arlington to Alewife but also a recreational connector for two of the DCR’s Mystic Valley Parkways (yes, there’s multiple branches). It’s a pretty good deal absent GLX past MVP. Of course GLX to Anderson with a four track buried CR GLX superstation at West Medford would be incredible. But if an outcome like the one I described was the best the state could offer, I’d take that 100%.
 

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