North Station, Charles River Draw, & Tower A

bigpicture7

Senior Member
Joined
May 5, 2016
Messages
2,648
Reaction score
3,623
As people who (God help them) read my posts know, I have not worked in civil eng. nor public transit nor architecture. But I am an engineer who's done a ton of government contract work in other areas. One thing I have learned is that you never take officially committed government money for granted and/or throw it away. If you don't love a committed project, you do not send the money back or say "no thank you"; you do the best you can with that project whilst advocating for a better one in parallel. If you send the money back (barring a few really complicated and nuanced exceptions), you have officially reset the whole process and you're starting from scratch (or worse).

Mark my words: carrying out the already-in-process bridge replacement will not in any way/shape/form thwart NSRL. They are independent from a will-NSRL-get-funded-? standpoint. People have short institutional memories (for something as under-the-radar as this bridge project). NSRL support will not fail because "the north station bridges were already done recently." It may fail for other reasons, but it will not fail or be delayed or otherwise be harmed by these bridges.
 

BeyondRevenue

Active Member
Joined
Mar 13, 2020
Messages
351
Reaction score
636
NSRL will be in the many, many $ billions. The cost of the bridges and any SS upgrades are almost just a rounding error in the cost of NSRL. They are insignificant,
I think if we're honest, it won't be that many billions. Since it would be way narrower with no on and off ramps or traffic exits, or highway connections, and would be restricted to just downtown, I'd suggest not using the Big Dig as a reference. This is a long hole, not a massive regional infrastructure project.

Also, wasted time is more expensive than anything, not just idiomatically...
In an alternate universe, the NYNH&H backed the whole thing for a cool $8 mil
 

Charlie_mta

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2006
Messages
2,931
Reaction score
2,603
I think if we're honest, it won't be that many billions. Since it would be way narrower with no on and off ramps or traffic exits, or highway connections, and would be restricted to just downtown, I'd suggest not using the Big Dig as a reference. This is a long hole, not a massive regional infrastructure project.

Also, wasted time is more expensive than anything, not just idiomatically...
In an alternate universe, the NYNH&H backed the whole thing for a cool $8 mil
In a rational world, NSRL could be built for a lot less than the State's 2018 estimate of $17.7 billion for a 4-track tunnel under the Central Artery tunnel at https://www.mass.gov/doc/north-south-rail-link-presentation-december-10-2018/download.
 

Brattle Loop

Active Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2020
Messages
678
Reaction score
1,113
I think if we're honest, it won't be that many billions. Since it would be way narrower with no on and off ramps or traffic exits, or highway connections, and would be restricted to just downtown, I'd suggest not using the Big Dig as a reference. This is a long hole, not a massive regional infrastructure project.
It's not restricted to downtown, unless downtown here means stretching from Charlestown/Somerville to the Back Bay or near enough. It's not the main trunk under the O'Neill Tunnel that's the big issue (it's pretty clear there's no meaningful obstacles down there), it's the portals and the tunnels up to them, none of which are impossible or ridiculously difficult, but all of which will cost the going rate for digging (which isn't cheap) and face the gauntlet of potential complications that we don't know about, unlike the main tunnel.

More than that, none of the NSRL plans have provision for tunnel ventilation, which means the tunnel itself has to be electrified. In an ideal world of course we'd already be well on our way to full-system electrification before that, but some kind of electric capacity that we don't currently have is an absolute prerequisite for the NSRL, which also impacts the cost (though, as said, we should do that one anyway even without the tunnel).

EDIT: Thanks to ceo for pointing out, I should have been more precise, the NSRL plans of any stripe do not include sufficient ventilation capacity to run diesel service.
 
Last edited:

ceo

Active Member
Joined
May 4, 2009
Messages
474
Reaction score
414
They'd have to have some sort of ventilation, for fires, but the NSRL does presuppose electrification. For one thing, the grades required on the approaches are too steep for diesel-hauled trains.
 

bigpicture7

Senior Member
Joined
May 5, 2016
Messages
2,648
Reaction score
3,623
Ok, so if I am interpreting the NSRL briefing @Charlie_mta posted above correctly, only a tiny fraction of system electrification is included in the $17.7 billion NSRL cost estimate and timeline cited above. Yet, until the entire north-facing track network is electrified, the need for the North Station pull-out and park functionality is still substantively needed because no diesel locomotives can enter the NSRL tunnels as discussed above.

Therefore it is even more ridiculous to think it isn't prudent to fix these damn hundred year old bridges in the mean time. Sheesh.
 
Last edited:

stefal

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2015
Messages
1,732
Reaction score
2,537
This bridge is absolutely critical to future CR operations. There are some places the T could tighten up spending or reallocate to more critical projects, but this isn't one of them. You can't move forward without it.

Worth the bump, @bigpicture7 since this would also be a good Infrastructure Bill kind of project. (anticipating additional northside service to Maine, NH, and RUR)
There's already funding in place and being spent for a design and construction services contract, with about ~24/~32 months of design so far. The total project is budgeted for $100m. It's pretty locked in from my understanding.

Also, nothing is at risk of being canceled. It's highly likely it wouldn't be political even if it was, either. Baker has no reason to cancel it if he's leaving.
 
Last edited:

Brattle Loop

Active Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2020
Messages
678
Reaction score
1,113
Ok, so if I am interpreting the NSRL briefing @Charlie_mta posted above correctly, only a tiny fraction of system electrification is included in the $17.7 billion NSRL cost estimate and timeline cited above.
That appears to be correct. The electrification there is confined to the tunnels (because it's required), presumably requiring some combination of dual-modes or broader system electrification not included in the price tag. (This being a Baker-era document, the assumption is dual modes, either priced into the listed cost or as part of general fleet turnover, I'm not entirely sure.)

Yet, until the entire north-facing track network is electrified, the need for the North Station pull-out and park functionality is still substantively needed because no diesel locomotives can enter the NSRL tunnels as discussed above.
It's not even electrification or the lack thereof that keeps North Station necessary. NSRL is not going to have sufficient capacity to handle all service as run-throughs (and certain lines are going to be extremely hard to pair-match for through service, particularly Needham and Reading). Lack of electrification (northside and southside), barring clunky dual-modes, only makes the need for the surface terminals greater.

Therefore it is even more ridiculous to think it isn't prudent to fix these damn hundred year old bridges in the mean time. Sheesh.
This bridge is absolutely critical to future CR operations. There are some places the T could tighten up spending or reallocate to more critical projects, but this isn't one of them. You can't move forward without it.
The only place where it makes sense to kill or cut down the bridge replacement project is in Crazy Transit Pitches/God Mode fantasyland where the NSRL comes into existence overnight with unlimited capacity, completely obviating the need for the surface terminals. Nice as that would be, there's a reason we call it the God Mode thread. Letting currently-critical infrastructure fall to pieces, or semi-permanently hampering the operational capacity and flexibility of current infrastructure, because of a (desired) situation in which some or all of it might, some day, become obsolete, is not transit advocacy, it's fantastical. The state has correctly determined that this is a project that needs doing, a fact that remains true no matter what view anyone has of the NSRL simply on time-scale alone. (And not for nothing, for those suggesting a single bridge is sufficient, redundancy is useful for a moveable bridge lest a malfunction cost us all access to the terminal.)
 

Tallguy

Active Member
Joined
May 2, 2018
Messages
521
Reaction score
242
A full RR frequency future should result in 24 tph, tops. NH service would take a while to electrify, as well as Amtrak, but "a while" is relative.
We have 20 years to get off fossil fuels, people! This includes trains. North Station is a Brontosaurus, and I can see the meteor in the sky.
 

Charlie_mta

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2006
Messages
2,931
Reaction score
2,603
A full RR frequency future should result in 24 tph, tops. NH service would take a while to electrify, as well as Amtrak, but "a while" is relative.
We have 20 years to get off fossil fuels, people! This includes trains. North Station is a Brontosaurus, and I can see the meteor in the sky.
I agree with Brattle Loop that even if the entire system were electrified, all the CR routes would not logically go through a 4-track NSRL. So, you'd still need both North Station and South Station as catchment points for those trains that the NSRL couldn't accommodate..
 

Brattle Loop

Active Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2020
Messages
678
Reaction score
1,113
A full RR frequency future should result in 24 tph, tops. NH service would take a while to electrify, as well as Amtrak, but "a while" is relative.
Based on no data
Either the second one was supposed to be an edit to the first, or these two posts are two of the most ironic pieces of a back-and-forth I've seen in a while.

It's not entirely clear what your "24 tph, tops" number is referring to, but it is entirely clear that if there's a source for it, you didn't cite it in your post (if it was cited previously in the thread, I must have missed it) Even if that number is accurate (which it might be; I know TransitMatters had a significantly-higher number for Southside regional rail, but that is the busier side), while I agree with you that two tracks can generally accommodate 24 tph, I don't know if that figure applies to tracks feeding pretty much directly into a terminal (and at present each two-track bridge only serves half of NS; will the crossing-over needed to go from a two-track bridge to the ten-track terminal screw with capacity for one or both?). It bears repeating that these are moveable bridges, meaning there's a risk of them getting stuck (it's happened with the current ancient ones; new ones should be more reliable, at least for a while, though eventually they'll get old too), meaning there's value in redundancy that ensures a single failure doesn't completely cut off access to the terminal.

North Station is a Brontosaurus, and I can see the meteor in the sky
This is an ideological statement, not an argument. If you want to present argument and data showing how a Regional Rail north side CR system can operate through the NSRL with absolutely no need for the surface terminal, such would be welcome. (Though it's an option not without risk of waking a slumbering F-Line, who's been very vocal about NSRL not being able to eliminate the surface terminals altogether.)

Problem is, even if such data exists, and supports the argument that North Station would be rendered completely obsolete by the NSRL (and I suspect that at minimum it would require NSRL + OLX to Reading because trying to pair-match Reading through the NSRL without wreaking havoc on scheduling is probably going to be excruciatingly difficult), even then it requires that the NSRL be built. There is no prospect of it being built anytime soon. None whatsoever. We don't get to let the surface terminal become unusable because its bridges have rotted away because we're unhappy that the politicians have sandbagged a better option for so long. Your analogy is fallacious because the "meteor" here (NSRL) doesn't exist.

We have 20 years to get off fossil fuels, people!
I'm all in favor of electrifying the Commuter Rail, and of getting rid of nasty, nasty fossil fuels as swiftly as possible, but, uh, if you're going to complain about people's lack of data, maybe don't put things like "we have 20 years" to do X without some kind of explanation?
 

stick n move

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 14, 2009
Messages
8,439
Reaction score
4,697
Ok, so if I am interpreting the NSRL briefing @Charlie_mta posted above correctly, only a tiny fraction of system electrification is included in the $17.7 billion NSRL cost estimate and timeline cited above. Yet, until the entire north-facing track network is electrified, the need for the North Station pull-out and park functionality is still substantively needed because no diesel locomotives can enter the NSRL tunnels as discussed above.

Therefore it is even more ridiculous to think it isn't prudent to fix these damn hundred year old bridges in the mean time. Sheesh.
Thats what dual mode locos are for. Metro north locos run on diesel and switch to electric to go through the tunnels to grand central. It would be the same for nsrl until full electrification is built out. You wouldnt take a diesel train to north station then transfer to an electric train, ride the tunnel, then transfer back to a diesel train.
 

Wash

Active Member
Joined
Feb 28, 2017
Messages
233
Reaction score
333
Thats what dual mode locos are for. Metro north locos run on diesel and switch to electric to go through the tunnels to grand central. It would be the same for nsrl until full electrification is built out. You wouldnt take a diesel train to north station then transfer to an electric train, ride the tunnel, then transfer back to a diesel train.
The proposed grades in the NSRL tunnels may be steep enough that dual-modes can't make it through.
 

bigpicture7

Senior Member
Joined
May 5, 2016
Messages
2,648
Reaction score
3,623
Thats what dual mode locos are for. Metro north locos run on diesel and switch to electric to go through the tunnels to grand central. It would be the same for nsrl until full electrification is built out. You wouldnt take a diesel train to north station then transfer to an electric train, ride the tunnel, then transfer back to a diesel train.
Thanks Stick; I did recall the dual mode possibility after I made the post. The point that the $17.7b estimate doesn't reflect the full cost remains, though (and again I am all for spending what it takes to do this right). Dual modes aren't "doing this right" IMO since they might only lead to further delay of electrifying the whole system and getting off of fossil fuels.
 

Tallguy

Active Member
Joined
May 2, 2018
Messages
521
Reaction score
242
Thanks Stick; I did recall the dual mode possibility after I made the post. The point that the $17.7b estimate doesn't reflect the full cost remains, though (and again I am all for spending what it takes to do this right). Dual modes aren't "doing this right" IMO since they might only lead to further delay of electrifying the whole system and getting off of fossil fuels.
And the $17.7B figure was generated by an organization that does not want to do ANYTHING they dont have to.
 

Brattle Loop

Active Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2020
Messages
678
Reaction score
1,113
Thanks Stick; I did recall the dual mode possibility after I made the post. The point that the $17.7b estimate doesn't reflect the full cost remains, though (and again I am all for spending what it takes to do this right). Dual modes aren't "doing this right" IMO since they might only lead to further delay of electrifying the whole system and getting off of fossil fuels.
There was a footnote buried somewhere in the linked state slides (the thing with the $17.7b cost estimate) to the extent of noting that all of the options under consideration assume the acquisition and use of dual modes. It's mildly unclear if the cost of those is included in that $17.7b estimate or if it's chalked up under fleet renewal and thus not on the NSRL books, but the point remains that that $17.7b explicitly does not include system electrification.

And the $17.7B figure was generated by an organization that does not want to do ANYTHING they dont have to.
Knowing Baker & Company if they'd included system electrification in the NSRL cost estimates the price tag would have gone to $17.7 trillion :ROFLMAO:
 

bigpicture7

Senior Member
Joined
May 5, 2016
Messages
2,648
Reaction score
3,623
And the $17.7B figure was generated by an organization that does not want to do ANYTHING they dont have to.
Tallguy, your passion for eliminating system fossil fuel dependence is admirable. That doesn't change the fact that even in God-mode with all figures rounded in a friendly direction, NSRL is an $ 11-figure project spanning double-digit years. These bridges are a $ 9-figure project spanning single-digit years, and already underway. You are fighting a pointless fight. I repeat: these bridges have nothing to do with delaying or putting off NSRL, and they are quite necessary and useful in the meantime (and even for system robustness/redundancy afterwards)
 

Top