Providence RIPTA Services

Ron Newman

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Franklin Line long ago continued to Blackstone and Woonsocket and beyond. (The current Forge Park station was not along this line.)
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Cut back to Franklin in 1966 when the T started subsidizing the southside. Town of Blackstone was out of the MBTA district and declined to subsidize their service. The only reason the line wasn't cut back to Walpole is because town of Franklin did decide to pay out-of-pocket and subsidize its station. Blackstone station was at St. Paul St. at the junction with the P&W mainline. Penn Central immediately abandoned the line after passenger service ended and tore down the bridge over Route 122 and the Blackstone River within like 3 years (but left nearly every other one standing all the way into Connecticut). Stupid, stupid abandonment. I don't know what the point was of severing a valuable Boston-Worcester secondary freight connection...but still keeping it active only 6 miles away as a stub line to nowhere because of freight business.


This would be an easy one to reactivate because the ROW is so well-buffered the generally unmaintained gravel trail can get shifted a few feet to the side. Few abutters, hardly any grade crossings. All it would take is a new 122 + river bridge and a southbound wye at the old P&W connection to plug in a Blackstone stop at 122, then swing around the horn for 1 mile to Woonsocket station. Unfortunately because that would be mostly to RI's benefit but 100% of the construction work is in MA there's zero motivation from the T to cooperate and even study it (RIDOT does covet this bad).
 

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EGE found this one on RR.net. . .

RIDOT's 2014 State Rail Plan was just released 2 weeks ago. Some interesting passenger rail stuff on there:

http://www.planning.ri.gov/documents/trans/Rail_Plan_12_18_13.pdf

Ch. 5 has in-state service and ridership stats for Amtrak and commuter rail, including the first detailed passenger counts at T.F. Green and Wickford Jct. (since there hasn't been a Blue Book revision yet with full stats).

Ch. 6 has the good stuff about proposed passenger initiatives. Most of it stuff we've heard before in more detail, such as the South County CR to Westerly (+ intermediate stops, + Shore Line East direct transfer). Most of the figures listed here are available in more detail in the last studies. But since purpose of this document is to highlight the stuff to the FRA and USDOT that they're giving a big push and identifying as ranked priorities, what they choose to showcase here has implications for the pecking order on fed funding. And, without surprise, South County CR is #1 on that list.



Other stuff of note:
-- T.F. Green Amtrak stop. Envisioned when they built the station, but here they go and say it explicitly for the first time: they want a study of Regionals service to the Airport and construction of Amtrak platforms.

-- Providence streetcar. Still vaporware overall, but noteworthy that it finally goes to the feds here as an official statewide recommendation. As statements go, this is significant.

-- Woonsocket commuter rail. Summarized all studies to-date with Providence-Woonsocket tethered to NEC intrastate and the new Pawtucket infill stop being top priority. No surprises there. Interesting that they dredged up the 1994 feasibility study of a Franklin Line extension and Boston-Blackstone Valley direct. First time that's been mentioned in any state planning documentation in nearly 20 years. While that would be very far behind Providence-Woonsocket in the queue, mentioning it might be an implicit request for re-study money and nudging MA and the T to get it on their own radar this time.

-- DMU/EMU short shuttles to T.F. Green and Wickford. Basically a varied service pattern of South County CR, implicitly alluded to in the prior studies as the 'overlap region' of key Providence Metro stops where the various intrastate service patterns would converse. Here they seem to be alluding to more a short-turn thing, but that's basically in the same general universe of possibilities under review. This is the first specific mention of a preference of xMU vehicles for intrastate service, so that's important for going on-record with it and getting the T's attention.

-- Aquidneck Island passenger service. Eyeing a Cape Flyer-inspired on-island shuttle service during the heavy traffic months by improving the Dinner Train track. And stating interest in a new bridge and connection to Fall River should South Coast Rail get built. Nothing we haven't heard before, but noteworthy for being put on the official record for the first time. They are probably looking to raise its profile in Cape Flyer's aftermath by angling for the same sort of cheapie upgrades on-island, albeit with a more frequent-stop shuttle vs. a long haul like the Flyer.

-- Requests for official studies on unused rail corridors (first re-hash of unused corridor studies since '94):
* Providence-Worcester via Woonsocket. First mention of an official need for full interstate service on the P&W mainline. Woonsocket obviously comes first, but this is the official statement of interest designed to get MA's attention.
* Newport-Fall River. First official statement of interest in a South Coast Rail connection study to get MA's attention. If studied, probably will look at both Newport-Fall River shuttle and Boston thru-running (or some balance of both) options.
* Re-use of the abandoned Providence rail tunnel to East Providence (streetcar-related?). They've long been trying to brainstorm a re-use candidate, most recently a few months ago when Gov. Chaffee took the press on a tour of the tunnel to discuss BRT options. No surprise here.
* Cranston and Warwick Mall DMU stub via NEC + landbanked Pontiac Secondary. An eye-opener because the '94 study gave this line a not-recommended rating for further study. And only 3 of the 9 corridors surveyed got panned in that study, so it was a pretty emphatic "No" . Not sure what's changed there demographically in the last 20 years, but it had to be a very substantial shift. Possibly an Amtrak 2040 Inland HSR angle to this spur. It used to connect to the Washington Secondary 3/4 mile past Warwick Mall on the other side of 295. Curvier but better grade-separated and buffered from abutters than the Washington Sec. through the gut of Cranston so they may be baiting Amtrak with an easier route to incorporate in their upcoming studies. Otherwise this is a really curious addition to the studies list and priority-wise a definite 'one-of-these-is-not-like-the-others' compared to Providence-Worcester, Newport-Fall River, and downtown tunnel repurposing for LRT/BRT.
 

bigeman312

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If the passing track is constructed at Kingston, Regional Amtraks started stopping at TF Green, and commuter rail service was extended to Kingston and Westerly, wouldn't it make sense to convert Kingston to a commuter-rail-only station? It seems to me that Amtrak making 4 stops in RI would be overkill, and slow Amtrak trips unnecessarily. If Kingston had CR service and Westerly had a transfer to and from Amtrak, Westerly, TF Green and Providence would be plenty of stops for Regionals with Express trains only stopping at Providence.
 

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If the passing track is constructed at Kingston, Regional Amtraks started stopping at TF Green, and commuter rail service was extended to Kingston and Westerly, wouldn't it make sense to convert Kingston to a commuter-rail-only station? It seems to me that Amtrak making 4 stops in RI would be overkill, and slow Amtrak trips unnecessarily. If Kingston had CR service and Westerly had a transfer to and from Amtrak, Westerly, TF Green and Providence would be plenty of stops for Regionals with Express trains only stopping at Providence.
Kingston's a Top 50 station in Amtrak ridership, so I very much doubt they'll ever give that one up. There's likely to be some shifts of ridership away from it to T.F. Green which may affect how many trains stop there, but it won't go CR-only. If Shore Line East gets extended to Westerly to meet RIDOT, then Mystic is almost certainly going to get dropped from every Amtrak schedule and go CR-only. With Westerly probably getting much-reduced (but probably not totally dropped) service. That recalibrates enough that they wouldn't have to drop many trains stopping at Kingston to accommodate T.F. Green. I would imagine it's just going to be wholesale load-shifting across the Regionals schedule re: what stops where east of New London and south of Providence. Everything will give and take a little to balance out the demand and travel times across the schedule.
 

Ron Newman

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Why is the Pawtucket infill stop part of a Woonsocket extension? Seems like a desirable project all on its own.
 

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Why is the Pawtucket infill stop part of a Woonsocket extension? Seems like a desirable project all on its own.
Oh, it is being pursued independently and front-loaded at the top of the priorities list. That station got a $1.9M stimulus grant for prelim engineering a few years ago. They've narrowed it down to 2 prospective station sites and are seeking funding to make a final siting decision and proceed to formal design. The Woonsocket and South County considerations are only so the final station configuration is fully compatible with service patterns in all directions on all tracks, since it will be the 2nd busiest station in RI with all Providence Line trains stopping there, Woonsocket, and potentially some/most South County instate trains using that as the northern terminus. The P&W line doesn't diverge from the NEC until 3/4 mile north of the station. There's no outright dependencies for Woonsocket in the Pawtucket station project area beyond passenger upgrades to the current freight-only 3rd track and installing crossovers so all 3 tracks/platforms are accessible from all directions. Right now that 3rd track is totally isolated from the 2 NEC tracks all the way 2 miles south of the junction to the big P&W freight yard...a mile south of the Pawtucket station site(s). So to have a 3-track station accessible to/from the Woonsocket and Boston directions they would need to install a new interlocking north of the station tying the 3 tracks together right at the junction instead of so far south.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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The sites they are considering for Pawtucket are more or less across from each other in this vicinity about 3 blocks south of the old station. Humongous TOD potential on that derelict freight yard and blighted industrial property spanning Dexter St., Conant St., Barton/Weeden Streets, and Goff Ave./cemetery. Plus only 1-1/2 blocks away from the square (by the public library) where 6 RIPTA bus routes converge. Old Pawtucket was only served by 1 route, so these new sites hit the sweet spot on transfer options. Hopefully they go for densitydensitydensity over parking capacity, but you know how those things typically break out.


Unfortunately old historic Pawtucket station isn't salvageable. The private owners (adjacent CVS, I think) let it rot for the last 30 years. In addition to being simply too expensive to restore and retrofit, there are serious concerns about its structural integrity. The Historic Register passed on its nomination because they weren't fully convinced it could be stabilized. Either somebody comes in and spends a fortune on a restoration/conversion to other air rights use, or it might have to get the wrecking ball to avoid collapsing onto the tracks below. Shame it's come to that because it's one of the few grand old tall New England stations still standing, but the state is making the correct decision starting fresh on a much more promising parcel.
 

Commuting Boston Student

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If the passing track is constructed at Kingston, Regional Amtraks started stopping at TF Green, and commuter rail service was extended to Kingston and Westerly, wouldn't it make sense to convert Kingston to a commuter-rail-only station? It seems to me that Amtrak making 4 stops in RI would be overkill, and slow Amtrak trips unnecessarily. If Kingston had CR service and Westerly had a transfer to and from Amtrak, Westerly, TF Green and Providence would be plenty of stops for Regionals with Express trains only stopping at Providence.
IN THE INTEREST OF FULL DISCLOSURE, I have a personal stake in Kingston Station because it is my home station and trying to get to either Westerly or Wickford Junction instead is a monumental pain in the ass for me. In other words, I'm biased.

That having been said, Kingston has far more room to expand than Westerly does - three tracks is a definite go here but four or even five tracks is possible if the adjacent industrial parcel and PW are amenable to working a deal out. Westerly is never getting four tracks.

Kingston sits at the bottom end of one of the only two Class 9 track segments on the Northeast Corridor, and Westerly is pinched up against a rather severe curve. Actually, if you've ever been on a Regional stopped at Westerly, the entire train is tilted slightly - it's rather trippy and (for me at least) discomforting.

Westerly's travel patterns and demands are far more heavily skewed in the direction of CT/NYC, with the Airport and Providence being a strong secondary market and Boston being a tertiary one. At Kingston, Providence could become the primary market and demand for travel towards Boston is far heavier.

Kingston outperforms Westerly in ridership by about 500% - that Kingston gets a little bit more than double the service Westerly does explains some of this but not all of it.

Again, I'm biased, but I don't really like making the connection point between Amtrak/Shore Line East/RI Rail Westerly nearly as much as I would like to see it in Kingston, which has plenty of room to grow into a proper terminal that just isn't present in Westerly, and the fact that Westerly's station is 'downtown' and spitting distance from the CT border doesn't rate highly enough to make it worth the additional challenges inherent in trying to build out the station there.

That having been said,

Kingston's a Top 50 station in Amtrak ridership, so I very much doubt they'll ever give that one up. There's likely to be some shifts of ridership away from it to T.F. Green which may affect how many trains stop there, but it won't go CR-only. If Shore Line East gets extended to Westerly to meet RIDOT, then Mystic is almost certainly going to get dropped from every Amtrak schedule and go CR-only. With Westerly probably getting much-reduced (but probably not totally dropped) service. That recalibrates enough that they wouldn't have to drop many trains stopping at Kingston to accommodate T.F. Green. I would imagine it's just going to be wholesale load-shifting across the Regionals schedule re: what stops where east of New London and south of Providence. Everything will give and take a little to balance out the demand and travel times across the schedule.
Amtrak's stated primary reason for the third track is to facilitate Acelas passing Regionals. I don't buy any trains dropping Kingston as a stop unless they do a complete about-face on what that track is actually meant for (since it's far easier for northbound Acelas to pass a stopped train than it is for them to pass a train moving at 125 mph and I anticipate Amtrak adjusting departure times as needed to make that happen) and even then I'm not sure Amtrak is willing to cut frequency at the second-busiest station in the state to facilitate an airport stop. To use a NJ comparison it's the equivalent of dropping Trenton (instead of Metropark) as a stop on some trains to make up for stopping at EWR.

All of this is assuming, of course, that Amtrak can actually be sold on T.F. Green as a stop worth making - and the impression I've gotten is that they won't/don't consider it worth a stop when PVD isn't pulling in even close to the kind of air traffic that justifies EWR as a stop for barely more than 1/4th of the non-Acela traffic passing through NJ en route to anywhere and with the only other justification for its existence being as a commuter park-and-ride.

The most likely scenario is a flat shift - Mystic goes off the timetable, T.F. Green goes on the timetable and all 3 of the daily roundtrips stopping at Mystic now stop at T.F. Green instead, the two extra one-ways that combine for a weekend roundtrip at Mystic evaporate entirely and RIDOT is charged a premium by Amtrak for this generosity. No other stop additions/subtractions.
 

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That having been said, Kingston has far more room to expand than Westerly does - three tracks is a definite go here but four or even five tracks is possible if the adjacent industrial parcel and PW are amenable to working a deal out. Westerly is never getting four tracks.
3 tracks is Amtrak's tippy-top buildout for Kingston in their NEC Infrastructure Master Plan. Arnold's Lumber is a big local business and reliable freight customer, and I think there's a microbrewery that's taken up residence in one of the warehouses on the adjacent parcel behind Unilock. State's not interested in playing God with a site that's already contributing well to the local economy. If the lumber business were to die out, then it's of course fair game for TOD redevelopment. But that's pretty unlikely to happen before commuter rail service is a decade or more into being firmly established here.

The Amtrak renovations have also been slowed up by lots of invasive utility relocation on the yard side that have to be moved before they can build the 3rd track/platform. Underground pipelines and other mission-critical stuff. So it's not a wide-open parcel free for the trains' taking. The kind of utility relocation required to do something more substantial than park a few boxcars there is stuff better left to TOD developers digging a big foundation, not commuter rail.


Some other track capacity issues to keep in mind as well. . .

Central Falls where the P&W mainline converges to T.F. Green is going to be continuous unbroken 3-track. All stations between Providence and Wickford are due to be built as 4-track turnouts for 2 platformed outer tracks and 2 Acela + freight center passing tracks. The continuous tri-track has to end where it does because the ROW gets squeezed by a series of 2-track only bridges, close-abutting development, and wetlands for a long stretch in Warwick around Apponaug Cove. For this whole stretch it has similar characteristics as the unexpandable Shoreline in CT: adjacent water, adjacent dense waterfront property, and too much wetlands for plausible expansion.

Second, the reason for doing 4-track stations with 2 middle passing tracks here but not at Kingston is because of those monster freight trains that run from Port of Davisville to Central Falls en route to Worcester. The Acelas have to overtake 25 cars worth of autoracks in the mid-afternoon here every single day of the week. It's the 7th largest auto shipping port in the country. They don't have to do that south of there. The only freight whatsoever between Davisville and Groton is a light move to Arnold's Lumber every week or so that doesn't have to be time-specific. So 4-track turnouts at Kingston does nothing for the Amtraks when the cap on their service density is all on the unimprovable CT Shoreline. Building one would be little more than a cosmetic waste of land acquisition; there's no real capacity gains from it.


Kingston sits at the bottom end of one of the only two Class 9 track segments on the Northeast Corridor, and Westerly is pinched up against a rather severe curve. Actually, if you've ever been on a Regional stopped at Westerly, the entire train is tilted slightly - it's rather trippy and (for me at least) discomforting.

Westerly's travel patterns and demands are far more heavily skewed in the direction of CT/NYC, with the Airport and Providence being a strong secondary market and Boston being a tertiary one. At Kingston, Providence could become the primary market and demand for travel towards Boston is far heavier.

Kingston outperforms Westerly in ridership by about 500% - that Kingston gets a little bit more than double the service Westerly does explains some of this but not all of it.

Again, I'm biased, but I don't really like making the connection point between Amtrak/Shore Line East/RI Rail Westerly nearly as much as I would like to see it in Kingston, which has plenty of room to grow into a proper terminal that just isn't present in Westerly, and the fact that Westerly's station is 'downtown' and spitting distance from the CT border doesn't rate highly enough to make it worth the additional challenges inherent in trying to build out the station there.
That's not RIDOT's goal with the instate service. They put in bright lights that they want four-fifths of the state's population to be within 10 miles of a commuter rail station, a feat accomplishable by that one contiguous line tracing between Woonsocket and Westerly. How the service patterns overlap and serve the overlap areas of higher density is going to be forever negotiable and forever changing. There is no "One True Terminal" to be had anywhere. That's no longer true of Providence. It won't even be true of Woonsocket forever if they have Worcester in their long-term sights. Such a rigid construct just doesn't exist here because it's not one end-to-end service pattern. It can flex and breathe and overlap. So it's faulty logic to pin the word "terminal" on any one stop.

The only place there has to be a bureaucratic "terminal" is Westerly. Because the MBTA doesn't have a cross-state subsidy agreement with CTDOT like it does with RIDOT and can't cross the state line. And CTDOT doesn't have one with RIDOT and is unlikely to pursue one. But that doesn't mean Westerly has to unsatisfactorily be the Capital-T "Terminal" when there's enough flex to overlap the densest areas of the state with any combination of service. Their own scoping reports talk about 3 overlapping service patterns: Westerly-Providence with maybe a +1 poke north to Pawtucket, Woonsocket-T.F. Green and some indeterminate reach a little bit south, and DMU service in the middle. The only things that really limit the imagination there are:

-- Westerly, the big-ass centrally located MBTA yard in Pawtucket, and Woonsocket are the places with the planned layover yards. Elsewhere (including Kingston) there either isn't room for one or the prospective sites have major complications.
-- Woonsocket-Westerly is definitely too far and doesn't serve an end-to-end constituency.
-- There are southern limits to how far you can over-extend the Providence Line schedule, and we may already be demographically past that point. Also, service on that massive a scale just can't roam too many stops south of humongous Pawtucket yard without starting to feel an equipment pinch.
-- CDOT is never ever ever going east of Westerly. That is the end of their instate constituency, since it is the backdoor neighborhood stop for the Pawcatuck area of Stonington. It's just dumb luck that it happens to be 500 ft. over the state line, happens to have a layover yard, and happens to have a transfer to RIDOT by virtue of T-logoed Purple Line trains not legally being able to cross the CT state line. Happy coincidences all.

That draws some fuzzy boundaries. Nothing fully cross-state or interstate is going to push more than 2-3 stops beyond the huge Pawtucket facility before it has to wrap up its journey out of practicality. There's your practical southern limits for Woonsocket and the Providence Line, and Westerly commuter rail won't ever be pushing into Massachusetts. There's your east limit for Shore Line East; Kingston is far too many miles from the nearest layover to turn back, and the interstate political hurdles combined with no natural CT constituency in the density cavity east of Westerly gives CTDOT no motivation to self-choose to go further.


The middle? The 30 miles/8 stops from Pawtucket to Kingston are largely a blank canvas. Fewer stops than the Fairmount Line on mostly 90 MPH commuter rail track. Fast-accelerating DMU's or EMU's can cover that quick without needing crew shift changes at the south end, and the trains are short in length. An artfully located track turnout within a mile or so of Kingston where a train can idle for a few minutes between headways is enough "layover" to run a plenty dense shuttle service traversing the densest instate region. 1 or 2 other such turnouts can blur the lines to turning almost anywhere on any schedule slot...No True Terminal indeed.

It's not a hub-and-spoke operation like Boston commuter rail. It can be almost infinitely fine-tuned in the middle. There's nothing permanent about where things must stop in the middle or winners and losers like Kingston defeating Wickford or vice versa as the alpha dog destination, or Westerly getting denser service than it deserves just because the existence of a state line decrees it The Terminal (da-da-DUM!).

It is...whatever they want it to be, whenever they want it to be. And that is probably the best thing their entire instate commuter rail network has going for it as they get it going as a very small upstart.
 

Commuting Boston Student

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3 tracks is Amtrak's tippy-top buildout for Kingston in their NEC Infrastructure Master Plan. Arnold's Lumber is a big local business and reliable freight customer, and I think there's a microbrewery that's taken up residence in one of the warehouses on the adjacent parcel behind Unilock. State's not interested in playing God with a site that's already contributing well to the local economy. If the lumber business were to die out, then it's of course fair game for TOD redevelopment. But that's pretty unlikely to happen before commuter rail service is a decade or more into being firmly established here.

The Amtrak renovations have also been slowed up by lots of invasive utility relocation on the yard side that have to be moved before they can build the 3rd track/platform. Underground pipelines and other mission-critical stuff. So it's not a wide-open parcel free for the trains' taking. The kind of utility relocation required to do something more substantial than park a few boxcars there is stuff better left to TOD developers digging a big foundation, not commuter rail.
Where did I say TOD development? I'm not out to get rid of the lumber business and/or try to aggressively up-zone in the middle of a small town with the kind of small-town politics that makes adding a grocery store on the main street a controversial suggestion.

The kind of utility relocation required to park a few boxcars is also the kind of relocation required to park a turning commuter rail train on an 800' turnout track that can feasibly be added between where Track 3 is going in and the freight siding getting refurbished. It doesn't actually need to be connected to anything further south/west if Kingston is a terminal station (and even if it is connected at the other end it doesn't need to be longer than around 1000' at most - no need to deal with the 138 overpass), and there's massive quality of life improvements inherent in being able to walk transfers across a platform and tie up one of the side tracks with a five/ten minute layover which you probably won't be able to do at Westerly.

Some other track capacity issues to keep in mind as well. . .

Central Falls where the P&W mainline converges to T.F. Green is going to be continuous unbroken 3-track. All stations between Providence and Wickford are due to be built as 4-track turnouts for 2 platformed outer tracks and 2 Acela + freight center passing tracks. The continuous tri-track has to end where it does because the ROW gets squeezed by a series of 2-track only bridges, close-abutting development, and wetlands for a long stretch in Warwick around Apponaug Cove. For this whole stretch it has similar characteristics as the unexpandable Shoreline in CT: adjacent water, adjacent dense waterfront property, and too much wetlands for plausible expansion.
There's absolutely room for continuous four-track between Providence and Warwick and there's probably long-term demand for it too. South of Apponaug I agree is problematic but there's zero good reasons not to push hard for the unbroken fourth track at least as far as T.F. Green. An Apponaug Station on the other side of the Cove (where Arnold's Neck is) would be a nice-to-have, but not required.

Second, the reason for doing 4-track stations with 2 middle passing tracks here but not at Kingston is because of those monster freight trains that run from Port of Davisville to Central Falls en route to Worcester. The Acelas have to overtake 25 cars worth of autoracks in the mid-afternoon here every single day of the week. It's the 7th largest auto shipping port in the country. They don't have to do that south of there. The only freight whatsoever between Davisville and Groton is a light move to Arnold's Lumber every week or so that doesn't have to be time-specific. So 4-track turnouts at Kingston does nothing for the Amtraks when the cap on their service density is all on the unimprovable CT Shoreline. Building one would be little more than a cosmetic waste of land acquisition; there's no real capacity gains from it.
There are real capacity gains from it - for RI intra-state service. Just because Amtrak is capacity limited by CT doesn't mean RIDOT has to be or should be.

They are the same capacity gains you get from placing a 'strategic turnout' anywhere else in the area but with the added quality-of-life benefits inherent in having that turnout be co-located with an active station.

The only place there has to be a bureaucratic "terminal" is Westerly. Because the MBTA doesn't have a cross-state subsidy agreement with CTDOT like it does with RIDOT and can't cross the state line. And CTDOT doesn't have one with RIDOT and is unlikely to pursue one. But that doesn't mean Westerly has to unsatisfactorily be the Capital-T "Terminal" when there's enough flex to overlap the densest areas of the state with any combination of service.

Their own scoping reports talk about 3 overlapping service patterns: Westerly-Providence with maybe a +1 poke north to Pawtucket, Woonsocket-T.F. Green and some indeterminate reach a little bit south, and DMU service in the middle. The only things that really limit the imagination there are:

-- Westerly, the big-ass centrally located MBTA yard in Pawtucket, and Woonsocket are the places with the planned layover yards. Elsewhere (including Kingston) there either isn't room for one or the prospective sites have major complications.
-- Woonsocket-Westerly is definitely too far and doesn't serve an end-to-end constituency.
-- There are southern limits to how far you can over-extend the Providence Line schedule, and we may already be demographically past that point. Also, service on that massive a scale just can't roam too many stops south of humongous Pawtucket yard without starting to feel an equipment pinch.
-- CDOT is never ever ever going east of Westerly. That is the end of their instate constituency, since it is the backdoor neighborhood stop for the Pawcatuck area of Stonington. It's just dumb luck that it happens to be 500 ft. over the state line, happens to have a layover yard, and happens to have a transfer to RIDOT by virtue of T-logoed Purple Line trains not legally being able to cross the CT state line. Happy coincidences all.

That draws some fuzzy boundaries. Nothing fully cross-state or interstate is going to push more than 2-3 stops beyond the huge Pawtucket facility before it has to wrap up its journey out of practicality. There's your practical southern limits for Woonsocket and the Providence Line, and Westerly commuter rail won't ever be pushing into Massachusetts. There's your east limit for Shore Line East; Kingston is far too many miles from the nearest layover to turn back, and the interstate political hurdles combined with no natural CT constituency in the density cavity east of Westerly gives CTDOT no motivation to self-choose to go further.
Two points:

1) We absolutely are past the cutoff line in terms of Providence Line extensions and have been since trains started running to Wickford Junction. When commuter rail starts running to Kingston/Westerly, it'll be as a RI train no matter what shape the RI service ends up taking - the MBTA will not be running any trains direct from Kingston to Boston.

Personally, I think that's a mistake, and I think that we should be looking to some of the things that Metro-North does emphatically right to model Boston's commuter services - most pointedly, regular operation of local-then-express runs, with the changeover point being Providence. But that's probably not going to be happening any time soon.

2) It doesn't matter if it's 500 ft, 50 ft, or 6 inches over the line - it's over the line, and therefore there needs to be an agreement in place to operate across the state line. If CTDOT really has no interest in pursuing an agreement to operate over the state line, then they by definition also have no interest in operating to Westerly, which we know for a fact is not the case at all. Conversely, any scenario in which they are operating as far as Westerly is one in which they can and should be operating to Kingston.
 

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Where did I say TOD development? I'm not out to get rid of the lumber business and/or try to aggressively up-zone in the middle of a small town with the kind of small-town politics that makes adding a grocery store on the main street a controversial suggestion.

The kind of utility relocation required to park a few boxcars is also the kind of relocation required to park a turning commuter rail train on an 800' turnout track that can feasibly be added between where Track 3 is going in and the freight siding getting refurbished. It doesn't actually need to be connected to anything further south/west if Kingston is a terminal station (and even if it is connected at the other end it doesn't need to be longer than around 1000' at most - no need to deal with the 138 overpass), and there's massive quality of life improvements inherent in being able to walk transfers across a platform and tie up one of the side tracks with a five/ten minute layover which you probably won't be able to do at Westerly.
RIDOT has very limited resources, and they are hardly self-sufficient at building out this network when they're dependent on their partners MBTA, Amtrak, and P&W for all the track improvements they run on and all their ops support. The only reason they are able to do this at all is because they only have to invest capital into the stations, reimburse Amtrak and P&W for the track work they perform to set the capacity, and up their MBTA subsidy. They cannot build this at all if they have to fund any frills beyond stations that are their use only and can't have costs defrayed by other users.

For layovers, they are dependent on the big Pawtucket facility and crew HQ for the Providence Line as their home base. They'll pay in more with time to expand it, but they can't sustain any of these overlapping services without that pre-existing HQ. For Westerly, they need CTDOT to come in and share costs with them before service to Westerly can ramp up to anything resembling a max buildout. RIDOT will pay to build it in the first place, but SLE's going to be the bigger all-day user and overall user since that yard will anchor all New London schedules. They need that partner to defray the costs. Woonsocket is a necessity because they have to be able to stay out of the way from freight slots, but because it has no shared users that may not even get built as a full-service facility. Just an idling spot for peak hours with an inspector hut but no layover pads or onsite security, no overnight storage, and every time they can get away with it deadheading back to Pawtucket. It is no coincidence that they are looking longingly at coaxing the Franklin Line back to Blackstone so they can get another joint user here by the time that Providence-Worcester initiative takes center stage and flushes enough traffic up the Blackstone Valley that the intrastate short-turns need a real facility.

Every new ops cost you introduce like a large Kingston layover that nobody except them has any need for pushes back the timetable for introducing service. That's the reality. RI can't swing the capital costs of a full commuter rail network without being semi-parasitic (in mutually positive way) to its neighbors and partners and making explicit choices to not get involved in ops. What they choose to spend station capital on is ripe for criticism, but they have more avenues and more arms of state gov't to tap for pursuing funding at TOD'd parking sinks than they do for ops facilities. It's not one checking account where $1 less on stations buys them $1 more on ops support. This is an explicit choice they have to make to get anything done.

Deal with those choices as they are, or wait another decade for service to start. There is no third option. There is no sending it back to the drawing board for a more-perfect plan when grant apps have been filed and the State Rail Plan has been signed/sealed/delivered to the FRA to advise the next 4-8 years worth of grant rewards. And there is no speculative new world order where the funding sources are going to magically change, because the rollout IS a this-decade, active, ongoing build. Every bit of surplus-to-requirement extra ops overhead adds years to the time you'll be able to board a Purple Line train at Kingston, and adds years to the wait for that service to scale up to dense levels.

That's something you can easily bottom-line for your own personal needs. Do you want it good and now, or do you want it perfect and never?

There's absolutely room for continuous four-track between Providence and Warwick and there's probably long-term demand for it too. South of Apponaug I agree is problematic but there's zero good reasons not to push hard for the unbroken fourth track at least as far as T.F. Green. An Apponaug Station on the other side of the Cove (where Arnold's Neck is) would be a nice-to-have, but not required.
No, there isn't. Amtrak studied the everloving shit out of this for 25 years, and determined there isn't. Trace the ROW yourself on Google Maps. The 3rd track is already in place south of Providence. You can't fit 4 unbroken tracks, space on the side of ROW for catenary poles, electrical boxes, etc. the entire distance without blowing up half the bridges and doing a lot of land acquisition. There are broken stretches of 4th track space to tap by gobbling up space that was used for extinct freight sidings...but that's exactly what they are doing at all these infill stops including max-build Green and Wickford. This is the max build. And it's plenty good.

There are real capacity gains from it - for RI intra-state service. Just because Amtrak is capacity limited by CT doesn't mean RIDOT has to be or should be.

They are the same capacity gains you get from placing a 'strategic turnout' anywhere else in the area but with the added quality-of-life benefits inherent in having that turnout be co-located with an active station.
If Amtrak's studies show that the NEC in Massachusetts gets its 2035 Amtrak and Providence Line congestion solved by tri-tracking from Readville to Attleboro...how does RIDOT need quad tracking to avoid its trainmageddon? That makes no sense. Everything Davisville-north is already going to be a 4-track station because of the turnouts. That's way more cushion than Mansfield and Sharon and Canton Jct. are getting. And the Providence Line is simply not capable of sending a full-blast schedule nearly 75 miles from home before its own equipment and schedule cushioning needs start choking off supply of frequencies, so the # of Boston schedules continuing past Green will always have to drop off a cliff. Where does one come up with enough service demand in RI on intrastate runs + whatever small % of Providence Line stragglers do super-extended runs on the schedule...to end up with more service density at Kingston than inside I-495? That doesn't make sense.

So I don't get why there needs to to be visual confirmation of idling trains in a layover yard or the aesthetic satisfaction of counting 1-2-3-4 tracks every time you glance out the train window. Amtrak's own math says the capacity meets or exceeds the wildest growth the state's own population density can muster for the next 30 years. And that by the time anybody needs more local slots they'll have their Inland 2040 HSR built and be prying more of their trains off the Shoreline instead.

They showed their ops math. You're going to need to show yours if you insist all their track capacity assumptions are wrong.


Two points:

1) We absolutely are past the cutoff line in terms of Providence Line extensions and have been since trains started running to Wickford Junction. When commuter rail starts running to Kingston/Westerly, it'll be as a RI train no matter what shape the RI service ends up taking - the MBTA will not be running any trains direct from Kingston to Boston.

Personally, I think that's a mistake, and I think that we should be looking to some of the things that Metro-North does emphatically right to model Boston's commuter services - most pointedly, regular operation of local-then-express runs, with the changeover point being Providence. But that's probably not going to be happening any time soon.
The population density difference pretty much ensures it'll never happen. Providence Line is not the New Haven Line. Never was, never will be. The New Haven Line is 3 or more Providence Line's worth of demand on one route, with EACH service pattern bringing in the same or greater haul. It's a stratospheric difference that doesn't compare.

And while this cross-state subsidy agreement the T has with RIDOT is making all this intrastate expansion happen, it is not an integrated two-state agency like Metro North is. The T still has a primary responsibility to its in-district constituents and at maximizing the revenue intake from them. And that does place priority on sending the Providence Line where it's going to enrich Massachusetts' coffers the most. That means a dense and locals-heavy schedule without too many runs skipping a Canton, Sharon, Mansfield, or one or both Attleboros. And not too far a reach where the farebox recovery to a Wickford and a Kingston isn't being put back into to MA's coffers on the return trip. At a certain threshold of Providence Line boarders that far south using it as an extra intrastate train on the schedule, it loses enough in-district value to not be in the T's best interests to do. And most definitely not in their interests to accommodate by dropping any revenue from the MA stops for the sake of more expresses deep over the border. That's where the limits of the Purple Line's interstate integration show itself; Metro North's true two-state agency charter is set up to divvy those proceeds in a way that that the parasitic (good kind) RIDOT working arrangement isn't.

How much intrastate vs. interstate travel is too big a reach for the Providence Line? Don't know. But as you suggest and the early results suggest, we're probably already past that diminishing returns point and need to firm up the outer limits of the T district for everyone's good. Future Providence Line service enhancements depend on that continuing to be the highest-margin in-district run, and if denser intrastate schedules are what Kingston needs more than a Boston direct every half hour...fill the slots with what they need the most.

2) It doesn't matter if it's 500 ft, 50 ft, or 6 inches over the line - it's over the line, and therefore there needs to be an agreement in place to operate across the state line. If CTDOT really has no interest in pursuing an agreement to operate over the state line, then they by definition also have no interest in operating to Westerly, which we know for a fact is not the case at all. Conversely, any scenario in which they are operating as far as Westerly is one in which they can and should be operating to Kingston.
^This is an unhinged statement. It is. Unhinged. Calm down.


"500 ft. across the state line" is not crossing some international border. It is the only place CT can tie up their instate service in a bow. Shore Line East cannot turn at Mystic station as the end of the line. Can't. There isn't so much as a crossover within miles for switching back onto the correct track, because the Acelas wouldn't be able to tilt if switches were placed too close to the numerous curves and bridges. Non-negotiable for Amtrak. Shore Line East also cannot turn at Mystic or Stonington unless there's a layover yard out past New London. 2 movable bridges separate that end of the line from New London, massive amounts of P&W and NECR freight coverges on either side of the Thames, and there's no available land clear of the drawbridges to build out because of abutting residential or unbuildable wetlands.

Go to Westerly...or they wash their hands of Groton and the Mystic and Pawcatuck halves of Stonington forever and SLE never goes any further than New London. Now, would you argue that RIDOT do this if the shoe were on the other foot? If "Pawcatuck" station a block over the state line were the literal difference between having any commuter service west of Kingston or not? No, of course not. You're arguing the exact opposite for all things RI. Don't be selfish. People in CT want the same things from their DOT as you want from yours, and it's not your call to tell them who's more worthy.

CT has a self-interest in serving its riders. They will gladly pay for 500 ft.'s worth of subsidy and a layover yard rental when most of the walkup ridership is theirs. This is no different than what the T is attempting to do tying up its district in a bow in Plaistow and Nashua to ease the parking crunch at Lowell and Haverhill and build bigger layovers for bigger schedules on each line. That's not "New Hampshire" commuter rail. Nor was the Providence Line "Rhode Island" commuter rail in all the years up till the last 5 when RIDOT was barely paying in. They're the non-kludgiest ways to serve the borders of the district without forfeiting service within the district or dumping too many interstate park-and-riders in lots where they shouldn't be.


As for SLE to Kingston. . .

CT has no self-interest in serving Kingston. That is not revenue that's going to be repaid to them on the return trip east...not revenue that's going to be repaid to them by a large constituency transferring to Metro North. It is RI intrastate commuter rail and making CTDOT run RI's own service west of Kingston so you can selfishly get more Boston service to Kingston. Didn't we just establish that the T has little self-interest in over-serving areas south of Providence? And that...yeah, some of that's legit. So why are we sticking "can and should" dictates on CTDOT about running even further afield for RI's sole benefit.

Why? Because fuck Connecticut, I want my stuff! Don't be hypocritical. You know RI is not in a position to be making those kinds of demands when it has to live vicariously through Massachusetts to get the service it's currently rolling out. They are getting a plenty sweet deal exploiting the areas of common interest. It is the height of arrogance to demand some other state give them satisfaction when CT has none of the self-interest in serving RI that MA and the MBTA do.
 

Commuting Boston Student

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No, there isn't. Amtrak studied the everloving shit out of this for 25 years, and determined there isn't. Trace the ROW yourself on Google Maps. The 3rd track is already in place south of Providence. You can't fit 4 unbroken tracks, space on the side of ROW for catenary poles, electrical boxes, etc. the entire distance without blowing up half the bridges and doing a lot of land acquisition. There are broken stretches of 4th track space to tap by gobbling up space that was used for extinct freight sidings...but that's exactly what they are doing at all these infill stops including max-build Green and Wickford. This is the max build. And it's plenty good.
Bridges that would need to be destroyed:
  1. Coronado Road overpass.
  2. RI-37 extended offramps to Post Road/US-1. Necessary destruction as part of an unrelated medium-term project anyway (reconfiguring the ungodly mess of the RI-37 terminus) and therefore net-neutral with regards to quad-tracking.
  3. Reservoir Avenue (RI-2) overpass might need support reconfiguration.
  4. Magnan Road overpass.
  5. Cranston Street overpass & Niantic Avenue. RI-10 over-overpass here might need to be reconfigured.
  6. Union Avenue overpass.
  7. US-6 overpass, Westminster Street and Broadway Overpasses (mitigated by Olneyville - Broadway / Westminster Station). Only necessary because of stupid Track 3 placement, could be avoided if Track 3 is ripped out and repositioned to provide the necessary room for Track 5.
  8. Harris Ave. onramps to US-6. Could simply be eliminated outright.
Property takes necessary:
  1. About 4-6 feet of backyard on abutting residential in Hillsgrove between Coronado Road and the former Ann & Hope Complex. Residential takes combined with the overpass might be too challenging, but this is less than 0.6 miles of quad-tracking that could be forsaken.
  2. Some trimming of trees growing on Michigan Ave. Residential as a potential CYA measure. Optional. No actual takes required.
  3. Possibly up to 2 feet of abutting backyards in Norwood, no demolition required. Mitigated by Warwick - Norwood Station and/or unrelated projects to reconnect cross streets severed by the NEC in Norwood.
  4. One (1) actual substantial property take on the west side of the NEC, to facilitate a station house for Warwick - Norwood Station somewhere beneath Onset Street and above the RI-37 offramps. Best candidates are the property between Elm and Onset or the space behind the property off of Sargent Street. Station house could be forsaken, otherwise mitigated by the existence of the station and/or unrelated projects to reconnect cross streets severed by the NEC in Norwood.
  5. Two (2) actual substantial property takes on either side of the NEC, just south of Park Ave. for the Cranston - Park Ave. Station. (Relatively certain these are happening anyway.)
  6. A whole lotta nowhere land not technically part of the ROW might need to be acquired opposite Huntington Avenue - but this is non-complicated.
  7. Some problematic land acquisition near Olneyville required (mitigated by Olneyville - Broadway / Westminster Station) only because Track 3 was not provisioned to allow for a Track 5.
  8. Harris Ave may need to be set back a few feet. No actual land acquisition necessary.
  9. One (1) final actual substantial property take of a property off Harris Ave. - a storage facility.
Miscellaneous notes:
  • There should be just enough room to squeeze Track 4 into the existing ROW as it abuts Lincoln Park Cemetery. Roughly 0.3 miles of fourth track is impossible if this is not the case (non-problematic if Warwick - Norwood Station exists.)
  • Aforementioned projects to reconnect Elm, Chestnut and Sargent Streets on overpasses or underpasses across the NEC are not presently on the table. However, these are important projects that need to happen.
  • Fourth track already in place in Cranston, but on the "wrong" side of the ROW. Fourth track north of Lincoln Park Cemetery could be realigned to this side of the ROW if Lincoln Park Cemetery precludes fourth track there, otherwise, shifting traffic becomes problematic. Alternative alignment that utilizes the existing Track 5 in Cranston requires one additional bridge demolition at Park Ave.
  • New interlockings needed immediately north of T.F. Green, immediately north of Lincoln Park Cemetery, and (ironically enough) behind RIPTA World HQ.
  • RIPTA World HQ probably the best location for Cranston - Elmwood Ave. Station. Station technically necessary to facilitate traffic shift from Track 3-1-2-4 layout south of here to Track 5-3-1-2 north of here.
  • Bridge demolition is pointedly not required for the I-95 overpass or one of the two RI-10 overpasses.

You and I seem to have very different definitions for what 'a lot of land acquisition' means. I score maybe a third of the fourth track needing dedicated land acquisition and half of that is vacant land which barely counts.

Also, I didn't keep a precise score, but I'm relatively certain that the number of bridge modifications needed is less than half.

It's also somewhat telling that the most complex portions of this - in Providence - are complicated precisely because nobody was thinking about putting a fourth track in when they put the third track in. Oops!

But, since I know you won't believe me just telling you about how there's room for the contiguous fourth track to Providence, allow me to show you that there's room.

I will tackle your other points later.
 

The EGE

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That's a hell of a lot of bridge work and property taking for a project that seems to be of marginal value versus station passing tracks.
 

Commuting Boston Student

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If Amtrak's studies show that the NEC in Massachusetts gets its 2035 Amtrak and Providence Line congestion solved by tri-tracking from Readville to Attleboro...how does RIDOT need quad tracking to avoid its trainmageddon? That makes no sense. Everything Davisville-north is already going to be a 4-track station because of the turnouts. That's way more cushion than Mansfield and Sharon and Canton Jct. are getting. And the Providence Line is simply not capable of sending a full-blast schedule nearly 75 miles from home before its own equipment and schedule cushioning needs start choking off supply of frequencies, so the # of Boston schedules continuing past Green will always have to drop off a cliff. Where does one come up with enough service demand in RI on intrastate runs + whatever small % of Providence Line stragglers do super-extended runs on the schedule...to end up with more service density at Kingston than inside I-495? That doesn't make sense.

So I don't get why there needs to to be visual confirmation of idling trains in a layover yard or the aesthetic satisfaction of counting 1-2-3-4 tracks every time you glance out the train window. Amtrak's own math says the capacity meets or exceeds the wildest growth the state's own population density can muster for the next 30 years. And that by the time anybody needs more local slots they'll have their Inland 2040 HSR built and be prying more of their trains off the Shoreline instead.

They showed their ops math. You're going to need to show yours if you insist all their track capacity assumptions are wrong.
That Mansfield and Sharon are only receiving three tracks means they lowballed estimation of the capacity needed between Attleboro and Canton Junction, not that four tracks between Providence and Warwick is an over-estimate. Mansfield and Sharon need a fourth track too, especially if express commuter rail service is ever to be implemented.

A fourth track between Providence and Warwick buys us five-minute peak headways on an EMU service pinging back and forth without disrupting Amtrak's probable 2 + 2 TPH OR the 4 peak TPH of slower commuter service meandering back and forth between Westerly and Pawtucket. It lets us build stations at Atwells/Harris, Olneyville, Union Ave, Elmwood Ave, Park Ave and Norwood where otherwise there is only room for one station somewhere in Cranston, and lets us treat the core of the line like a true rapid transit service even as we allow the outer stretches of the line to behave like commuter rail.

And we can do that without waiting on 50 year hideously expensive propositions with questionable success chances like ripping out RI-10 to get the necessary ROW a different way, or going to exponential expense on alternate service patterns like streetcars/BRT up RI-2 and US-1 that by and large replicates the kind of service which would have otherwise been provided here.

The population density difference pretty much ensures it'll never happen. Providence Line is not the New Haven Line. Never was, never will be. The New Haven Line is 3 or more Providence Line's worth of demand on one route, with EACH service pattern bringing in the same or greater haul. It's a stratospheric difference that doesn't compare.
Never is an absurdly unequivocal statement considering the density levels in relative no-mans-lands like Darien and Fairfield and Rye and assuming modest growth of the corridor.

And while this cross-state subsidy agreement the T has with RIDOT is making all this intrastate expansion happen, it is not an integrated two-state agency like Metro North is. The T still has a primary responsibility to its in-district constituents and at maximizing the revenue intake from them. And that does place priority on sending the Providence Line where it's going to enrich Massachusetts' coffers the most. That means a dense and locals-heavy schedule without too many runs skipping a Canton, Sharon, Mansfield, or one or both Attleboros. And not too far a reach where the farebox recovery to a Wickford and a Kingston isn't being put back into to MA's coffers on the return trip. At a certain threshold of Providence Line boarders that far south using it as an extra intrastate train on the schedule, it loses enough in-district value to not be in the T's best interests to do. And most definitely not in their interests to accommodate by dropping any revenue from the MA stops for the sake of more expresses deep over the border. That's where the limits of the Purple Line's interstate integration show itself; Metro North's true two-state agency charter is set up to divvy those proceeds in a way that that the parasitic (good kind) RIDOT working arrangement isn't.
The symbiotic relationship RIDOT and MassDOT/MBTA have today in 2014 isn't necessarily the relationship they're going to have even in 2029, especially if RIDOT decides to start really ramping up service in-state. It's not impossible that the dynamic could shift to be more like what Metro-North is today.

And you're forgetting that even if the relationship dynamic stays the same, MBTA's interests aren't necessarily best served by all-local trips especially if the express runs from a Kingston or a Providence are packed with RI revenue payers who were driving otherwise because of how slow the train was stopping everywhere in MA, or if it stops being standing-room-only on some peak trains where MA residents can't get a seat because it's packed full of people who got on further down the line.

How much intrastate vs. interstate travel is too big a reach for the Providence Line? Don't know. But as you suggest and the early results suggest, we're probably already past that diminishing returns point and need to firm up the outer limits of the T district for everyone's good. Future Providence Line service enhancements depend on that continuing to be the highest-margin in-district run, and if denser intrastate schedules are what Kingston needs more than a Boston direct every half hour...fill the slots with what they need the most.
^This is an unhinged statement. It is. Unhinged. Calm down.


"500 ft. across the state line" is not crossing some international border. It is the only place CT can tie up their instate service in a bow. Shore Line East cannot turn at Mystic station as the end of the line. Can't. There isn't so much as a crossover within miles for switching back onto the correct track, because the Acelas wouldn't be able to tilt if switches were placed too close to the numerous curves and bridges. Non-negotiable for Amtrak. Shore Line East also cannot turn at Mystic or Stonington unless there's a layover yard out past New London. 2 movable bridges separate that end of the line from New London, massive amounts of P&W and NECR freight coverges on either side of the Thames, and there's no available land clear of the drawbridges to build out because of abutting residential or unbuildable wetlands.
You'd never know it wasn't crossing an international border for how the feds treat jurisdictional crossings like this.

What is it now, 15 years since RIPTA foolishly asked for permission to run their buses a similar amount of feet over the MA line? And, we're still a year off from actually having RIPTA service running into South Attleboro because of fed hand-wringing and pearl-clutching about the border cross.

It's every bit as unhinged as the treatment of jurisdictional crossings by the relevant parties is. Sorry. Them's the breaks.

Go to Westerly...or they wash their hands of Groton and the Mystic and Pawcatuck halves of Stonington forever and SLE never goes any further than New London. Now, would you argue that RIDOT do this if the shoe were on the other foot? If "Pawcatuck" station a block over the state line were the literal difference between having any commuter service west of Kingston or not? No, of course not. You're arguing the exact opposite for all things RI. Don't be selfish. People in CT want the same things from their DOT as you want from yours, and it's not your call to tell them who's more worthy.
Actually, I would. If the shoe were on the other foot I'd be arguing that RIDOT pursue operation into New London because that's the next logical terminus after Kingston and building two halves of a line with an arbitrary changeover dictated by legislative (in)convenience makes no sense no matter which side of the border has the changeover point - but knowing what I do about how the state treats Westerly (the words 'red-headed stepchild' come to mind), I know that the end result would be the same; hopefully cross-operation agreements into New London and Kingston, probably no service between New London and Kingston.

The good news is, there's far less ground to cover between Westerly and Kingston as there would be Pawcatuck and New London, so it's accordingly far more likely that CTDOT will cooperate.

CT has a self-interest in serving its riders. They will gladly pay for 500 ft.'s worth of subsidy and a layover yard rental when most of the walkup ridership is theirs. This is no different than what the T is attempting to do tying up its district in a bow in Plaistow and Nashua to ease the parking crunch at Lowell and Haverhill and build bigger layovers for bigger schedules on each line. That's not "New Hampshire" commuter rail. Nor was the Providence Line "Rhode Island" commuter rail in all the years up till the last 5 when RIDOT was barely paying in. They're the non-kludgiest ways to serve the borders of the district without forfeiting service within the district or dumping too many interstate park-and-riders in lots where they shouldn't be.


As for SLE to Kingston. . .

CT has no self-interest in serving Kingston. That is not revenue that's going to be repaid to them on the return trip east...not revenue that's going to be repaid to them by a large constituency transferring to Metro North. It is RI intrastate commuter rail and making CTDOT run RI's own service west of Kingston so you can selfishly get more Boston service to Kingston. Didn't we just establish that the T has little self-interest in over-serving areas south of Providence? And that...yeah, some of that's legit. So why are we sticking "can and should" dictates on CTDOT about running even further afield for RI's sole benefit.

Why? Because fuck Connecticut, I want my stuff! Don't be hypocritical. You know RI is not in a position to be making those kinds of demands when it has to live vicariously through Massachusetts to get the service it's currently rolling out. They are getting a plenty sweet deal exploiting the areas of common interest. It is the height of arrogance to demand some other state give them satisfaction when CT has none of the self-interest in serving RI that MA and the MBTA do.
Actually, CT does have an interest in serving Kingston when rail to Newport is functionally impossible (the Sakonnet toll bridge fiasco has now taken Newport - Fall River off the table as an option for the next 100 years, Bristol - Newport wasn't an option since the East Bay Bike Path came into being and no other crossing opportunities actually exist) and the next best thing is rail to Kingston - bus to Newport, which connects NUWC to the Coast Guard Academy and more broadly connects Newport to all the pleasant little hamlets between New London and the state line. It's not ideal, but it's literally the best we can do at this point.

Even if rail to Newport wasn't functionally impossible, New London - Kingston - Newport is still much faster than New London - Providence - Newport and while we disagree that CT doesn't benefit from running to Kingston, I think we can certainly agree that they have no interest in running to Wickford or the Airport or Providence itself.
 

Commuting Boston Student

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That's a hell of a lot of bridge work and property taking for a project that seems to be of marginal value versus station passing tracks.
I'll agree that it's a lot of bridge work.

I won't agree that it's a lot of property taking (I probably shouldn't have used the numbered list) when it's four actual properties that need to be taken (two of which are probably being taken regardless of a fourth track if I've got the location of Cranston Station pegged correctly), with all the other property taken being roughly five feet of backyards in a line (and probably less than five feet) and most of the land acquisition happening on vacant land in undevelopable zones or the shadows of highway offramps.

I score maybe 3.5 miles of total land acquisition out of a ~7.8 mile stretch of ROW (less than half of the new track) and less than half of that as actual property taking and most of the less than half of less than half being by and large unobtrusive.

Most of the people losing anything are losing yards worth of backyard space. That's nowhere near the kind of problematic home-destruction that springs to mind when you talk about 'land acquisition' in an urban/suburban area.

I'd be willing to forsake the fourth track in Olneyville if it's too much of a hassle to go back and redo the third track correctly through there. Those guys will just have to continue to suffer the indignity of being a transit-captive community with woefully inadequate transit as trains serving richer suburbs and rural villages speed by them.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Bridges that would need to be destroyed:
  1. Coronado Road overpass.
  2. RI-37 extended offramps to Post Road/US-1. Necessary destruction as part of an unrelated medium-term project anyway (reconfiguring the ungodly mess of the RI-37 terminus) and therefore net-neutral with regards to quad-tracking.
  3. Reservoir Avenue (RI-2) overpass might need support reconfiguration.
  4. Magnan Road overpass.
  5. Cranston Street overpass & Niantic Avenue. RI-10 over-overpass here might need to be reconfigured.
  6. Union Avenue overpass.
  7. US-6 overpass, Westminster Street and Broadway Overpasses (mitigated by Olneyville - Broadway / Westminster Station). Only necessary because of stupid Track 3 placement, could be avoided if Track 3 is ripped out and repositioned to provide the necessary room for Track 5.
  8. Harris Ave. onramps to US-6. Could simply be eliminated outright.
That's a metric assload of bridges. Which Amtrak says is not needed for their capacity or commuter rail capacity. And which they are planning to bypass entirely in 30 years.

Whose interests is this serving other than your Transit OCD? There's no problem. It's been studied by everyone. They say there's no need. You, Commuting Boston Student, are the only person in the world saying there's a need for this.

Property takes necessary:
  1. About 4-6 feet of backyard on abutting residential in Hillsgrove between Coronado Road and the former Ann & Hope Complex. Residential takes combined with the overpass might be too challenging, but this is less than 0.6 miles of quad-tracking that could be forsaken.
  2. Some trimming of trees growing on Michigan Ave. Residential as a potential CYA measure. Optional. No actual takes required.
  3. Possibly up to 2 feet of abutting backyards in Norwood, no demolition required. Mitigated by Warwick - Norwood Station and/or unrelated projects to reconnect cross streets severed by the NEC in Norwood.
  4. One (1) actual substantial property take on the west side of the NEC, to facilitate a station house for Warwick - Norwood Station somewhere beneath Onset Street and above the RI-37 offramps. Best candidates are the property between Elm and Onset or the space behind the property off of Sargent Street. Station house could be forsaken, otherwise mitigated by the existence of the station and/or unrelated projects to reconnect cross streets severed by the NEC in Norwood.
  5. Two (2) actual substantial property takes on either side of the NEC, just south of Park Ave. for the Cranston - Park Ave. Station. (Relatively certain these are happening anyway.)
  6. A whole lotta nowhere land not technically part of the ROW might need to be acquired opposite Huntington Avenue - but this is non-complicated.
  7. Some problematic land acquisition near Olneyville required (mitigated by Olneyville - Broadway / Westminster Station) only because Track 3 was not provisioned to allow for a Track 5.
  8. Harris Ave may need to be set back a few feet. No actual land acquisition necessary.
  9. One (1) final actual substantial property take of a property off Harris Ave. - a storage facility.
That is a lot of affected properties. Do width dimensions make this any easier when EVERY homeowner and private property owner on those strips needs to be dealt with?

My previous comment: repeat. Whose interests is this serving that make it necessary when federal gov't, state gov't, and the track owner have all concluded it's not at all necessary?

Miscellaneous notes:
  • There should be just enough room to squeeze Track 4 into the existing ROW as it abuts Lincoln Park Cemetery. Roughly 0.3 miles of fourth track is impossible if this is not the case (non-problematic if Warwick - Norwood Station exists.)
  • Aforementioned projects to reconnect Elm, Chestnut and Sargent Streets on overpasses or underpasses across the NEC are not presently on the table. However, these are important projects that need to happen.
  • Fourth track already in place in Cranston, but on the "wrong" side of the ROW. Fourth track north of Lincoln Park Cemetery could be realigned to this side of the ROW if Lincoln Park Cemetery precludes fourth track there, otherwise, shifting traffic becomes problematic. Alternative alignment that utilizes the existing Track 5 in Cranston requires one additional bridge demolition at Park Ave.
  • New interlockings needed immediately north of T.F. Green, immediately north of Lincoln Park Cemetery, and (ironically enough) behind RIPTA World HQ.
  • RIPTA World HQ probably the best location for Cranston - Elmwood Ave. Station. Station technically necessary to facilitate traffic shift from Track 3-1-2-4 layout south of here to Track 5-3-1-2 north of here.
  • Bridge demolition is pointedly not required for the I-95 overpass or one of the two RI-10 overpasses.
Repeat all I said the last 2 times.

You also can't squeeze an electrified ROW out of that much buffer space everywhere. The support poles have to go in the ground somewhere. The electrical and signal boxes have to go on the ROW somewhere. The outside feeder cables have to intersect somewhere. There has to be side room somewhere for staging catenary maintenance, assembling replacement poles and masts, or just for track workers to walk alongside the ROW. And Acelas can't go in tilt mode along a retaining wall or under a bridge without some flex. Pinches are of course allowed, but electrified high-speed lines are more space-intensive and on any given mile will have several instances of misc. structures and other situational buffer space that has to be there. And doesn't have to be on some meandering diesel branchline.

Pull up some of the CAHSR technical documentation for the dimensional stanards. They're all based on Amtrak's own NEC recs for new construction, especially the parts covering electrification allowances. Amtrak wrote that book. They upgraded the Shoreline to that book. They are not throwing that book away because someone told them "fuck best practices".


You and I seem to have very different definitions for what 'a lot of land acquisition' means. I score maybe a third of the fourth track needing dedicated land acquisition and half of that is vacant land which barely counts.
See above. You're counting acreage, not landowners.

Also, I didn't keep a precise score, but I'm relatively certain that the number of bridge modifications needed is less than half.

It's also somewhat telling that the most complex portions of this - in Providence - are complicated precisely because nobody was thinking about putting a fourth track in when they put the third track in. Oops!

But, since I know you won't believe me just telling you about how there's room for the contiguous fourth track to Providence, allow me to show you that there's room.

I will tackle your other points later.
See above re: Amtrak's own tome on ROW clearances.



CBS...if you want to keep harping on this My Way or Highway requirement with everything...even the non-issues like this...some day you're going to have to lay out how you plan to get elected God. Because there is no remotely thriving society I know of that would be tolerable to live in where absolute dictatorial control of building to the mapmaker's whims and nothing but the mapmaker's whims no matter what the engineers say is a doable thing. Not even in the places with the best rail systems ever. Not even in centrally planned China where the adolescent phase of their mixed capitalism has had them contending with the limitations of eminent domain vs. property rights. The mechanisms you are calling for to Make It So, Make Everything So All The Time...do not exist on this earth.

That's not a sign of weakness. It's a sign of strength and sanity. Because perfection is the enemy of the good. Don't fight that. Put your energy into figuring out what will get the most shit done most efficiently.
 

Commuting Boston Student

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That's a metric assload of bridges. Which Amtrak says is not needed for their capacity or commuter rail capacity. And which they are planning to bypass entirely in 30 years.

Whose interests is this serving other than your Transit OCD? There's no problem. It's been studied by everyone. They say there's no need. You, Commuting Boston Student, are the only person in the world saying there's a need for this.

That is a lot of affected properties. Do width dimensions make this any easier when EVERY homeowner and private property owner on those strips needs to be dealt with?

My previous comment: repeat. Whose interests is this serving that make it necessary when federal gov't, state gov't, and the track owner have all concluded it's not at all necessary?
Providence's interests, Cranston's interests, and Warwick's interests are served by having rapid transit running on this line and even if you remove 100% of Amtrak's traffic and turn the line over to RIDOT's exclusive control tomorrow you can't squeeze the kind of stop density needed here onto 3 tracks + turnouts that are already going to see heavy utilization by regional commuter rail which should be skipping those stops - and, of course, Amtrak is never going to 0% on this stretch of the line even under the most deranged and far-reaching hypothetical build-outs of bypasses and HSR-exclusive trackage here, as I mentioned in my previous reply.

By the way, those last three bridge items in the list are all long-term problems anyway if the HSR route to Hartford is the Washington Secondary because the track merge point is below Union Avenue and therefore four tracks are needed between Union Avenue and Providence Station to keep HSR traffic segregated from commuter traffic. If the HSR route to Hartford is a built-for-this shared highway/rail ROW carrying future I-82 between Providence and Hartford as well... well, you and I both know the chances of that coming to fruition are even lower than the chances of HSR along I-95 (which is impressive, since HSR along I-95 already has a less-than-zero likelihood of happening).

Repeat all I said the last 2 times.

You also can't squeeze an electrified ROW out of that much buffer space everywhere. The support poles have to go in the ground somewhere. The electrical and signal boxes have to go on the ROW somewhere. The outside feeder cables have to intersect somewhere. There has to be side room somewhere for staging catenary maintenance, assembling replacement poles and masts, or just for track workers to walk alongside the ROW. And Acelas can't go in tilt mode along a retaining wall or under a bridge without some flex. Pinches are of course allowed, but electrified high-speed lines are more space-intensive and on any given mile will have several instances of misc. structures and other situational buffer space that has to be there. And doesn't have to be on some meandering diesel branchline.

Pull up some of the CAHSR technical documentation for the dimensional stanards. They're all based on Amtrak's own NEC recs for new construction, especially the parts covering electrification allowances. Amtrak wrote that book. They upgraded the Shoreline to that book. They are not throwing that book away because someone told them "fuck best practices".
There's gobs of side room in Cranston, conveniently halfway between 'here' and 'there' on the fourth track expansion. If the only side room needed is for poles, there's space for that unless we absolutely can't negotiate our way past landowners (and I remain convinced that we can.)

Also plenty of side room just west/south of Providence Station on the other side of the river in the shadow of the 6-10 Connector for even more maintenance staging.

See above. You're counting acreage, not landowners.

See above re: Amtrak's own tome on ROW clearances.
Fair point.
 

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