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Boston Considers Downeaster Link To South Station, East Coast Corridor

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BOSTON – Advocates pushing for an underground rail connection between Boston’s North Station and South Station met at the Statehouse on Monday to help organize public support for the proposal.
The group is hoping to persuade Republican Gov. Charlie Baker to consider the rail link, which they say would provide for the possibility of uninterrupted Amtrak passenger service between Washington, D.C., and Maine.

Former Govs. Michael Dukakis, a Democrat, and William Weld, a Republican, have endorsed the plan. Dukakis said the project has the backing of two-thirds of state lawmakers.

Gov. Baker ... has expressed skepticism, saying after that meeting that he needs more time to study the idea, adding that “the devil is very much in the details.”
http://www.pressherald.com/2015/09/22/boston-considers-downeast-link-to-south-station-east-coast-corridor/

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Well, Boston's good at digging tunnels in the downtown area. All they'll need is about 20 years and roughly $14 billion. :P

 

Actually, this proposal reminds me of the tunnel that linked the two sections of SEPTA's Regional Rail system 30 or so years

ago. That made a lot of sense, as would this. And this project would have the added benefit of being used by Amtrak.

 

That said, unless they electrified the DownEaster route you'd still have to change trains, or at least engines, in Boston.

But that would be much better than the cross-town self-transfer by a long shot.

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Long overdue. This was originally pushed as a cheaper, more effective *alternative* to the Big Dig. When the Big Dig was done, they managed to get passive provisions made for the tunnel underneath the highway tunnel (so we know exactly where the tunnel would go from South Station to North Station; the complicated parts are all north of North or south of South). I'm glad to see that there's still solid advocacy for this.

 

Pretty much every city with train terminals on opposite sides of town has built some sort of crosstown tunnel for regional rail -- from Paris (RER) to London (Thameslink and Crossrail) to Philadelphia (Center City Connection) to Berlin (forget what they called the Hauptbahnhof links). It's a big plan because it requires electrification, but it would make the regional rail system cheaper and easier to operate.

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The first crosstown link in Berlin was the elevated Stadtbahn from Zoo to Lichtenberg through Tiergarten, Lehrter Stadtbahnhof, Friedrichstrasse and Alexanderplatz.

 

Both London and Paris were lucky to have built their first crosstown link very early on - London's north-south Citylink which is used by Thameslink now, and Paris' what now is RER-C along Rive-Gauche (the left bank). When the rail resurgence began they had a standing example to justify the construction of the later ones. Boston is a complete outlier and New York is just plain unfathomably weird. It has a crosstown line with no stations on it within the five boroughs except the big on in Manhattan, and the other with a terminal station may or may not get connected to the one on the crosstown link. At least the cross town line is now likely to get several more stations on it within the five boroughs.

Edited by jis

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The long proposed North-South connection tunnel is a good idea, but I think the realities of the MBTA financial situation will postpone the tunnel from moving past the feasibility or basic study stage for at least a decade or two. The Green Line extension is facing close to a $1 billion cost increase and it is, IMO, more important to get the GLX built within the next 6-8 years than to advance the N-S connection tunnel. The MBTA is facing a circa $7 billion state of good repair backlog that will consume a lot of the available capital funding in the coming years.

 

Then there are the technical questions of how the N-S connection tunnel would work for an all diesel commuter rail network. The tunnel project might have to combined with electrification of much of the MBTA commuter rail system. Or by replacing all the diesels with dual mode locomotives with a 3rd rail in the tunnel. The N-S tunnel presents operational use questions and likely would have cost impacts beyond the building of the tunnel(s) and the rebuild of the North and South station track and platform configuration.

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Wondering why Amtrak doesn't at least provide a "thruway" bus connection between North and South Stations, instead of the "self-connect" requirement?

They used to do just that between NYP and NYG prior to the Empire Connection...... :unsure:

Edited by railiner

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Then there are the technical questions of how the N-S connection tunnel would work for an all diesel commuter rail network. The tunnel project might have to combined with electrification of much of the MBTA commuter rail system.

Oh, the electrification should have been done long ago. There's a long backlog of track-and-signal upgrades on some of the lines, but they could run so much faster with electrification, due to better acceleration -- lots of closely spaced stops and curves and so on.

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Wondering why Amtrak doesn't at least provide a "thruway" bus connection between North and South Stations, instead of the "self-connect" requirement?

They used to do just that between NYP and NYG prior to the Empire Connection...... :unsure:

 

From what it sounds like, the traffic there is terrible. I would think it would almost make more sense to simply work with MBTA and essentially ticket the transfer as part of the Amtrak trip, maybe a la the Capitol Corridor local transit transfers.

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Wondering why Amtrak doesn't at least provide a "thruway" bus connection between North and South Stations, instead of the "self-connect" requirement?

They used to do just that between NYP and NYG prior to the Empire Connection...... :unsure:

 

From what it sounds like, the traffic there is terrible. I would think it would almost make more sense to simply work with MBTA and essentially ticket the transfer as part of the Amtrak trip, maybe a la the Capitol Corridor local transit transfers.

 

Street traffic in New York City is not exactly a picnic, either, but the Thruway bus they used to run at least offered a 'one seat' ride (NYC also requires changing subway trains to get from Penn Station to Grand Central). In addition the New York thruway bus had an agent and a red cap assist passenger's making the connections, and the driver was in contact with station services personnel in case of delays enroute. The buses were timed to meet all Empire Service trains. They used to load on Vanderbilt Avenue at NYG, and in the now closed off taxi tunnel at NYP.

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Wondering why Amtrak doesn't at least provide a "thruway" bus connection between North and South Stations, instead of the "self-connect" requirement?

They used to do just that between NYP and NYG prior to the Empire Connection...... :unsure:

From what it sounds like, the traffic there is terrible. I would think it would almost make more sense to simply work with MBTA and essentially ticket the transfer as part of the Amtrak trip, maybe a la the Capitol Corridor local transit transfers.

 

This could be done with mailed tickets or tickets purchased from a live agent.

 

Unfortunately you can't print a CharlieCard from home.

 

Thankfully, this is about the easiest subway transfer possible. I'm doing it twice next week; I decided to take a ride on the Maine Eastern because there's a high likelihood of passenger service to Rockland ending completely.

 

http://www.pressherald.com/2015/09/02/rockland-brunswick-tourist-train-imperiled/

http://www.wmtw.com/news/maine-eastern-railroad-to-end-passenger-service-oct-31/35329602

 

It's only been possible to get to Rockland by an all-train routing since the Brunswick extension to the Downeaster opened. I figure I'd better do it now.

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Long overdue. This was originally pushed as a cheaper, more effective *alternative* to the Big Dig. When the Big Dig was done, they managed to get passive provisions made for the tunnel underneath the highway tunnel (so we know exactly where the tunnel would go from South Station to North Station; the complicated parts are all north of North or south of South). I'm glad to see that there's still solid advocacy for this.

 

Pretty much every city with train terminals on opposite sides of town has built some sort of crosstown tunnel for regional rail -- from Paris (RER) to London (Thameslink and Crossrail) to Philadelphia (Center City Connection) to Berlin (forget what they called the Hauptbahnhof links). It's a big plan because it requires electrification, but it would make the regional rail system cheaper and easier to operate.

Don't you find it interesting, though, that major cities in the U.S. with more than one terminal do not have crosstown links?

Edited by Palmetto

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Don't you find it interesting, though, that major cities in the U.S. with more than one terminal do not have crosstown links?

An artifact of the US's failure to invest in rail for the last century. Basically you're talking Boston and NY here. Various changes have eliminated the second terminal in most of the other cities in the country; the cities which still have multiple terminals have built crosstown links of one sort or another, except Boston and NY. Chicago's a bit weird in that it has lots of infrastructure for crosstown links but doesn't use all of it effectively for various reasons; again down to failure to invest in rail.

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Some posters have hit on the point of lack of funds for rail. Although BOS - BON & NYP - NYG are desirable connections any funds at the present time are much more needed for other capital projects. Low ball figures of $10b for BOS - BON and probably $20B NYP - NYG better spent on NY Gateway and other NEC projects. As well $1.5 B would buy enough rolling stock for 1000 Passenger cars and 100 new LOCOS.

Those extra cars could carry enough demand to eventually get political will to connect these two cities train terminals. Before that connecting BOS - BON by way of direct Grand crossing tracks much cheaper but longer time.. NYP - NYG should be covered fairly well by the planned MNRR running several locals from both New Haven and Hudson lines long before tunnel connecting two stations can be built.

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A large portion of the cost of the N-S Rail Link is down to the need to electrify the lines (which is well understood and included in the cost).

 

Electrifying the lines is beneficial *by itself* -- speeds up the trains -- so it should be done first. That will build political will for the rail link.

 

NYP-NYG should be the alternative to the "station under Macy's Basement" or to Amtrak's proposed "Penn South". With neither of those likely to get funded in the near future, it's just a matter of bringing up NYP-NYG every time someone does propose funding one of those stupidly expensive and unproductive projects.

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I do not expect NYP - NYG to get funded anytime before Gateway is funded and built.

 

Besides there are many more useful and deserving projects to fund before this railfan obsession gets funded, so no I would not recommend campaigning for it, unless of course one suffers from that specific railfan obsession of course :P If so, of course - go for it ;)

Edited by jis

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Is it determined when the North - South Rail Link should be complete?

First the money needs to be found, and contracts signed, and land bought, and design work, and, and, and... Hello development hell! This project has been in the hopper for decades with no money or design work developed from what I can recall. It seems to be DOA at almost all levels.

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Is it determined when the North - South Rail Link should be complete?

No.

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At one point the idea was to electrify the proposed lines to Fall River and New Bedford. It was a terrible idea, given the frequency and cost. I don't know whether it is still planned, or whether the endless budget problems for Massachusetts and the MBTA have once again delayed the entire project.

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The proposed electrification on that route was not to meet traffic goals but to meet environmental goals. the EIS was approved only with electrification AFAIR.

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Harvard study: North South Rail Link would cost less than thought

 

https://www.bizjournals.com/boston/news/2017/08/17/harvard-study-north-south-rail-link-would-cost.html

Other stories on it. (Link above hit a pay wall.)

 

http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/08/downtown-boston-rail-link-could-be-built-more-cheaply-study-says/

 

http://www.lowellsun.com/news/ci_31232897/study-boston-rail-link-cost-4b-6b

 

Well, I like it. But I lived thru the Big Dig a few hundred miles away in NYC. LOL.

Edited by WoodyinNYC

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N-S Rail Link is an idea which won't go away unless Boston has to be evacuated due to flooding.

 

I think it'll get built. It's got too much going for it. But I think we're going to have to wait a couple more years.

 

The general disorganization and tolerance of chiseling in the MBTA is finally being fixed; I've got to give Baker credit for that. Once the Green Line Extension finally gets built, hopefully in 2021, most of the MBTA backlog will be done. They will also have finished the installation of PTC by then, and the ADA station backlog should be fairly short (Wollaston is under construction; Hynes and Symphony have designs; which leaves Bowdoin, Boylston, and a bunch of surface stations, many of which are being done). The appetite for a program which reduces carbon emissions, improves operational efficiency, eases commutes, relieves pressure on the subway, benefits Amtrak, etc. will be high at that point.

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