l008com wrote:Interesting. So NIMBYs aside, and cost of laying new track aside, what would have to be worked out between PAR and the MBTA? Wouldn't it just be a matter of "we want to run trains", "ok"? They've got nothing to lose or gain either way, right? Would they have to pay 'rent' or something? I'd assume since par would be the only one's using it, they'd have to pay all the maintenance and initial rebuilding costs.
A lot of FRA bureaucracy to de-abandon and get new trackage rights approved, plus all the environmental permitting that has to take place for reactivating an abandoned/landbanked line. Landbanking laws are supposed to make that a straightforward process, but actual practice in Massachusetts (see Greenbush, Fall River/New Bedford service on the Stoughton Branch) makes the environmental permitting the far bigger of the two hurdles and the one where a NIMBY-orchestrated "Operation Chaos" can shoot cost through the roof and derail a restoration plan in a hurry. That's why so few reactivation plans are actually successful. Since the T is owner of the line it would have to lead a lot of those bureaucratic battles even though it would be PAR's line to operate. And I can't really see them doing that for a line with no passenger potential. The EOT might be more accommodating of freight interests since it is maintainer of the state freight rail plan, but they'd be unlikely to have much interest either unless you're talking a line bringing some pretty substantial economic injection or one with really strategic interconnection potential. A little stub like the Stoneham Branch abutting only a few small industrial properties wouldn't even begin to pique their interest.
Again, much different story when the RR retains trackage rights...like with East Boston or the joint CT/MA desire to reactivate the Armory Branch from the state line to Springfield (PAR owns that stretch itself). And much, much simpler still with OOS railbanked
lines where tracks can be re-laid and reactivated at any time at the RR's discretion with only perfunctory permitting (mostly for grade crossing, culvert, conduit work, etc.) and little to no NIMBY power. Of course there's very few railbanked lines in MA since a requirement of that statute is a minimal amount of ROW maintenance (waste pickup, maintaining environmentally sensitive culverts, periodic inspections, etc.) at required sporadic intervals within every couple years. There's some (very minimal) additional expense attached to it beyond simply taxes on the land or fees on the charter, which is why cheapo PAR doesn't own a single OOS/railbanked ROW (except for maybe the Moran terminal track in Charlestown...although they've been trying to dump that for years and haven't been able to because of state pushback).
CSX does retain a couple railbankings: the Framingham & Lowell from the Agricultural Branch to South Sudbury, and the line through Sherborn and Holliston past the auto yard. It has, though, abandoned the formerly railbanked tip of the Agricultural Branch north of Leominster yard in the time since the last state RR map was issued in '07. Pioneer Valley RR has a stretch of the Canal Line from northern Westfield to Southampton railbanked. There's a couple privately owned ones: the Conley terminal tracks (CSX trackage rights) and the industrial spur on the tip of the Needham branch (Bay Colony trackage rights). Grafton & Upton is actively re-activating the railbanked end of its main. The state (EOT, non-MBTA) has a couple miles of OOS Cape Cod line from Yarmouth to Dennis before the trail starts, and a couple miles of the Wattupa Branch from Westport to the end in Fall River. The MBTA has the Hanover Branch, the Topsfield Branch to Danvers (future commuter rail hold for Peabody/Danvers service), and 1 mile of Fall River line past the yard to the state line (just purchased from CSX) OOS. It has in the last 2 years let the Saugus Branch and the line from Lynnfield to Danvers go abandoned for the trail folks, with PAR simultaneously dumping its trackage rights. If Bay Colony can't find more business and ends up becoming a fallen flag it's likely that the T will let the Needham Branch past Needham Heights and the Millis main from Needham Jct. out go OOS (non-abandoned, since both are passenger extension holds). Bay Colony's still poking around Millis trying to drum up new business, though, and curiously re-upped its trackage rights east of Medfield Jct. to Newton even though there's been no customers for almost 10 years and little potential for new ones. So those lines are still active, with the barest minimal amount of maintenance and required movements to keep them active. As is the (currently pretty much impassible) Watertown Branch until PAR can resolve its cold war with Newlyweds over buyout of their customer contract and abandon it for the trail.