BandA wrote:Governor Baker doesn't seem to understand the importance of purchasing ROW when it becomes available for a reasonable price (can't say whether it is a reasonable price). This is based on his reaction to the Walpole secondary purchase.
Someone suggested the other day here (perhaps another thread) that CSX is desperate for access improvements for their Springfield (west springfield?) freight yard, that they would be motivated to deal to get that freight access. (PAS is working on freight improvements and CSX won't be competitive if trucks can't get to their yard) So far it's been passed over for federal funds. So if the state lobbies their congressional delegation, in exchange for favorable terms on trackage purchases...
Yeah, spurs including Speen Street Natick or Framingham Center-Framingham State University would be heavily utilized. Especially if there is direct access to the Pike and parking. Probably one or the other, not both spurs.
The West Springfield thing is about a low-clearance bridge MassDOT needs to fix so the intermodal yard out there has direct highway access instead of the trucks needing to barrel through residential neighborhoods. Way, way back when they were negotiating the Worcester Yard deal that fix got funded for prelim design. Now it just needs construction funds. They'll roll that up into a Memorandum of Understanding with CSX guaranteeing passenger slots and upgrade permissions on the Inland Route that the state and Amtrak can execute at-will if that passenger project advances (incl. if the Inlands get delayed to another decade). No way would they shoehorn abandoned ROW's from another county into a deal that's square about Springfield-area rail improvements and already has a framework in place for agreement. Doesn't fit the scope of the Western MA-leaning political coalition that's been toiling behind the scenes for the Inlands, and arguably could bloat the price of the abandoned ROW's to lump them in with something truly valuable.
If anything they need to take advantage of CSX vacating the Milford Branch for G&U and lump these abandoned pickups in with that formality. Milford's been leased to the T since 1988 when they built the Forge Park commuter rail extension, and that 28-year-old Conrail deal has a preexisting sale provision the state can pick up at pre-arranged price that's indexed to inflation. No-haggle, and it's a pure transactional formality because CSX has no interest in paying property taxes and being a shortline's landlord on property they no longer use. That's
the time to clean up the Worcester County title deeds that are all spinning in space and holding up big-money trail projects, because there's nothing price-wise to negotiate with Milford and CSX is going to be the party antsy to dump it.
I certainly don't see a situation where time is going to make these 3 ROW's any less
-- When Bruce Freeman Phase II opens to West Concord CR station in 3+ years, the existing Acton-Billerica segment explodes in utilization from the connectivity and Phase III West Concord-South Sudbury goes into design. Price starts rising and rising on Framingham-South Sudbury with those milestones; that's the second-most hyped trail project in the whole state after the Somerville Community Path extension.
-- The footbridge over Route 30 and completion of the north/non-CSX end of the Saxonville trail past TJX to the Mall drives up the price a little bit more in Natick. As do any TIGER grants or matching state funding that gets scraped together for construction starts on the final-designed Natick CR station. If the town can't meet the price in this negotiating window, it's going to go up some more. The state ensures it will by programming those footbridge funds into the TIP.
-- Holliston's in Year 2 of having a contiguous trail. The rent agreement prevents CSX from jacking the lease above $300/month, but the more the people counts tick up on trail utilization the more hardened CSX is going to get in its asking price. This was
on the TIP for a full DCR landscaping job to make it consistent with the far better trail on the Milford end, so the state's long-term interest in investing here is known-known even though it got budget-deferred. How does leaving that hanging serve their future needs? The paved Milford end is going to dump enough people with time that they eventually need something more equivalent than that homeless-man's crushed stone surface with near-zero landscaping.
Put it this way: for the last 8 years these pickups have been spinning in space the trails--and their utilization--have all been future-tense and speculative. So the land value to CSX has been more or less static. Now there are major pieces of these projects moving into place adjacent to the CSX ownership that are goosing up utilization of the partially-complete trails in a big way. CSX is now going to see (if it hasn't already) some appreciation in value for these assets with real trail utilization being brought up to their doorstep. Whatever you may think of the economics of state involving itself in abandoned ROW purchases...those economics aren't going to get any better going forward. They get worse. While money is being spent on real projects that have giant holes in their routes because they waited so long the land valuation is going to start increasing. Taxpayers are going to be way more pissed that all the money was spent on that completed footbridge over Route 30 and its expensive switchback ramps that have nowhere to go to than they will care about the state caving to a perceived CSX ripoff. They get hit on both sides: rising land price for waiting too long, and devalued trails with money already spent. The longer they wait, the more it hurts them on both sides of the ledger and the crankier taxpayers get.
Yes...now would be a good time to put a bow on this. Even if it's a slight overpay. It's going to get worse for them the longer they wait, and there are not many upcoming CSX transactions left in Eastern MA beyond Milford where they can roll up these pickups into any sort of bulk discount to sidestep the trail-by-trail price inflation that's about to hit each individual line.