newpylong wrote:Probably not. Not much use for commuter rail there.
Newpylong, I live close to this line myself, I do know people would ride because of the horrible traffic on RT 2 & the pike. Also, CSX has 1 train that leaves Framingham 3 times a week. If the state wanted to spend a few billion dollars on track, crossing, & signal upgrades as well as new stations with parking lots, it could be done. Possible stations could be one in Leominster Center next to Hannaford's super market, next could be Pratt's Junction, after could be West Lancaster around Route 62, then maybe a dual level station in Clinton (if the state decides for MBTA service on the Pan Am branchline) then one in Berlin around the Flat Penny restaurant, then one in Marlborough, Northborough, Southborough and possibly one for FSU.
We're getting our lines all confused here...Pittsfield & North Adams, Fitchburg Secondary. Framingham Secondary was the one that was purchased here.
To your specific point, Northborough/I-290 commuter rail was studied by the Boston MPO in 2002: http://www.ctps.org/Drupal/archived_studies
" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;. Study is not available online, however.
I don't think Leominster would ever be a viable commuter rail line because the catchment area is way too close to the Fitchburg Line at North Leominster, where there's two MRTA bus routes a block away from the former downtown Leominster station going straight to N. Leominster. With the Fitchburg Line's much-improved speeds about to shrink the travel time next summer after the last of the Somerville-Waltham signal work is complete, and Wachusett layover coming online in 2016 increasing frequencies sharply, I just don't see how the extremely curvy Fitchburg Secondary out of Framingham is ever going to beat a newly infrastructure-refreshed Fitchburg Line. Even with the 2-seat transfer from a local bus. It's still an abstract improvement for long-suffering Fitchburg Line riders, but it's going to be real in the near-future.
Northborough/290 may be at the bottom of the commuter rail extension priority pile, but that one probably does have real bona fides (though would be nice to have the study to corroborate that). Framingham State U., Routes 9 and Mass Pike right at the huge office park with Bose / Staples / Cumberland Farms world HQ's, Downtown Southborough, Marlborough/I-495 at another big office park, downtown Northborough, and I-290 park-and-ride near all the shopping centers. A pick-'em of the best from those candidates would be a murder's row of interstate park-and-rides that could suck up enormous amounts of MetroWest traffic, TOD galore, a couple of nicely-situated downtown stops, and a big deal for commuter student transit equitability at a major state U campus. That's almost a spot-on mix/variety of of destinations to sustain a viable all-day ridership on a new commuter rail corridor. Like I said...it's got many higher-priority expansion projects ahead of it and thus I don't see this happening sooner than 25 years. But it's bona fide as a long-term prospect and I would not be surprised if MassDOT bought the Fitchburg Sec. as soon as CSX nudges them about selling the last of its non-yard real estate in eastern MA.
Past Northborough? That's more dubious. I think you could make a case for a much later Phase 2 with +2 stops in Berlin near Route 62 (catch some traffic out of Hudson that's been transit-isolated since the Central Mass went away), and downtown Clinton which has the walk-up density and would offer decent catchment from Lancaster, Boylston, and Sterling via Routes 62, 70, and 110. But that's it. Once the line crosses I-190 it's less than 7 miles to North Leominster and the travel time bus/driving + Fitchburg Line starts being more advantageous than all the curves to Framingham + Worcester Line to South Station. I think infilling the area with more MRTA buses to the Fitchburg Line is going to do a lot more good, and maybe in the deep future if they extend from Northborough to Clinton they can split the difference between Clinton and N. Leominster with the buses and give all the towns equitable access. Clinton also offers the disused junction with the Worcester Branch, so someday when Worcester has a much more robust reverse commute market the combo of Framingham-Clinton and Worcester-Clinton has some pingback viability for both Boston and Worcester. Deep
future, of course...let's not get carried away earmarking anything past Northborough before 2030.
But the two halves of the Fitchburg Sec. were not created equal. Framingham-Nortborough-Clinton has more future passenger fungibility, more freight traffic, and connections to other rail lines oriented to the 2 large cities. Clinton-Leominster and the railbanked (non-abandoned but hardware removed) section to Fitchburg duplicate too much of the catchment area of another commuter rail mainline past the point where the schedules are any longer competitive, has less freight and non-growing freight (plus an outright freight-hostile town in Leominster that would like nothing better than to see CSX go away forever), and little to no incentive freight or passenger for restoring the 4-mile thru connection to the Fitchburg Line. I'd honestly forget about the part past Clinton Jct. and just let it sink or swim on the existing freight traffic, which is stable at the 20-year levels and definitely not going anywhere or at slightest risk for abandonment.
Clinton-south is the part that's eventually going to be worth MassDOT's while to lock up as a long-term hold under public control if CSX's asking price is reasonable. Much like the Framingham-Walpole portion of the Framingham Sec., which has no foreseeable passenger potential, it would still be a valuable transportation asset for the public trust that more than pays off its purchase price in usefulness at the 50+ year level. Northeastern states never pass up an opportunity to add stable active lines to their portfolio of public ownerships because of that. The remaining CSX eastern MA lines--Framingham Sec. (purchase in progress), Milford Branch (very likely to be sold when CSX hands over freight control to G&U because they'll have no use for it costing them property tax), and the Fitchburg Sec. all qualify as ones generating enough steady revenue to amortize the purchase cost at a multi-decade level and have intrinsic multi-decade value as long-term passenger holds. These are much wiser purchases than binge-buying inactive or barely-active lines (like Maine's DOT seems addicted to doing) for more than 5 cents on the dollar.