SemperFidelis wrote:Aside from cost I'm sure there's a dozen reasons why the heavy rail can't be extended to the end of track even though doing so would eliminate the transfer, enhance service, and eliminate a set of older equipment (PCCs).
Has such an option ever been given any serious thought? Seems like an obvious solution...except for the massive costs associated with such an undertaking.
Several times dating way back to pre-MBTA. Milton always pitches a fit about losing its intermediate stops, since if you were to have it re-done as heavy rail Cedar Grove, Butler, Valley, Capen, and probably Central Ave. (if only because of the need to build up an incline out of Milton station to grade separate Central Ave. with a rail bridge) all go.
It's not that hard a sell job, as Milton's transit access and ridership are infinitely better with full-on Ashmont Branch headways to/from downtown hitting Lower Mills and the cluster of bus transfers at Milton/Central Ave. But in the absence of truly compelling forward momentum to get the conversion over with, they haven't seen quite enough value proposition in taking on the opposition to closing those intermediate stops. It's been light nudge, then back off.
Someday it'll have to happen. And it won't be ridiculously expensive by the going rate for transit builds...just too expensive for today's debt crisis. Most of the formerly weak bridges have had their decks repaired, eliminating the weight restrictions. If either of the Neponset River spans are still waiting their turn, churning through the bridge SGR list takes care of those before any rolling stock decisions need to be made. The power draw--shared by Red-Ashmont and the trolleys--is scheduled for upgrade necessitated by the arrival of the new Red Line cars. And DCR is completing the missing links in the Neponset River Greenway path alongside the tracks, which will preserve pedestrian accessibility from the small intermediate stops in the event they have to get consolidated for heavy rail.
Therefore, the bucket list of conversion upgrades is more or less:
-- Grade separate Central Ave. and Capen St. with 2-track rail overpasses.
-- Build an appropriately understated heavy rail prepayment station at Milton under the overpass, with egresses direct-connecting to the adjacent Greenway path and busway that can capture all the routes on that block and the Central Ave. block.
-- Modify Mattapan into a minimalist outdoor prepayment station. Stub island platform. Maybe just take the current small island platform, make that full-length, wrap the station entrance facade around the westerly/driveway end into a single-egress outdoor "lobby", and leave the longer side platform totally as-is as bus waiting area with fence separating it from tracks. Demolish the yard + shed, install a 3rd pocket layup track for OOS trains that need to sit clear of the platforms and wait for next deadhead slot to Codman.
-- Trench 3rd rail + signal cabling, re-do trackbed and rail hardware, security fencing. Do any above-and-beyond power draw upgrades not settled up beforehand (unlikely needed).
-- Modify Codman Yard leads into thru-running mainline track and a wye leg accessible from the Mattapan end. Demolish Ashmont trolley loop. Abandon/demolish the other intermediates.
Straightforward enough if temptation for overbuilt stations can be avoided. I just don't know if you'd rank conversion all that high on the "tying up loose ends" bucket list for outer neighborhood transit. Personally I'd put extending the Orange Line +1 stops to Roslindale as a much bigger value-for-money small/midsize job than Mattapan conversion. Can do that one as 2 OL tracks alongside a single Needham Line track, since ROW has room for triple. Enormous bus congestion relief down Washington St. from FH terminal, large native ridership, big help in shortening bus trip times in from West Roxbury to a rapid transit transfer, serves as manageable first down payment of the ultimate swallowing of the Needham Line into the rapid transit system before escalating NEC congestion squeezes it for slots.
Another generation of trolleys on Mattapan is no raw deal at all if it opens up a crack at some high-upside infilling like ^that^ as first order of business. Red-Mattapan will have its turn in the future project queue all the same.