Yes. Bad-old-days Guilford outright gave up all freight rights north of the Salem Jct. runaround...so Beverly, and the Rockport and Newburyport branches are in same boat as. . .
-- Needham Line (all)
-- Plymouth Line (all)
-- NEC from north of Hyde Park station (wherever the last customer used to be) to Back Bay/Worcester Line on the reconstructed portion of the SW Corridor
-- Greenbush east of the Fore River RR runaround in East Braintree (not sure if the division post reaches as far as the Weymouth Landing platform or not)
-- any abandoned lines (like the Stoughton-Taunton gap for SCR) that get restored
. . .in having no freight operator rights whatsoever. In the extremely unlikely event that there should there ever be a need for new freight on these lines, it goes out to an all-new competitive bid. If and only if the T puts the rights out to bid. If the NIMBY's are going to get cranky, they probably wouldn't do it. And if the customer isn't a must-have, they not only wouldn't do it but the freights probably wouldn't bother bidding. Whereas everywhere else on the system that has no active freight (Fitchburg Line inside of Willows, NEC from Canton Jct. to Mansfield, Old Colony from Southampton to Braintree, Reading Line from Wilmington Jct.-south) CSX and current-management PAR retain their trackage rights in perpetuity by company policy...whether they ever intend to use them or not. That was only bad-old-days Guilford that was throwing territory away left and right, even the trackage rights territory somebody else was maintaining for them.
Nowadays I believe when a one-off freight move like an electrical transformer has to get taken down one of these off-limits lines it takes a T escort and special permissions to stage it (didn't they do a transformer move on Plymouth several years ago?). At any rate, despite the backup link it would provide to Portsmouth Yard and Kittery + Newington Branch it's vanishingly unlikely PAR would ever re-bid for rights on a restored Eastern Route. The potential customers just don't exist and it's not the high, wide, and/or heavy clearance route the Western Route is being upgraded to be. That and I can't imagine local zoning in those bedroom communities is going to be all that kind to new industrial installations...industry period, not just industry with rail access.
deathtopumpkins wrote:I think the T might be a bit reluctant, given that north of Beverly the line is single track. Maybe once they build some of the north shore improvements they promised years ago (like another siding north of Ipswich) they'll be more receptive, but I think right now they'd rather not have freight potentially holding up trains up here (unless it rus at night or on the weekends when trains only run every 3 hours presumably).
North Shore Transit Improvements study called for adding passing sidings at Ipswich
to increase frequencies by +2 on the AM rush, +1 on the PM rush, and hourly off-peak service each direction. That was something they hoped would've been implemented long ago, but the T has done zilch with any of that 2004 study's recommendations except build the big honking Wonderland, Salem, and Beverly garages. All of the rail bridges up there are double-track width and all of the ROW on the Newburyport extension was re-graded for 2 tracks with the current single-track segments laid as non-centered track with open DT berth.
If/when service needed to increase an extra gear beyond just the North Shore study recs the whole route to Newburyport station can be DT'd. Hamilton-Wenham and Ipswich have available room for installation of opposite-side platforms, and Rowley was built so the platform-facing row of parking could be claimed to turn it into an island platform with ped grade crossings at each end (this is why the current platform is 25 ft. wide instead of 12 ft. like most side full-highs...that's center-island width). Of course, they would have to double-up Salem with a second side platform on a track turnout from the portal (I think--fingers-crossed--the station renovation still preserves space for a DT switch to a second platform) to increase capacity north of the station. And they'd have to zap some of the speed-restricting Chelsea grade crossings and probably upgrade the signal system to permit higher capacity on the branches. But the ROW is up-to-task for it so creeping infill of DT north of North Beverly is not only feasible but probably necessary in the short- and medium-term just on the current lines.
Obviously if Portsmouth goes on the table 100% of it to current Newburyport station goes double. Then north of there on the extension it's probably fully adequate to keep as single + passing sidings for the likely frequencies out to NH. But I suspect if/when that ever goes on the table most if not all of the current line will already be double. They planned well for it.
BostonUrbEx wrote:Good to see there's some margin for rail through the MA section. I certainly do realize though that it relies on NH not fouling up their ROW. Lets not forget about the "reversible one-way road" that some Hampton genius proposed for the ROW... yikes... At this point, though, I expect rail to Portsmouth before we even see rail to Manchester.
That was one...and only one...NH state legislature putting foot-in-mouth at PAR's announcement of abandonment of the Hampton Branch. The immediate reaction from the townsfolk was "OH GOD NO!
" They want absolutely nothing to do with more induced demand on Route 1. He walked that remark back in record time. If anything has to be feared cannibalizing that ROW, it's trail and only trail.
Seacoast is very much supportive of commuter rail. If enthusiasm alone were enough to push it there'd probably be a renewed study going now, with mutual T interest. Unfortunately NH's uniquely unruly Legislature doesn't share their enthusiasm, so they are permanently held hostage by Concord on that. In a sane world the NH Main is top priority over all else, but they can't even gets heads-out-of-rears for that one so Nashua
's splinter effort to get MBTA Lowell locals there may be the only commuter rail they see in the next 10 years (given that the T has Plan B layover site on the Haverhill side of the border to run with if it comes time to wash their hands of the Plaistow NIMBY's).
At the end of the day it's in NH's court. Portsmouth's such a juicy target that 5 miles in Massachusetts, a new bridge, and a Route 1-centric compensatory package for taking the trail is a no-brainer. It really isn't an onerous capital cost in Massachusetts. But they don't do anything without a total greenlight in NH. That's just not an advocacy MA can be in the driver's seat on; Salisbury and Seabrook are too small to push across the bridge for Salisbury's and Seabrook's sake.
The old scoping study from the late-90's did find the approach spans to the bridge in solid structural shape. Of course, that was before Newburyport removed 1 pier's worth of decking around the waterfront. If rehab is possible on the remaining approach structure that lowers the cost of the bridge considerably to just the structural rehab and a brand new draw span to replace the derelict swing. It's a pretty solidly-overbuilt hunk of steel compared to Beverly swing, Saugus draw, and the Haverhill Line's Merrimack crossing deathtrap.
Watchman318 wrote:The removal of the former bridge over Rt. 1 north of Salisbury Square kinda squashed that, for rail travel anyway. I suppose pedestrians and bicyclists could cross the road "at grade," but I think Rt. 1 was 40 MPH through there. I could be mistaken about that.
There's a couple of places where structurally unsound or extremely low-clearance bridges were removed. Embankments are still there at Route 1 in Salisbury. Definitely too steep for a trail head by the looks of it on Google Street View, but appears to have been a low-clearance bridge back in the day. I assume in a rail restoration scenario a new bridge goes in here, because the difference in grades between ROW and road is too big for a grade crossing. Look like it would be a relatively trivial production to do.
Believe there may be one recently removed or filled-in bridge in Hampton or Seabrook just a little bit south of the most recent PAR abandonment (Drakeside Rd. near the 101/1 interchange?) where it was extremely structurally unsafe. But I kind of doubt that area would get trailed. The swamp-crossing portion of the ROW between Seabrook Station and 101/1 carries the main feeder power lines from the nuke plant. Even with the rail bridges completely intact the state would probably have some hesitation bring a trail head south to Brimmer Lane. Homeland Security considerations and whatnot about those feeder lines. And if Salisbury doesn't cross Route 1 it's kind of pointless for Seabrook to try to do something between 286 and Railroad Ave. when the grade separation makes establishing a trail head so difficult. I think Hampton-north on the in-progress abandonment is the only place where ROW cannibalization is much of a concern in the 20+ years it'll take for the "put-the-fun-in-dysfunction" state gov't to get serious about funding commuter rail relief.