BandA wrote:Why don't they just aks the Army Corps to remove the electrification requirement? They could promise to run only Tier III or Tier IV, which they didn't own when the requirement was set. They could even swap the electrification requirement with other lines that are busier, or converting Needham to rabid-transit.
The EIS has to cover the project area, so project substitutions aren't allowable.
That said, both the electrification requirement and the mile-long swamp trestle restricting it to single-track should be challenged vigorously as they are an unprecedented overreach by the Army Corps. The Corps routinely plays politics to pick winners and losers out of projects, and these kinds of onerous requirements were booby-trapped to ensure that it was defective by design and unable to be built.
In this case, the bust-down to single track with the concrete swamp trestle instead of a plain old embankment with culverts was the one that broke the schedule to defectiveness by design, and the electrification requirement quickly followed for the thinnest possible veneer of truthiness that the schedule meets were achievable on single-track. The meets aren't reasonable...even after the branch schedules were busted down to uselessness. But electric vs. diesel shaved 1-2 paltry minutes off the places where the meets are to occur (even though end-to-end there is virtually no schedule difference between them). Thus, electrics gave cover to the FEIR's schedule "working" even though in the real world the ops-brokenness of it all would make South Coast the day-in/day-out most oft-delayed commuter train in the whole Northeast (or the whole country). The Corps wouldn't have cared about electrics at all had they not already run out of rope on the schedule due to that single-tracking decision. Electrics = "The Emperor is wearing a teeny-tiny see-through thong" answer to the alternative of wearing nothing at all.
Route 24 dumps more pollutants into the same exact swamp from runoff and diesel particulates in one week than a double-track diesel passenger mainline with zero freight running a non-broken daily schedule would contribute in an entire year. So does I-495, whose graded embankment actually constrains the water flow around the southern end of the swamp while the ROW does not. In reality the pollutant ratio is even lower
for double-track rail run at a non-broken schedule, because the swamp is at maximum distance between stations on perfectly flat tangent track. Those Tier III/IV engines would be sustaining full 79 MPH MAS through here in-and-out, with the engine fully accelerated and working at cruising notch by the time it crosses into the swamp. Those particulates aren't going to pile up in stagnant air like they do every time 24 is backed up well into Bridgewater by summer Cape traffic trying to get on 495 South. And that one-in-a-million chance that an HSP-46 blows an oil pan crossing through isn't going to dump the entire load in the swamp when stopping distance from 79 MPH takes the train out of harm's way by default (also: electrics leak oil and coolant too!!!).
As for that single-track trestle that destroys all mainline capacity, the state can challenge the veracity of that requirement with what they were allowed to do for the Greenbush Line build. Greenbush was covered by current federal landbanking law at maximum protection for rail reactivation only through MP 20 @ Cohasset station (East Braintree-Cohasset abandonment processed 1986). The final 7.5 miles to Greenbush was just like the Stoughton Line between Easton and Taunton: abandoned in the 60's, land ownership transacted to the state in the '73 Penn Central bankruptcy asset sale, slapped with a state-level 'proto'-landbanking designation to keep abutters out, but federally considered "all-new" upon reactivation and subject to the most stringent new-construction environmental regs.
The Army Corps had no problem greenlighting Greenbush to run on pre-existing double-track embankment in Scituate through several stretches of very environmentally sensitive tidal estuaries: Bound Brook + Gulf River (Cohasset Cove + Musquashcut Pond estuaries), Satuit Brook (Scituate Harbor estuaries), North River estuaries. Those areas are arguably a lot more sensitive than anything in the Stoughton ROW swamp because of the mission-critical function all that marshland plays for drainage of the South Shore's tide cycles, and indeed a lot more of the land Greenbush passes through is designated as protected conservation land on the map. Not only that, Scituate's estuaries had more incentive for protection from encroachment by new transportation corridors because of lack of any pre-existing state roads in the watershed. Route 3A (Cushing Hwy.) is the only state road within 2 miles of the shore, and its 2-lane Depression-era construction passed well west of most of Scituate's population density specifically so the Highway Dept. could carve out a new high-capacity trunkline that avoided the estuaries. Indeed the major demand for restoring commuter rail to Greenbush has a lot to do with the rail ROW being so much closer to the population density than 3A is, because that town-control street grid was incapable of funneling traffic effectively to a clogged 3A.
Yet...the Army Corps had no problem with running new-construction rail through the heart of Scituate's wetlands while it holds the less environmentally-sensitive Stoughton ROW to a higher standard because
of the sins of MA 24, I-495, and several clean-cut 200 ft. wide swaths of power line ROW's already carved through it.
We built Greenbush 10 years ago to the same EPA regs that the South Coast FEIR is following. None of the environmental considerations Cohasset-south contributed any blowout cost to the build because it was just re-use and upgrade of the same old 19th c. embankment the Old Colony built. The NIMBY bloat that made Greenbush a dirty word was all points north of Cohasset on the portion that was still seeing freight trains until 1984. Their claim that a mile-long single-track concrete trestle is necessary here...when the Stoughton ROW already has an embankment that only physically crosses one body of water (Black Brook)...is bunk. And their requirement that electrics run over it to hide the fact that they broke the schedule by single-tracking for a narrower trestle is quite literally fraudulent
, because that pathetic paper schedule in the FEIR can't be executed in the real world.
They can challenge the FEIR's findings as bunk, throw the book at them for trying to cover up systemic brokenness with the fraudulent electrification requirement, and strenuously argue to the feds for a re-review. It's a couple Administrations later from the original work that went in the FEIR; the Corps' empire-building politics aren't going to be the same today as they were in the late-00's. The electrification cover-up for the schedule slashback is so far beyond the pale that it should be easy to defeat. And they have plenty of factual evidence to challenge the trestle vs. embankment decision using Greenbush as their case history. Defeat the trestle + electrification and $1B or greater instantaneously vanishes from the price tag, while contiguous double-track goes back on the table. That at least rolls it back from an apocryphal $3B to a merely-bad $2B...with better farebox recovery from a schedule that can be done over double track @ system-average frequency for a branched mainline making all local stops instead of the FEIR's system-worst frequency for any CR schedule and skip-stops of 2-4 stations at a time. From that instant reduction to $2B you just put it through a GLX-like financial review meat grinder to leave no stone unturned. Try to shave another $300M+ in pure bloat and graft off the top without compromising any essential revenue features, and pound it down to "good enough" price tag around $1.7B that wears its sunk costs well enough to not stick in anyone's craw. There most definitely is >$300M in pure naked bloat to target on a project this horrifically mismanaged. One example: parking diets. The FEIR based its parking lot capacity on Providence Line-level parking utilization, a flawed metric far overkill for what all other CR lines on the system average.
It can be done. But someone in state gov't has to be willing to go to the mat for it. They don't. Nobody truly wants to build this...they just want to participate in the graft of forever saying
they're going to build it. If they actually wanted to build it, the brokenness of what the FEIR left them for a schedule would be a rallying cry to save the project just like umpteen judgment days GLX advocates had to triage...instead of something they just take at face value with a shrug then bury with more nonsense like this multiple-times disproven Middleboro Alternative. There is a political gameplan they can undertake to fix the Stoughton alignment and net something that's buildable in the real world. That they won't entertain any notion of pursuing all or part of that gameplan says all you need to know about their real commitment. The abstract IDEA
of a South Coast Rail commitment is the graft that keeps on giving, not the figuring out of how to follow through on the commitment.