tober wrote:Alas, no, there is no more direct connection between the north and south sides than the Grand Junction - which itself is modestly circuitous and, beyond that, as I understand it, is "FRA Exempt" trackage. This means, as I understand it, that trains on the Grand Junction must always proceed at restricted speed (able to stop within half the distance of vision and under no circumstance exceeding 20mph). There are numerous grade crossings in Cambridge, some of which have only lights and bells for protection, no gates.
Now it's got me wondering about the track alignments at each end of the Grand Junction, and its potential...
Say the MBTA won at PowerBall
for some millions of dollars it could spend on a north/south connection, to be able to run passenger service... and let's assume there was passenger demand for a through trip from - for instance - Rockport to Providence... The Grand Junction grade crossing gates & improvements, track upgrades, etc. would be far cheaper and easier than a tunnel below or near the Big Dig.
However, looking at the Grand Junction connections in Google Earth there's no wye at either end.
It looks like (right now) a south-side train coming north can only go out Newburyport/Rockport and Haverhill without reversing. However, with a bit of work, it looks like the storage track along Cobble Hill Road and the loop track northwest of BET could be re-habbed to get a south-side train out the Lowell line without reversing. (To directly go out Fitchburg line would be impossible without a wye, and that's prevented by the buildings between the tracks and Medford Street.)
The south end of the Grand Junction looks more interesting... There's a huge undeveloped block right on the south side of the river which makes me think there used to be a wye before the Mass Pike extension was build in the 1950s. (This space is right across Comm. Ave. from the old Cadillac dealer building. Does anyone know if a wye leg from Grand Junction to B&A used to exist there?)
So since the Pike goes parallel to the Worcester main line under Comm. Ave. at the same grade at that spot now (preventing a new wye track) - and since BU (I think) has plans for that property - that means that the wye is out. With no wye, a north-side train could only go out the Worcester line without a reverse move... unless...
What if the CSX Beacon Park loop that's right next to the Doubletree hotel and Houghton Chemical could be used to turn revenue trains on & off of the Grand Junction?! The loop is only about 1/2 mile from the end of the bridge, and would be (according to the ruler tool in Google Earth) about 1.5 miles total extra trip to turn a train. In terms of railroad passenger operations, isn't it better to travel an extra 1.5 miles around a loop instead of making a reverse move?
All this means we could actually have north/south through trips via the Grand Junction with no reverse moves
(except for the Fitchburg line) if we could:
1) get the Grand Junction track back up to spec
2) outfit the line with proper grade crossing protection (gates, center barriers, etc.)
3) use the CSX Beacon Park yard loop as a revenue service loop
4) bring the Cobble Hill Road track back as a loop connection (for north/south through service on the Lowell line only)
All that would most definitely be cheaper than a Big Dig tunnel route.
Oh, and what about the issue of bypassing both North and South Stations if such a plan like this were in place? No sweat... Through trains from the north side would stop at a new (again) Sullivan Square station (Haverhill and Newburyport/Rockport) or future Green Line Medford Branch station (Lowell line) before entering the Grand Junction. South side through trains heading north, before they headed for the Grand Junction, would service Boston customers at Back Bay, JFK/UMass and some new combined BU West & Commuter Rail station (that BU would pay for if they are taking that plot where a wye used to be
In general, wouldn't any
North/South passenger service connection - like these ideas - be better than no