• Grand Junction Branch (The North/South Side Connection)

  • Discussion relating to commuter rail, light rail, and subway operations of the MBTA.
Discussion relating to commuter rail, light rail, and subway operations of the MBTA.

Moderators: CRail, sery2831

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  by 3rdrail
There would most likely be a sizeable investment from MIT, if nothing else but to prevent bad press from a already fed up group of taxpayers. Keep in mind that as having tax-free status in this state, this kind of pay out would be negligeable for them considering, as well as worth it's weight in gold in protecting it's image (and cash reserves).
  by JCitron
The thought of passenger trains running via GJ is interesting. I happened to be looking at some old maps of the area since my mom's family came from there and I was looking at the property. I noticed that the area once hosted not just 1 track or 2, but up to seven in some places. Binney Street even had a substantial freight yard in its early days. Now if we think about it, we have now yet again another wasted piece of decent rail infrastructure that is yet again still under utilized.

Now my thinking for any kind of rail passenger service, we would want to implement upgrades of some kind for the track. Continuous welded rail is a given. If the line is to be upgraded to current standards, and track has to be replaced, why not do this. It's not like it's already 132lb rail anyway, or at least I don't think it is since I haven't been down there in ages in person. Rail crossings would have to be replaced or eliminated as a given to bring the line up to current standards. New fencing with bardbed wire top would be important to keep the line from becoming a short-cut, and to eliminate the current short-cuts along the way.

The same goes with track reconfiguration. This is again a given since a connection would need to be built to connect to the Fitchburg line, or bring the line into one of the many currently abandoned lines in the NS yards. The Beacon Park area would need some work too as mentioned, Soldier's Field Road grassway could easily be used for this.

The ride may only be 20-30 mph along the length. So what... It's still a continuous 30 mph starting from Beacon Park or thereabouts and running to North Station yards. This is unlike stopping, getting off the train, walking to a T station, and then waiting for another vehicle running along. The continuous ride is somewhat faster because there is no lag time with the stopping and starting.

  by jonnhrr
I think running some Worcester line trains via the Pan Am Worcester Main makes more sense than using the GJ. For one thing you would get service to the Clinton area, a good sized town that has basically zero public transit. Yes the Pan Am track would need major work. The Fitchburg line already has major upgrades planned such as adding double track in some single track sections plus signaling that should increase its capacity.

  by jaymac
Not that I wouldn't like to see passenger service restored to the PAR Worcester Line, but with 28 miles from Worcester (can't bring myself to type "WUS") to Ayer and then another 36 to Causeway Street, that gives away 20 miles of time and distance to Boston compared to The Route Formerly Known as CSX.
PAR and CSX would probably be truly appreciative if the Commonwealth threw them a passenger-capable upgrade between Worcester and Ayer, but what are the demographics and thus politics that would support such an expenditure? CSX has been done some serious favors already by the Commonwealth, and PAR/PAS continues to benefit from T largesse.
A fraction of that money would buy a more than substantial amount of shuttle-bus service between Ayer and Worcester, assuming research indicates a warrantable customer base.
  by TCRT612
There is currently track maintenance being performed on the Grand Junction Branch, which looks to my untrained eye to be at least tie replacement. Is this simply because the MBTA recently bought the line or is this the beginning of improvements for eventual passenger service?
  by 130MM
TCRT612 wrote:Is this simply because the MBTA recently bought the line or is this the beginning of improvements for eventual passenger service?
It is the former. But, of course, any maintenance is an improvement on the existing conditions; which brings the track closer to the condition needed for revenue passenger service.

  by StefanW
TCRT612 wrote:There is currently track maintenance being performed on the Grand Junction Branch, which looks to my untrained eye to be at least tie replacement.
Where was this working taking place? Is it still going on?
  by e-m00
I was out there yesterday, and there were some ties stacked up by a couple of the grade crossings in Cambridge. It didn't look like anything had been done in a while, though.
  by crash575
A MBCR MOW crew is working on this now. They're currently between Mass Ave and Main Street in Cambridge. It's impressive.
  by octr202
they've been working all week - appears to be day shift hours (7ish am to 3ish pm). So far most of the work appears to have been concentrated south of Mass Ave., until today.
  by Finch
Apparently they laid some new ballast (not yet spread or tamped) north of Broadway today. Saw it walking home this evening.
  by trainhq
It would appear that if they are not putting in ballast mats now while redoing the track, that they will not be running the trains any faster than 30 mph. If they did, they would have to put the mats in to mitigate vibration at the various houses along the route. The CWR and new track will bring vibration levels from existing trains down some; however, once they increase speeds up above about 30, the vibration levels will be greater than existing, so that would appear to be the likely upper limit. This would be consistent with train speeds on the other branches heading into and out of North Station.
  by tober
It would be remarkable if speed limits on the GJ are raised even to 30mph (never mind faster) within the next few decades. The condition of the RoW is not the only obstacle. My understanding is that today all or most of the GJ is "FRA exempt" which means no speed higher than restricted. I believe the FRA would have to approve any upgrade and there may be a public hearing process involved. Abutters would be likely to object. Beyond that, the GJ has numerous grade crossings that have lights but no gates (I think the most significant one that lacks gates is at Broadway in Cambridge - I can't remember whether Mass. Ave. has gates or not) and, beyond that, even those crossings that do have gates are probably mostly not in general engineered to permit safe passage faster than 10mph. I think it conceivable that the speed limit could be increased on the GJ west of Mass. Ave. without a tremendous amount of work but the part of the GJ that is in Somerville and in Cambridge East of Mass. Ave. is quite a mess and I don't think it's too likely that I'll see a speed limit increase there in my lifetime (I'm in my 30s).
  by Diverging Route
There are no gates on Mass. Ave. I often see the #1 bus straddle the track as it "stops" for the crossing :(

Here's another wrinkle. MIT built one of its buildings (Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department) over the track. My recollection is that there was a design that mitigated vibration through the building and its labs. But higher speeds might compromise the limits that were agreed upon.
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