• Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

  • 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

  • 503 posts
  • 1
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 34
  by F-line to Dudley via Park
 
MBTA F40PH-2C 1050 wrote:
dbperry wrote:
MBTA F40PH-2C 1050 wrote:15 mph is in place for the crossing circuits...CP22-Bishop St. (H.E. only). you are absolutely correct, not worth fixing. Quite frankly, I don't care how bad traffic gets screwed up in Framingham, with people constantly darting around the gates, crossing the tracks, ignoring the lights and what not, trespassing....it's my payback to them. No one has respect for the trains going through town, I don't have it for them sitting there and waiting.
I would really like to see the fence between tracks 1 & 2 extended all the way to Concord Street. Not incredibly dangerous, but where the fence ends now encourages trespassing and makes passengers think it is OK - feeds into the notion that trespassing isn't a big deal.
I absolutely agree with you on this on both points. where it ends is where that pedestrian x'ing is on the Station Trk lead, it encourages people to just cross to get onto Waverly St. side of the track, and to solve it, extend the fence all the way to Concord Street
This was all going to be fixed with the MassHighway project to grade separate Route 135 in a duck-under cut under Route 126, install surface-level frontage ramps for all turn lanes, and realign some adjacent intersections for better traffic flow. Had that happened the worst of the crossing hazards would've been removed by un-snarling that intersection and moving all traffic signals safely away from the 126 crossing on protected cycles. Along with that project they would've settled up all this smaller-scale stuff like ROW fencing, quadrant gates at Bishop & 126 for maximum-level protection, and all the signal timing and advanced warning bells and whistles. Unfortunately because of stingy MassHighway budgets that project keeps missing the cut on the 4-year Transportation Improvement Plan list of projects with formal go-ahead, so it remains a stalled unfunded mandate. That explains some of the T's reluctance to do the minor fencing work and crossing gate/signal prioritization touches. If the 135 grade separation finally does graduate onto the TIP at long last those sunk-coast RR improvements previously enacted would've found themselves disrupted by a multi-year road construction zone that probably spills its staging activities temporarily onto the ROW property...requiring portions of that fencing to be taken down and replaced, and any new crossing gates needing to be temp-shifted around on new bases while they work at the nerve center of the intersection.

As long as that badly-needed road project is still spinning its wheels as an unfunded project number on the MassHighway website, the T doesn't have a lot to gain by taking the initiative. They might as well just keep the speed restriction for now to keep their butts covered , and increduously point at MassHighway and say "See! This is your baby" every time a new fender bender or instance of driver stupidity mucks up the crossings.
  by jaymac
 
This project would -- apologies, Airplane! fans -- be Big Dig II: The Sequel, not just because of the complexities of rerouting 135 traffic during construction, not just because of the relocation of underground utilities, not just because of the orders-of-magnitude-greater traffic jams in downtown Framingham during the work, not just because of the predictable decimal-point-shifting cost overruns, not just because it won't really produce the results that people want, but also for one other familiar circumstance linked to the original Big Dig: saturated ground. Get on your choice of satellite views of downtown Framingham and see all the water south and north of 135 and west of 126. Yes, sheet pilings can be driven to reduce infiltration, but think how much you'd enjoy being around that if you lived and/or worked within a half-mile of that spot. The same would apply to slurry walls.
The MBTA and MassHighway are both creations and creatures of politics, especially under the umbrella of MassDOT, and will do all they separately and in concert can to avoid the prospect of unhappy constituents calling soon-to-be unhappy representatives and senators about the war zone that downtown Framingham -- and by extension Natick and Ashland -- would surely become.
Will there be further studies and proposals? I'll bet there will be. Studies and proposals prolong to the point of prohibition any actual action.

Pedestrian control systems can be put in place at far less cost than burying 135.
  by F-line to Dudley via Park
 
http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/highway/ProjectInfo.aspx" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

According to MassDOT's own numbers, it's a cumulative $110M price tag for the downtown Framingham perma-fix. Including all of the auxiliary street touches away from the actual grade separation. 2010 was the last time any study work was done on it; it's just been collecting dust as an 'active' project with no money and thus no further action. At the time they were bullish on federal stimulus being able to pick up a portion of the price tag, but that was before Congress constrained the scope of the stimulus. Impossible to speculate how such old assumptions would hold up today. It definitely wasn't a marginal project by any stretch; MassDOT had it pegged as a high-priority and the town was banking its downtown master plan on being able to seal the deal with a Really Big Fix™ here. Their thinking re: the need hasn't changed in that span, but that's only contributed to their unwillingness to change the project status to anything other than 'active'. Nobody can enact more sensible improvements as long as DOT and town keep persisting with the fantasy that a $110M commitment can go on the board with one 'CTRL-INS' keypress on a TIP budgeting spreadsheet. It saddles any other proposed improvements with extra hoops to jump through stating their cases as to why they're 'interim' (*wink-wink*) steps en route to the $110M spending spree, or how they're going to accommodate themselves for the future $110M spending spree.

The spending spree's never going to happen...but as long as they keep paper-believing it's not completely dead, nothing else functionally happens either. And in this case, MassHighway and Town of Framingham would rather keep alive their belief in the mythical ghost in the machine rather than untie anyone's hands to do something sensible and productive about those crossings.
  by BandA
 
So is it easier to get federal money for a highway project or a rail project? The "preferred alternative" has little to do with the railroad. If the highway project is going to start ten years or more away, they should go ahead with any priority RR safety improvements. Is this a safety priority given the slow speeds at this crossing? From what I've read in these forums this line needs a complete rip-out and replace of the signal system to improve speeds, allow new interlocks and PTC. At that time you make the gates "smart" to minimize closing time based on train speed, and replace the switch with one that is faster than 15mph. I'm guessing the "smart" gate fix gets you the most benefits for the least costs. As long as the cables stay out of the future construction area of the "active" highway project there is little redundancy.
  by dbperry
 
Framingham-Worcester is getting a ton of money where it will have a big bang in operational improvements. The rail destressing project will have the most immediate impact to daily commuters through the elimination of heat restrictions. So shaving a few seconds or at most a few minutes off the overall Worcester to Boston transit time by doing something in downtown Framingham is not something I'm worrying about.

We're talking about a lot of different topics here:

1) My off-hand remark about extending the between-track fence to force pedestrians to use a legal grade crossing or the bridge. I seriously doubt this is on anyone's radar for funding or executing. There are long sightlines in both directions and most trains are moving very slow at this location. In addition, there would be a lot of negative feedback from the hundreds of commuters who cut across the tracks at that location. I'm NOT saying the fence isn't needed or isn't a good idea. I'm just not sure it's a big enough problem to need fixing. There are probably a lot of other locations where between-track fencing would improve safety at higher speed locations. But maybe "1050" and I will go down there one night and just string up some concertina wire. One post near Concord Street and one reel of wire. We could be in and out in 30 minutes.

2) The reconfiguration of vehicular traffic flow in downtown Framingham (depress Route 126 or 135). In my opinion, this really has nothing to do with the trains, and I don't believe that the potential future prospect of this project has delayed the MBTA from doing the minor projects for the rail traffic in the area. I think that the big driver delaying any changes to any signal systems in this area is the PTC project. That will involve touching everything signal related, so that is a larger reason to delay anything now. But even then, I'm not sure there is really a delay to doing signal changes, because...

3) The reconfiguration of the signal system at the interlocking controlled points and the Concord Street or Bishop Street grade crossings to improve rail traffic flow. In my opinion, these are solutions in search of a problem.
a) Upgrade the Bishop Street grade crossing to get rid of the inbound / eastbound 15 mph speed restriction. I think the maximum track speed there is only 30 mph anyway, so the benefit is negligible. Except for the bullet train, every other train is accelerating out of their station stop at Framingham, so getting up to 30 mph is even a smaller incremental benefit. Again, yes, this should get done, but no reason to fast track this work. Plenty of other places to spend this money rather than saving 40 seconds for the bullet train.
b) Change the way the Concord Street grade crossing works (i.e. with the DTMF tones). As we've learned, this system works fine. Dispatchers should NOT be 'knocking down' the CP 21 signal for eastbound trains making a station stop at Framingham, since that extends the time that the crossing gates block vehicle traffic on Concord Street (as "1050" explained). But that's a procedural fix - not one that requires smarter gate systems. I'm not an expert on smart grade crossings, but with a smarter system and a clear signal at CP 21 (eastbound), I don't think there is enough distance between the head end of a stopping train at the Framingham platform and the grade crossing for the smart system to NOT pull down the gates (so maybe the system is as smart as it can be, and "1050's" experience trying NOT to knock down the gates proves this). Even if it could be made to work, a smart system pulling down the gates when a train departs a Framingham station stop is functionally no different than the DTMF tone system. Finally, as "1050" noted, having a clear at CP 21 effectively only saves a very minor amount of time from QB 24.2 to Nevins Yard (difference of 60 mph vs. 45 mph).

4) Increasing the speed through the switches at CP 21. With almost all trains stopped or stopping at Framingham, this has negligible benefit. The inbound bullet train stays on track 2 through this interlocking and the outbound bullet should be staying on track 1 through this interlocking, so again, a solution in search of a problem.

Everything I've said (regarding prioritization and importance) goes right out the window if the inland route ever happens and Amtrak has trains needing higher track speeds through Framingham. But then federal money should be available to improve track speeds from Springfield to Boston, so the whole discussion would presumably change.
  by Rockingham Racer
 
I think it's safe to say that the traffic problem in Framingham--or anywhere else, for that matter--is not a railroad problem. It's a town problem, and the town--not the railroad--needs to find a way to fix it.
  by F-line to Dudley via Park
 
Yes...this is definitely not a RR problem, and entirely a road traffic problem. No train schedule times or schedule densities get adversely impacted by a short slow zone on the easterly station approach to the second highest-ridership stop on the line and 10th highest on the whole system. It's already such a critical load-bearing stop it's pre-padded on the schedule for higher platform dwell times at peak load and more-variable/unpredictable platform dwells from train to train...basic timekeeping S.O.P. for any of those top-tier monster ridership intermediates on the system. You'd have the same allowances built in if it were grade separated; stops like Mansfield and Walpole follow that same dwell-padding S.O.P. That dwell-padding for the platform happens to pretty neatly absorb the uncertainty around any additional delays through the crossings, leaving the relative inefficiency of the crossings completely neutral to the train schedule. It would be a different story altogether if you were to swap Framingham's ridership with Auburndale's. Then the ridership is small enough that the padding for variable platform dwells isn't needed at all, leaving the padding for the crossings as (modest) empty-calorie waste.

If you've got an un-eliminable crossing cluster with speed restrictions, it's actually best for train ops for it to be directly abutting a major anchor station like this which by-default is going to get extra schedule fudge factor for loading/unloading. It's almost more 'feature' than 'bug' for the RR. For that reason I don't see Amtrak Inlands having a problem here either; Framingham's always been featured on any AMTK schedule trawling BOS-SPR. Unfortunately those top-tier passenger loads make an even bigger mess out of street traffic, but that's for the asphalt planning agencies to address. If you tally up the system's most problematic grade crossings most in need of elimination for purely RR-ops purposes, Framingham--despite its overall notoriety--ranks pretty low as a schedule drag, and pretty low as a safety concern because of trains always moving slow on a station approach. The West Medford speed restriction is a much bigger drag for the Downeaster and Anderson-Haverhill expresses. The speed restrictions across the 6 Chelsea grade crossings are a frustrating anvil on Eastern Route schedules, with Eastern Ave. particularly bad as a maximal safety risk for loss-of-life collisions with high-speed traffic. The Ashland pair rates much higher than Framingham as a Worcester Line elimination priority if the full-blown Alternative for the Inlands build pursues Class 5 speed uprates inside of MBTA territory, making the likely new/extended slow zone around those crossings drop quantifiable schedule penalty on the much-increased Amtrak and Worcester Express schedules.

The most motivation the RR has for fixing up Framingham are small-scale tweaks to the track signaling and covering-one's-butt on slow-speed collision liability with better fencing, quadrant gates and better obstruction detection, and gating the Framingham Secondary crossings on 135 and Blandin Ave. now that MassDOT owns that branch. That's it for the choo-choo bucket list. They're spectators to what the asphalt parties do otherwise, with engagement only needed for the parts of the asphalt improvements that touch or temporarily disrupt their infrastructure and ops.


Unfortunately, sensible improvements and minor touches aren't as easy as they should be for the T to self-initiate. MassHighway, the MBTA, and Framingham DPW don't exist in 3 wholly separate parallel universes here. Each party's interests require some degree of indirect participation from the other where their worlds physically intersect, and the two state agencies in question are both subject to the top-down priorities pushed by their MassDOT overlords. So when the two asphalt-related dance partners can't agree on a single detail about what to do, when to do it, how to fund it, how far in scope they'll go...it imposes mind-numbing extra bureaucratic overhead on the T to self-plan any touches on this stretch. Hence, the cheap and low-priority stuff they can knock out in a few days with spare change from general funds--like ROW fencing or crossing equipment--become not worth the trouble. That doesn't change until MassHighway and Town of Framingham make an actual decision to pick up "a"/"any" proposal on its pile of project possibilities, or slash back the list of Alternatives still under any consideration to only the ones that have real-world feasibility of getting enacted. Instead of just staring catatonic for another 8 years at their filled-up dartboard of proposals, unwilling to fish or cut bait on any of them.
  by diburning
 
Looks like there's already a section of platform installed at Boston Landing. I'll try to take a pic this afternoon on my commute home.

EDIT - I'm on the wrong side of the train. Not sure if the passenger across from me will get off before I do, but if she does, I'll pop over for a pic.
  by csor2010
 
diburning wrote:Looks like there's already a section of platform installed at Boston Landing. I'll try to take a pic this afternoon on my commute home.

EDIT - I'm on the wrong side of the train. Not sure if the passenger across from me will get off before I do, but if she does, I'll pop over for a pic.
Not sure about platform segments, but the steel for the pedestrian bridge at the west end of the platform has been going up for the past couple days.
  by diburning
 
That might explain why that segment of platform is already installed. Here are the pics!

http://hostthenpost.org/uploads/11beb65 ... f324c0.jpg" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
http://hostthenpost.org/uploads/edf836c ... 778fc9.jpg" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
http://hostthenpost.org/uploads/71059b6 ... 90cd34.jpg" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
  by harshaw
 
Dear rail fans / experts,

Why can't we have a cross-over between Weston and Framingham? Perhaps that would ease the inenvitable "getting stuck behind late trains" issue.
  by dbperry
 
harshaw wrote:Dear rail fans / experts,

Why can't we have a cross-over between Weston and Framingham? Perhaps that would ease the inenvitable "getting stuck behind late trains" issue.
It's been on the wish list for years. Just like everything else, waiting for money. And the problem is that implementing it means redesigning / reconfiguring the signal (and control) system. Plopping in some switches is the easy part. Touching the ancient signal system is the big hassle.
  by Backshophoss
 
Some parts of the signal system date back to the NYC days even with the cab signal overlay done by Conrail
in the recent past.
Trying to add a switch,or a simple crossover opens a very large "can of worms" signal wise.
There were enough problems with the change over from CSX control at Selkirk.
The only and best cure is to update to a new signal system with cab signals and ACSES(PTC)
after the new stations and 2nd main track are built thru the Beacon Park yard remains
  by BandA
 
Earlier discussion stated that the New York Central installed the cheapest signal system in circa 1962 from 128 inwards when the Pike bought the row & reduced it to two tracks, and that system is supposedly very hard to modify even compared to systems of that era. They certainly continued to use the existing telegraph poles with individual wires, eventually patching in modern cables as needed. After the T bought the permanent easement from CSX, they polished all the signal boxes and signals with fresh aluminum paint, which tells me they expect the existing system to be used for a while, and cut down the telegraph poles and replaced the wiring (hopefully some sort of future-proofing). There is also supposedly a fiber-optic trunk along the Mass Pike or the railroad tracks, which was going to feed the failed "internet hotels" in Brighton and Natick - wonder if that is practical for railroad use?

As an aside, I was told that the track structure rebuild courtesy of the Turnpike Authority was quite an upgrade from what was there before. It's hard to believe when you look at what was built for the three Newton stations and the signal system. Probably the NYC and Penn Central got to skip track work on that section of track until the Conrail era!
  by Komarovsky
 
2018 is the T's Southside up and running estimate for PTC. This would probably be the earliest they could think about installing more badly needed crossovers. That and a nice class 4 speed bump would be a big game changer for the line.
  • 1
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 34