Common Rail Concept for New England

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Re: Common Rail Concept for New England

Postby Rockingham Racer » Sat May 13, 2017 2:11 pm

I think putting back the second track is a between Auburn and Palmer is a foregone conclusion. I wish MassDot would talk to CSX and get on with it. And while they're at it, triple it up east to Worcester. This used to a four-track main line, wasn't it?
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Re: Common Rail Concept for New England

Postby b&m 1566 » Sat May 13, 2017 5:53 pm

Four track mainline closer to Boston but out towards Worcester, I don't believe so.
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Re: Common Rail Concept for New England

Postby Dick H » Sat May 13, 2017 8:33 pm

CSX is in a state of "flux" right now to say the least with EHH the new Sheriff in town.
Whether they would make any long term and permanent agreement during this timeframe
remains to be seen.
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Re: Common Rail Concept for New England

Postby ExCon90 » Mon May 15, 2017 2:31 pm

b&m 1566 wrote:Four track mainline closer to Boston but out towards Worcester, I don't believe so.

I think the four tracks stopped at Riverside, where the two southernmost tracks headed south and then east to become the Highland Branch, but I don't know for sure--it's been a long time.
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Re: Common Rail Concept for New England

Postby Ridgefielder » Tue May 16, 2017 1:43 pm

ExCon90 wrote:
b&m 1566 wrote:Four track mainline closer to Boston but out towards Worcester, I don't believe so.

I think the four tracks stopped at Riverside, where the two southernmost tracks headed south and then east to become the Highland Branch, but I don't know for sure--it's been a long time.

Line was 4 tracks all the way to Back Bay until the early 1960's, when part of the ROW was taken for construction of the Boston extension of the Mass Pike.
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Re: Common Rail Concept for New England

Postby ExCon90 » Tue May 16, 2017 2:47 pm

I meant westbound from Back Bay to Riverside, where the two southernmost tracks turned south to become the Highland Branch. Were there ever more than two tracks west of Riverside?
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Re: Common Rail Concept for New England

Postby The EGE » Tue May 16, 2017 8:47 pm

Yes - quad tracks reached out to Framingham from 1907 until the Pike Extension was built. You can see this in the extremely wide bridge over the Route 128 ramps, (the Route 128 bridge is newer vintage), extra bridge decks (and again here), the wide cut at Natick Center, and so on.
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Re: Common Rail Concept for New England

Postby b&m 1566 » Wed May 17, 2017 2:20 pm

Let me take a crack at this. I’ll start with the north side commuter rail for now, working east to west. Tackling freight and intercity will come later.

Extending the Newburyport Line to Portsmouth/Kittery:
Salisbury, MA – 2 locations
1. North of the old Amesbury Branch Junction and south of Rte. 1 – there seems to be a chunk of land big enough for a parking lot plus station
2. just south of the state line, which would have better access from 95 than the first option. With this station location, it could also double as the station for Seabrook. Which would eliminate Salisbury and Seabrook only stations.
Seabrook, NH – zero to 1 location
1. Rte 107 there’s a large chunk of land opposite of the power plant. Property is all owned by the power plant, not sure they would allow a station without security upgrades to separate the plant and station. Great access to and from 95 however a State Line Station, seems more likely given the power plant. With some road upgrades the state line location could have great access to and from 95.
Hampton, NH – 3 locations
1. Ideally, one should be close to 101 as possible, that leaves the track of land north and south of Foss Manufacturing both of which are very small and a logistical night mare for access road.
2. West of rte. 1 just before the line crosses under Rte. 1
3. North of the Hampton Airfield by rte. 111 – it’s the furthest from highway access but has ample room on both sides of 111.
Portsmouth, NH – one and a half locations
1. I think the best location for a computer rail stop in Portsmouth would be near Rte. 33 – it has great access to the highways for both 95 and 16. With a shuttle service for people wishing to access downtown, it’s the most ideal spot for a station
2. Non-used section of the Portsmouth rail yard, land is small and offers no room for parking but would better serve downtown. This would be better served as a layover location rather than having trains dead head to and from Newburyport.
Kittery, ME – one location
1. It would require the state of Maine to construct an over pass for 95 but you could place a station with amble parking on the west side of I95.

Extending the Haverhill Line to Plaistow/Newton
Plaistow, NH – one location
1. North of the State line and south of Walmart. This is about the only location in Plaistow that can fit a station and parking lot.
Newton, NH – one location
1. East of W. Main St near Continental Biomass Industries, with and access road of Whitter St. It’s a stretch to extend commuter rail operations beyond Plaistow but putting a station in this town would give commuters and option to avoid 125 and the traffic nightmare it can be.

Reopen the Manchester and Lawrence Branch to Exit 5 in Londonderry: This line would be separate with no Lawrence stop.
Methuen, MA – one location
1. North of 213 on the same plot of land that is the MSPCA. Amble room for parking lot and station
Salem, NH – one location
1. Former site of the Rockingham Race Track, amble room for parking and station, great access to I93. (step out of concept mode for a minute, I’m not sure if the new development currently underway will be leaving room for a future train station and parking.)
Derry/Londonderry – Exit 5
1. There is no area in Derry to build a modern-day station with room for parking. The only location would be in Londonderry on the dry patch of land just north of Rte. 28 and south of Independence Dr. Access to the station could come from Independence Dr. itself but a southern access road would be needed to better serve folks coming from Derry.

To be continued...
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Re: Common Rail Concept for New England

Postby deathtopumpkins » Wed May 17, 2017 2:48 pm

b&m 1566, no sense reinventing the wheel. The Eastern still has several intact stations which are in ideal locations for reuse.

Here's what I'd propose:
Salisbury station at the MA 110 crossing. 95 access via 110 (or Toll Rd Ext to US 1), also convenient for Salisbury Beach. Parking can be provided with some land taking.
Seabrook station at either the NH 286 crossing or Seabrook Commons/the power plant. 95 access via NH 107 or MA 286. Both sites have plenty of room for parking.
Hampton station at Depot Square (US 1 at NH 27). 95 access via 101/27 or 101/1. Parking can be provided opposite tracks from station.
North Hampton station at NH 111 crossing (historic station building intact). Limited parking can be provided (minor station anyway), more would require wetlands impacts.
Portsmouth station between Maplewood Ave and Market St crossings. 95 access via Market St. Site plenty large enough for a parking structure, which would also accommodate the displaced Sheraton parking.

I'm not sure it would actually be worth it to cross into Kittery.

--

I don't tend to share it much because it often leads to disagreement over which rail lines were chosen (i.e. "But you didn't resurrect my favorite long-dead branch line!"), but for years now I've slowly been working on visualizing the North American rail system with the demographics of today but without the mass modal shift away from rail and the resulting service cuts and line abandonments of the last 70 years. Some aspects of it are still a work-in-progress, but if anyone's interested, they can view a spider map of the entire east coast here.
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Re: Common Rail Concept for New England

Postby ExCon90 » Wed May 17, 2017 2:50 pm

EGE, thanks for the information; I've sometimes wondered how far west the quad track extended.
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Re: Common Rail Concept for New England

Postby b&m 1566 » Wed May 17, 2017 3:16 pm

deathtopumpkins, I was trying to use open land for Salisbury. In Seabrook,107 can work but you have security measures to deal with at the power plant. By combining Salisbury and Seabrook near the state line you would also cut down travel time. North Hampton is more likely a useless stop if Hampton has a station and would tack on longer travel time. The small plot of land in Portsmouth, with is odd shape, would make it tight for a parking a garage to be built along with a station platform, but I suppose its possible. The problem you would run into is non train riders filling up the parking garage. Portsmouth is hurting for parking spaces, a system would have to be developed that would allow only train riders to park in the garage along with hotel guest.
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Re: Common Rail Concept for New England

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Wed May 17, 2017 10:18 pm

Supposedly the new replacement lift bridge for the Sarah Mildred Long can drop its combo road/rail deck to the rail level fast enough to be suitable for a commuter rail schedule, but I agree...no real need for it. And jurisdictionally waaaay too messy because both New Hampshire and Maine would have to sign onto a Rhode Island-clone Pilgrim Agreement with the MBTA. The Kittery poke just isn't worth all those tri-state bureaucratic moving parts when you can run a bus from the Naval Base to the Portsmouth CR stop, open it to the public outside of the base, and nail down the same access a lot more simply.

----------------

Really don't think the M&L works at all as an MBTA-district service. *Maybe* if NHDOT did the whole thing to Manchester it would serve some useful purpose to them worth running semi-express through the T district, but there are a lot of things working against it as a border poke intent on siphoning some cars off I-93 before the state line.

-- Lowell Jct.-Lawrence track congestion. We'll be at 6 Downeaster round trips soon enough, double-stack Ayer-Portland freights soon enough, and badly-needed backfill of Haverhill Line frequencies whenever the T finds a more spacious replacement for Bradford layover. Even with the newly gained double-track that's enough of a surge to crowd out introducing any new branch service with good enough frequencies to truly catch on. There's 15 round-trips (15 IB + 15 OB = 30 total train movements) past Reading to Haverhill, which is pretty pedestrian for the Purple Line. Can you find slots for another 15 round-trips on the M&L through all that Lowell Jct.-Lawrence congestion and increase Haverhill frequencies to something more league-average like 20 daily round-trips? That really isn't a big ask for acceptable service levels...but are there 30-40 new slots to be had on that unexpandable double-track??? I seriously doubt it, so the only way this works is if the branch gets starved to near-useless off-peak frequencies like the Old Colony branches have to put up with their 12 RT's per day...and Haverhill stays flat pretty much forever. Tough to find a winner in two shotgunned schedule disappointments.

-- Missing Lawrence is fatal. That might be doable if you did a South Lawrence station at I-495 to anchor the other end of downtown buses (would also serve as a nearby replacement for former Shawsheen station), as many of the same routes would be tapped. But that's still a gaping hole when it comes to tapping the network effects of the MVTA transit district. You simply won't get the ridership to underwrite that schedule by skipping over the hub of the local RTA's bus district.

-- The Route 213 P&R is overrated because of lack of surrounding developable TOD land near the bird sanctuary. Already starting with weaknesses of less-than-awesome schedules and bus hub connectivity, so there needs to be a stronger business case than just a bare lot. A Haverhill Line infill stop at Ward Hill/I-495 is exactly 1 exit up from the other end of MA 213 in the middle of a big industrial park with employment centers and lots of additional TOD expansion. More ridership @ WH on a mainline schedule for only 4 extra miles down a relatively uncongested bypass highway, while serving nearly all of the same I-93 diversion needs as the TOD-less parking lot on the M&L's 213 stop.

-- Methuen did study commuter rail at the town level within the last 10 years. Their conclusion was that the historic downtown station was a good long-term prospect, but that the town was handicapped by very poor sidewalk and bicycle coverage limiting the walkup catchment unless they did serious long-term work deploying a Complete Streets strategy. So unfortunately the stop with the likely highest all-day ridership isn't quite plug-and-play because of all the other work they have to do to expand their downtown accessibility and general transit catchment. Given that the Methuen stop is only 3 miles from Lawrence station substantially more frequent and extensive MVTA service is probably the greater need with the most widespread benefits, especially if that were the vector used to seed their sidewalk buildout west and east of downtown where it's currently sorely lacking.


Agree that Rockingham Park is an excellent parking sink, but I'm not sure given the above caveats where the branch looks a little "soft" on fundamentals that the racetrack's weekday parking capacity is truly going to float the farebox recovery. Especially if that schedule has a heavy frequency dropoff between peak and non-peak so freights can get their slots between Andover and Lawrence while off-peak mainline Haverhill service to slightly larger total population areas isn't allowed to drop too-too far off a cliff. Greater good may simply be stiffening all-day Haverhill frequencies via a new layover and more schedule-shortening backfill via the NH Main & Wilmington, adding the South Lawrence and Ward Hill infills commensurate with the increased all-day frequencies, then working the network effects through some beneficial investment in MVTA bus frequencies.
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Re: Common Rail Concept for New England

Postby deathtopumpkins » Thu May 18, 2017 8:06 am

b&m 1566 wrote: In Seabrook,107 can work but you have security measures to deal with at the power plant.

My suggested site (beyond Seabrook Commons) wouldn't require dealing with the power plant at all. Site the station in line with the road extending from the end of 107 at 1, and you'd have plenty of room for a station and some parking well before hitting the security perimeter around the plant.

By combining Salisbury and Seabrook near the state line you would also cut down travel time.


Yes, but you have to balance travel time with actually providing service where it would be useful. Every commuter rail line would be faster if it skipped more stops, but it wouldn't help ridership. The goal should be to balance big parking sinks with walkable, town center stations. It doesn't make sense to me to skip over Salisbury center when the line passes right through it, and there's walk-up potential (plus it's a good bike/shuttle/pick-up/drop-off connection to Salisbury Beach, and a straight shot on 110 & Elm St to Amesbury). A Seabrook station at 107 and a Salisbury Station at 110 would be +/- 3.5 miles apart. That's a longer gap than the majority of CR stations.

It's worth noting though that I did actually suggest a station near the state line - at the 286 crossing. I just think it would be a suitable replacement for a station at 107, rather than a replacement for both Salisbury and Seabrook.

North Hampton is more likely a useless stop if Hampton has a station and would tack on longer travel time.


Lightly used, perhaps. But still, more than 2 miles north of the Hampton station, and it was previously a station. It would be a good location for residents of North Hampton and Rye that don't want to drive in to Hampton. That stretch of route 1 is awful in the summer. Plus, going straight from Hampton to Portsmouth would yield a gap of over 10 miles. A decent number of people live in that 10 mile gap.

Make it a flag stop, or have some trains skip it, but it's worthy of service. I feel like a good comparison of it would be Rowley.

The small plot of land in Portsmouth, with is odd shape, would make it tight for a parking a garage to be built along with a station platform, but I suppose its possible. The problem you would run into is non train riders filling up the parking garage. Portsmouth is hurting for parking spaces, a system would have to be developed that would allow only train riders to park in the garage along with hotel guest.


That lot is plenty large enough for a garage. It's almost the same size as the municipal garage on Hanover St (62,000 SF vs 75,000 SF). For comparison, the new Beverly garage is 45,000 SF, and the new Salem garage is 51,000 SF. If 51,000 SF is good enough for the busiest station on the entire north side, it'd be good enough for whatever ridership Portsmouth would generate. Which honestly wouldn't be that much, because at that point you're looking at a 2 hour ride to Boston, and pushing the limits of commuter territory. So it wouldn't exactly be a problem for non-riders to park in the garage. The Hanover St garage, which is much more convenient to downtown Portsmouth, is $1.25/hr. If the station garage started filling up at regular T prices ($4/day), then price it slightly higher than the municipal garage, or even significantly higher and offer a discount to regular T parking price with a valid ticket or pass. Again though, it's a moot point. Much of Portsmouth's ridership would be walk-up so long as the station is downtown, and a not-insignificant chunk could be transfer ridership if they diverted local buses to the station.
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