Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby Kilo Echo » Wed Oct 18, 2017 12:48 pm

johnpbarlow wrote:MBTA says a 2nd high level platform is planned for Worcester:

http://www.telegram.com/news/20171017/second-commuter-train-platform-planned-for-union-station

“...but it is fair to say it will be a multi-year effort...”

While they're at it, they ought to lengthen the existing platform.
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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby Trinnau » Wed Oct 18, 2017 3:38 pm

The Grafton St bridge is an impediment, which is why the current high portion of the platform stops where it does. My guess is they stop using the low platform once the new one is built due to ADA compliance. The article mentions it is center-island, so everyone can board to either tracks from the middle.
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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby Komarovsky » Wed Oct 18, 2017 3:43 pm

If it's going to be a center island, I'd imagine they'd have to negotiate with CSX because a full high would impinge on the clearance along the mainline that they have rights to.
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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby MBTA3247 » Wed Oct 18, 2017 4:17 pm

There are still two other tracks besides the one that would be getting a platform, so clearances shouldn't be an issue.
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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Wed Oct 18, 2017 4:50 pm

The current platform can be extended 150 ft. west no-problem to where a current side-mast signal head stands. Another +100 ft. beyond that if you moved that signal and lightly realigned Tk. 1 where it starts converging into the switch. The only major structural work required is patching that odd "skylight" hole in the ceiling over Harding St. leftover from the unrenovated old station in order to build over that far. The low platform over the Grafton St. overpass meets minimum T design standards at 6 ft. width, so long as there are no obstructions (benches, trash cans) occupying that stretch of bare-minimum with...so that's fully kosher to raise full-high with a protective fence overhanging the bridge abutment. They shouldn't have any trouble or special expense expanding both ends to net a full T-regulation 800 footer.

As for the island, the track spacing on top of the viaduct is very odd. Each track is a different distance from each other, and there's extemely over-generous buffer between Tk. 4 and the southerly viaduct abutment (note how the turnout into the CSX yard swings much closer to the Grafton St. overpass abutment than the mainline track does to that side of the viaduct). So if they need more space for a proper 12 ft. wide island Tk. 2 can be nudged closer to Tk. 3. And the oddly generous spacing elsewhere should make it easy to install more crossovers between Tks. 2-3-4 to redraw the dispatcher handoffs around the station and give CSX enough fluidity to go around. The extra interlockings would be a not-insignificant cost item, but the whole area clearly had the space allowances for a much, much more complex track layout back in the old days when traffic around the station was orders-of-magnitude higher. There are plenty of configurations you could pursue at various price points that would do a perfectly adequate job at keeping freights and passenger trains from stepping on each other's toes while future-proofing for further traffic growth.
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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby BandA » Thu Oct 19, 2017 3:24 am

What about the awkward layover? Would be cool to put the PW on an elevated over the roadway and use the triangle in between as the layover to the west of the station.

This is technically still a union station? What belongs to the station, and what belongs to the railroads? WRA owns the station, does the MBTA own the platform and some number of tracks on the CSX side? Who owns the platform track on the west side of the building, G&W dba PW, with PAR retaining passenger trackage rights?

I've only visited the station in person once.
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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby Komarovsky » Thu Oct 19, 2017 8:04 am

WRA owns the station and the platforms, P&W owns the west side tracks IIRC. As for the Worcester line tracks, I think the agreement was that the state would own the mainline tracks to MP45, plus the siding to the platform.
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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby BostonUrbEx » Thu Oct 19, 2017 6:09 pm

F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:The current platform can be extended 150 ft. west no-problem to where a current side-mast signal head stands.


Unfortunately, that'd be useless. The engine would take up about half of that, even while getting uncomfortably snug with the signal. The distance between the east end of Ipswich's mini-high and the home signal at Steeves is about 75ft, and engineers are very uncomfortable with getting that close to the signal. "Why not just have a signal in at CP 45 and let them chill with the head end in the interlocking?" Nope, CSX won't go for it. Anything seen as even a semi-regular foray into CSX's territory won't be allowed. CP 45 is a hard line for them.
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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Thu Oct 19, 2017 7:05 pm

The low platform still runs a full 500+ ft. itself east of the Grafton St. overpass pinch point, so nothing is stopping them from running the full length of the old platform and demolishing the derelict Amshack for something more tasteful as an egress on that side of Grafton. Theoretically they have allowances for up to a full 1000 ft. NE Regional-length platform if they go east raising the old low AND go west patching over the Harding St. "skylight".
Last edited by CRail on Fri Oct 27, 2017 10:45 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Nesting quotes... We've been over this already.
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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby jgeary27 » Fri Oct 20, 2017 11:45 am

I have a question that could be considered Worcester Line, Inland Regional, or Conn River Line... so I'll put it here for starters because I suspect F-Line will have the best info on it (hint, hint):

There's been a lot of noise lately about increased Boston-Worcester-Springfield service, either as an extension of or connection to the new New Haven-Hartford-Springfield service that is coming online. Some state pols from Western Mass have been trying to get an "East-West Rail Study" in the budget for a couple of years now. It keeps getting un-budgeted after Peter Picknelly complains about it, which is just an odd coincidence, I'm sure:

Peter Picknelly lobbied against proposed Springfield to Boston rail study

Well, it got un-budgeted again for 2018 and the WMA delegation is mad enough that they're forcing people to go on the record:

Speaker Robert DeLeo supports study for east-west rail

Wagner said he does not know what caused the removal of funding for a transportation study from the fiscal 2018 state budget,


LOL, sure you don't, buddy.

Anyway, my question is, how does this relate to the NNEIRI? As far as I can tell, they came up with their "preferred alternative" for Inland Regionals/Montreal Trains in 2015 and have been more or less silent since. It doesn't seem to make sense to have another study when one just wrapped up in 2015, so what's the deal here?

I know CSX and MassDOT have long been discussing what it will take to support BOS-SPG service, so this doesn't *seem* like a South Coast Rail "let's avoid ever having to build this by studying it to death" situation... so what's going on?

Edit: Connecticut getting in on the act, too:

Malloy Calls For Boston-Springfield Rail Connection To Hartford Line

Edit again, with quote:

The Democratic governor from Connecticut endorsed a much-talked about, but never formally studied, project to build a high-speed rail line between Springfield and Boston.


But... it... has been formally studied!
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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby Rockingham Racer » Fri Oct 20, 2017 2:02 pm

MassDot has already put on its radar the complete doubling of track between Worcester and Springfield. So do that and let's get on with service improvement and expansion. This is not rocket science.
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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby Trinnau » Sat Oct 21, 2017 7:27 pm

Rockingham Racer wrote:MassDot has already put on its radar the complete doubling of track between Worcester and Springfield. So do that and let's get on with service improvement and expansion. This is not rocket science.


Still need CSX's buy-in, the track is owned by a private entity. Even offering to pay for the upgrades may not be what CSX wants - they may not want any additional passenger service on their rails.
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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby Rockingham Racer » Sun Oct 22, 2017 7:27 am

Yes, true, CSX could be quite an obstacle to overcome, but does anyone know if MassDot is pursuing the idea with CSX?
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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby Arborwayfan » Sun Oct 22, 2017 1:45 pm

If MassDOT is paying for the work, maybe they could arrange to build their own passenger track next to the CSX track, and each operate a single-track line, instead of sharing a double-track line. That's about what Utah did between Salt Lake City and Ogden: the put a third track with passing sidings next to UP's double track. Would that be possible on the Boston and Albany? How many passing tracks would any probable level of service need, and could they bit fit in in suitable places? Or maybe the planned levels of service dont justify a whole track. I suppose the idea is for Mass to pay for improvements to the line that would allow pax service but also theoretically help CSX, so that CSX would agree?
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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Sun Oct 22, 2017 2:58 pm

The Inland Route has been a topic of discussion between MassDOT and CSX ever since the mega line buy /ops relocation deal of 9 years ago. That wasn't a one-time asset transaction and grant for upgrades; things have continuously been happening for a full decade directly and indirectly related to that deal. Some are brand-new funding items now grinding into gear like the Framingham Secondary and Cape Rail upgrades meant to strengthen CSX's business from Mass Coastal interchange. And others are informal like a continuous dialogue over the NNEIRI/Inland study. That study did not get cued up without CSX's tacit approval.

Have to remember: this is NOT the bad old days of "We're Conrail; our whole existence is about prepping ourselves for megamerger/buyout, so screw you little gnats." And CSX is not some irrational ogre like Pan Am. When states tickle their profit centers in negotiation, like MA and MD have to great productivity in recent years, they are wholly rational actors who cooperate enthusiastically. Yes, they do drive a hard bargain as any conglomerate would, but they will talk to anyone who speaks their business language. On the flipside, when negotiations are hostile or passive-aggressive...like in NY State over Empire upgrades on the Water Level Route...they are quick to remind "we crap bigger'n you" and then show it in their actions. The difference between the states they mesh with and the states they don't is that the states they don't get along with often refuse at some basic level to talk a business language. NYS wants all kinds of enhanced passenger rights and ability to do passenger-centric upgrades to the Water Level Route...but they won't say anything about pushing some money around for transformative yard upgrades or helping CSX troubleshoot why its east-west lane lags behind its overstuffed north-south lane in direct competitiveness with with NS. When Albany pols start acting out like they're insulted that a for-profit company would dare want concessions that maximize its profits, of course it's going to get chippy.

Not every situation automatically leads to the worst-case "Ooooh....better watch out! CSX are bastards!" doom-and-gloom. The last 9 years of them in this state couldn't be a bigger counterpoint to that. So beware of the overly pessimistic prevailing assumption based on bad-old-days Conrail. If the Inlands are being negotiated on a continuum outflowing from the set of much bigger deals hatched a decade ago, then something has to overtly change with the manner of that public-private discourse for new fault lines to suddenly start appearing where they didn't before. That doesn't mean there won't be tough sticking points or potential snags. It just means that somebody's attitude has to pull a 180 for things that weren't deal-breakers before to suddenly become default-assumed deal-breakers now regardless of evidence or momentum. The Inlands aren't a negotiation in a vacuum where every new discussion is alien to the last one; it's been a neverending conversation.

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

The costs for the upgrades that give CSX's intermodal profit center all the slots and ops flexibility they'd ever need are already baked into the base costs of the study's Recommended Alternative: contiguous double-track and certain number of new interlocking installations for overtakes at crossovers, uniform Class 4 track so CSX gains +20 MPH running speed on the Springfield-Palmer straightaway, minor curve easening in the Worcester Hills in tandem with the Class 4 uprate to take the sting out of some of the worst speed bottlenecks, and state-of-repair rollback (e.g. a lot of the same rail distressing that eliminated the summer heat speedos Worcester-Framingham). Those are all known-knowns. You're not going to see any kooky things like arbitrary track-by-track traffic separation get thrown into the mix this late in the game, because the Rec. Alternative they did present up folds in 10 years of discussion about CSX's base requirements for playing ball.

And we can assume that whether Amtrak is going to going to have expanded trackage rights under CSX or CSX outright sells the B&A under their feet and flips itself to trackage rights under MassDOT that there'll be the usual indemnifications baked into the agreement protecting CSX's alpha-status as the incumbent operator. All very similar to how rights/responsibilities with PAS were divvied up when the Conn River Line was sold, and in lesser degree templated when CSX sold off the Framingham Secondary. Things like: all the necessary paper barriers protecting CSX from competitive intrusion, guaranteed slotting and right-of-first-refusual retention of dispatch control (and where handoffs may or may not be adjusted around Springfield Union and Worcester Union), division of labor for track maintenance (MassDOT obviously becoming lion's share payee) + fee schedules for what share of freight-specific wear-and-tear CSX puts on the infrastructure + agreements for who the primary contractor is for doing repairs to what structures. For example, on the Conn River PAS: retains dispatch control, its MOW crews remain the incumbent contractor for any track work (on behalf of MassDOT or for themselves), and they have clear-cut boundaries for when they need to pay-in for maint or capacity management for their traffic demands vs. MassDOT doing it for the passenger traffic (e.g. there's brand new dropped CWR and tie piles for upcoming passing siding installations strictly to serve the expanding EDPL freight schedule). If you pull up the Conn River and Framingham Secondary STB filings you'll see every detail like that enumerated very clean-and-neat, with little potential for future disputes over chintzy things. CSX baked in a lot of the same clauses (admittedly with waaaaay more moving parts) in the set of '08 deals, and with its lease-to-own agreement with Amtrak for full ops control of Poughkeepsie-Schenectady on the Empire Corridor. The indemnification clauses in those filings are very much standardized, and not some kind of tortured, murky legal sausage-making. Both sides have well-acquainted with what freight profit centers need to be prioritized ever since Beacon Park negotiations started getting serious in the mid-00's, and have lots of prior practice putting those indemnifications to paper. Closing loopholes on future disputes is the last thing to worry about with how ho-hum these recent agreements have gone. The yearly NNEPRA vs. Pan Am flare-ups on who isn't doing what they're required to on the Downeaster corridor are very much the exception rather than the rule on how those things usually go.

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

What's not known yet is whether buyout of the B&A to MassDOT ownership is going to be the terms of engagement for moving forward on all this ^^^other mostly cut-and-dried^^^ stuff. Or whether CSX ups the ante and makes MassDOT have to take ownership of everything to the state line to zero out all of CSX's non-yard property taxes in the state. That all depends on whether E. Hunter Harrison sees some stock price-related haste for making a fire sale to trackage rights. But counterintuitively, EHH's pump-and-dump scheme may actually make the property price tag a little cheaper for MassDOT because CSX Corporate could see haste in making the best deal they can SOON rather than sitting on it patiently for years extra looking for an overpay. Keep in mind, though, that because of all those cookie-cutter freight indemnifications described above once they come to broad agreement on price range the transaction itself is not going to be all that complicated to pull off or be used as a wedge to take more hostages. They've already made several of those deals cleanly before, including over Worcester-Framingham.

And obviously there'll be some "Pimp My Yard" quid pro quo exchanged. But those pieces are also pretty cut-and-dried: MassHighway truck access & clearance improvements to West Springfield, and more investment in capacity/business at their shortline interchanges (NECR, Mass Central, & Pioneer Valley this time around). Maybe lathering on some other miscellany like offloading more territory on Mass Coastal while everyone's in the mood to make a deal...but the high-ROI items are all pretty well understood because they've been talking about them for over a decade and CSX wants to see some action on closing out these remainders before Norfolk Southern opens its double-stack lane on the Patriot Corridor.

But there's only so few things they'd be willing to fight over, much less walk away from negotiations over. They've already gotten 90% of their dream New England intermodal lane and ability to pare ops costs gifted to them from the state from all the previous deals. Follow-through on the final 10% of closeout items that have any tangible value to their profit center just isn't enough to wage war over. It matters that they get another follow-through push on streamlining IM ops and growing the interchanges before NS becomes a bigger player in New England, and the new cowboy in charge at Corporate may be in a much bigger hurry than the previous regime at dumping property for dumping property's sake. So while you could very well have some friction over CP 45 dispatch hand-offs at Worcester Union for the extra traffic or other such tough individualized nuts that need compromise or concessions...it's nothing that'll blow up the whole works. CSX has one eye peeled on what plans NS has for New England once they pay Pan Am to go away on the Pat Corridor, and CSX needs to fortify its own flank by getting these remainders flushed into action before NS gets the chance to start making its big push. They're well-incentivized to work for a deal, and not let a deal fall apart over something small and/or stupid.
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