MassDOT Acquisition of Framingham Secondary

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MassDOT Acquisition of Framingham Secondary

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Wed Aug 06, 2014 1:03 pm

http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/Portals/ ... 061814.pdf

See p. 15 of the MassDOT Board minutes for June.

VOTED: That the Secretary/CEO is authorized to execute, in the name of and on behalf of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, a purchase and sale agreement, a deed, an operating agreement, and any other documents required or desired to complete the acquisition of the railroad right-of-way known as the Framingham Subdivision for an amount not to exceed $23,000,000.00 and in a manner consistent with the best interests of the Commonwealth.


Surprised that flew under the radar. The minutes talk about Foxboro Commuter Rail. Signs of life on moving that project forward?

Contingent on the deal is agreement to upgrade the tracks for existing freight.
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Re: MassDOT purchase of Framingham Secondary?

Postby frrc » Thu Aug 07, 2014 7:48 pm

That leaves the Fitchburg Secondary track left in CSX's possession, figure that will be sold off in the future.....?

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Re: MassDOT purchase of Framingham Secondary?

Postby newpylong » Fri Aug 08, 2014 5:38 am

Probably not. Not much use for commuter rail there.
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Re: MassDOT purchase of Framingham Secondary?

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Fri Aug 08, 2014 1:02 pm

No, there's long-term commuter rail value that would compel the state. The 2002 Northborough/I-290 commuter rail study projected strong ridership for a branch off Framingham hitting Framingham Ctr./Framingham State U., Mass Pike/Route 9 right by the Bose and Staples HQ's, I-495, and Northborough/I-290. It's just so far down the priority pile of far more urgent needs that they won't even begin to have brainspace to ponder this one for another 25 years.

*IF* CSX were to decide it wants to expunge the last of its outlier east-of-Worcester line ownership from the books and phones up MassDOT, the state will gladly make the money appear to cut the check for the Fitchburg Sec. It's a valuable hold with stable traffic, solid long-term projections for passenger (but emphasis on the deep long-term), dormant connections to the Worcester Branch @ Clinton and Fitchburg Line on the OOS/railbanked portion in Leominster, and dormant connections to the state-owned/landbanked Central Mass @ Berlin and Framingham & Lowell @ Framingham, which are likewise contiguous system interconnections. At the century level that's a purchase that amortizes itself whether they have immediate plans or not. But they're in no hurry, so that's CSX's prerogative to initiate the discussion if Jacksonville gives the order to cut its Eastern MA property taxes by going MassDOT trackage rights-only on its lower-value branches.



Only other remaining privately-owned CSX active branchline track in MA is:
-- Milford Branch (leased to MBTA under 1988 agreement with Conrail for Forge Park commuter rail extension)
-- Springfield Industrial
-- Holliston Industrial (only for CP Yard access and runarounds)
-- Norwood Industrial
-- Randolph Branch (the 3000 ft. or so that's still active)
-- Taunton Industrial

. . .plus these abandoned lines that are all open STB sale-negotiation dockets stalled over asking price and on their umpteenth extension-of-time filings:
-- South Sudbury Secondary (Bruce Freeman Trail south extension)
-- Saxonville Branch (Cochituate Rail Trail)
-- Holliston Industrial (abandoned portion south of CP Yard runaround, Upper Charles Trail extension. CSX agreed to let Town of Holliston pay monthly rent and spread crushed stone for barebones recreation usage until state pays up and can proceed with planned paved trail)

. . .plus one abandoned line that isn't under any open docket:
-- Randolph Branch (abandoned portion Teed Dr. to downtown, town trail. They've agreed to let the town do the full trail on their ROW, but don't think this one is under any active purchase negotiations.)


Of these, the Milford Branch has a built-in purchase option in the '88 Conrail agreement. After CSX outsources the local freight on that branch to Grafton & Upton at year's end, chances are they're going to nudge the state to pick up that option. Almost a certainty state will outright own that line by next year. There is a recently completed Milford commuter rail extension study, though haven't seen it. Can't imagine the ridership past Forge Park would knock anyone's socks off, so probably hits the bottom of the priority pile.

The 3 open STB abandonment dockets will go under public control at some point because state and towns are itching to build those projected high-usage trails. Though no parties seem to be in any hurry whatsoever to end their staring contest over asking price.

And if CSX ever decides to dump its Old Colony and Middleboro Secondary locals onto MassCoastal and retreat to just interchanging for all non-NEC biz in Southeast Mass...they'd probably dump Taunton and Randolph. State doesn't exactly have any interest in those, but they'll buy if it facilitates the rights transfer to MC and future growth of local biz in that territory. But unless/until CSX initiates a change, it's business as usual down there.
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Re: MassDOT purchase of Framingham Secondary?

Postby newpylong » Tue Aug 12, 2014 8:32 am

Well, I guess if MA is willing to waste money on the Conn River (and maybe the Canaan branch) for 50 people a day they would be willing to spend money there. Better your cash than mine...
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Re: MassDOT purchase of Framingham Secondary?

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Tue Aug 12, 2014 11:54 am

newpylong wrote:Well, I guess if MA is willing to waste money on the Conn River (and maybe the Canaan branch) for 50 people a day they would be willing to spend money there. Better your cash than mine...


The sad thing is Conn River only cost them $17M, which is a steal for control of signaled Class 4 mileage that's going to be amply used by near-term freight and passenger growth. The Housatonic cost them $18M, and they had to spend another few hundred grand to take the embargoed Coltsville Industrial Track off Housy's hands AND pay them $32M for track repairs in that deal.


Framingham Sec. was worth the inevitable CSX overpay if that puts a jump on Foxboro Commuter Rail: http://www.mbta.com/uploadedfiles/About ... 20ONLY.pdf. 32 round trips per day @ 60 min. travel times to tap the massive unused commuter parking capacity at Gilette Stadium at capital cost of only $84M ain't bad. Especially with the ridership explosion it'll drag in tow on the Franklin mainline stops in Walpole, Norwood, and Dedham Corporate Ctr./Route 128 who'd see their service levels doubled to 64 trains per day. That'll pay for itself even if they had to take the passenger-useless Framingham-Walpole half of the line in this deal.
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Re: MassDOT purchase of Framingham Secondary?

Postby newpylong » Tue Aug 12, 2014 12:55 pm

All things considered I thought the CR was a good deal too. The Housy not so much.
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Re: MassDOT purchase of Framingham Secondary?

Postby jaymac » Tue Aug 12, 2014 1:56 pm

Knowledge Corridor plus NAdams excursion shuttle plus Housy would give the rail wing of MassDOT a substantial presence in the western part of the Commonwealth and would make it harder for western members of The Great and General Court to just say no on MBTA funding. If part of the Housy purchase is to team up with CT to restore N-S Berkshire passenger service to Pittsfield, there's probably also some planning, however preliminary and behind closed doors, to further extend to NAdams to increase access to and tourist dollars from Mass. MOCA in a part of the Commonwealth that would benefit from some more activity.
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Re: MassDOT purchase of Framingham Secondary?

Postby newpylong » Wed Aug 13, 2014 9:22 am

jaymac wrote:there's probably also some planning, however preliminary and behind closed doors, to further extend to NAdams to increase access to and tourist dollars from Mass. MOCA in a part of the Commonwealth that would benefit from some more activity.


Maybe 15 years ago before they pulled the tracks up. Now that there is pavement on the PNA it would next to impossible. Much of the ROW is not wide enough for dual use regardless.
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Re: MassDOT purchase of Framingham Secondary?

Postby jaymac » Wed Aug 13, 2014 10:46 am

...so mebbe it won't happen in my lifetime...
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Re: MassDOT purchase of Framingham Secondary?

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Fri Dec 19, 2014 5:13 pm

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Re: MassDOT purchase of Framingham Secondary?

Postby CRail » Sun Dec 21, 2014 9:42 am

newpylong wrote:Maybe 15 years ago before they pulled the tracks up. Now that there is pavement on the PNA it would next to impossible. Much of the ROW is not wide enough for dual use regardless.


It's called a "right of way" because that's what the railroad has, the right of way. If it's decided that rail is to return and there's no room for a path then guess what happens...
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Re: MassDOT purchase of Framingham Secondary?

Postby Sprinter611 » Sun Dec 21, 2014 1:38 pm

newpylong wrote:Probably not. Not much use for commuter rail there.


Newpylong, I live close to this line myself, I do know people would ride because of the horrible traffic on RT 2 & the pike. Also, CSX has 1 train that leaves Framingham 3 times a week. If the state wanted to spend a few billion dollars on track, crossing, & signal upgrades as well as new stations with parking lots, it could be done. Possible stations could be one in Leominster Center next to Hannaford's super market, next could be Pratt's Junction, after could be West Lancaster around Route 62, then maybe a dual level station in Clinton (if the state decides for MBTA service on the Pan Am branchline) then one in Berlin around the Flat Penny restaurant, then one in Marlborough, Northborough, Southborough and possibly one for FSU.
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Re: MassDOT purchase of Framingham Secondary?

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Sun Dec 21, 2014 3:10 pm

Sprinter611 wrote:
newpylong wrote:Probably not. Not much use for commuter rail there.


Newpylong, I live close to this line myself, I do know people would ride because of the horrible traffic on RT 2 & the pike. Also, CSX has 1 train that leaves Framingham 3 times a week. If the state wanted to spend a few billion dollars on track, crossing, & signal upgrades as well as new stations with parking lots, it could be done. Possible stations could be one in Leominster Center next to Hannaford's super market, next could be Pratt's Junction, after could be West Lancaster around Route 62, then maybe a dual level station in Clinton (if the state decides for MBTA service on the Pan Am branchline) then one in Berlin around the Flat Penny restaurant, then one in Marlborough, Northborough, Southborough and possibly one for FSU.


We're getting our lines all confused here...Pittsfield & North Adams, Fitchburg Secondary. Framingham Secondary was the one that was purchased here.


To your specific point, Northborough/I-290 commuter rail was studied by the Boston MPO in 2002: http://www.ctps.org/Drupal/archived_studies. Study is not available online, however.

I don't think Leominster would ever be a viable commuter rail line because the catchment area is way too close to the Fitchburg Line at North Leominster, where there's two MRTA bus routes a block away from the former downtown Leominster station going straight to N. Leominster. With the Fitchburg Line's much-improved speeds about to shrink the travel time next summer after the last of the Somerville-Waltham signal work is complete, and Wachusett layover coming online in 2016 increasing frequencies sharply, I just don't see how the extremely curvy Fitchburg Secondary out of Framingham is ever going to beat a newly infrastructure-refreshed Fitchburg Line. Even with the 2-seat transfer from a local bus. It's still an abstract improvement for long-suffering Fitchburg Line riders, but it's going to be real in the near-future.


Northborough/290 may be at the bottom of the commuter rail extension priority pile, but that one probably does have real bona fides (though would be nice to have the study to corroborate that). Framingham State U., Routes 9 and Mass Pike right at the huge office park with Bose / Staples / Cumberland Farms world HQ's, Downtown Southborough, Marlborough/I-495 at another big office park, downtown Northborough, and I-290 park-and-ride near all the shopping centers. A pick-'em of the best from those candidates would be a murder's row of interstate park-and-rides that could suck up enormous amounts of MetroWest traffic, TOD galore, a couple of nicely-situated downtown stops, and a big deal for commuter student transit equitability at a major state U campus. That's almost a spot-on mix/variety of of destinations to sustain a viable all-day ridership on a new commuter rail corridor. Like I said...it's got many higher-priority expansion projects ahead of it and thus I don't see this happening sooner than 25 years. But it's bona fide as a long-term prospect and I would not be surprised if MassDOT bought the Fitchburg Sec. as soon as CSX nudges them about selling the last of its non-yard real estate in eastern MA.


Past Northborough? That's more dubious. I think you could make a case for a much later Phase 2 with +2 stops in Berlin near Route 62 (catch some traffic out of Hudson that's been transit-isolated since the Central Mass went away), and downtown Clinton which has the walk-up density and would offer decent catchment from Lancaster, Boylston, and Sterling via Routes 62, 70, and 110. But that's it. Once the line crosses I-190 it's less than 7 miles to North Leominster and the travel time bus/driving + Fitchburg Line starts being more advantageous than all the curves to Framingham + Worcester Line to South Station. I think infilling the area with more MRTA buses to the Fitchburg Line is going to do a lot more good, and maybe in the deep future if they extend from Northborough to Clinton they can split the difference between Clinton and N. Leominster with the buses and give all the towns equitable access. Clinton also offers the disused junction with the Worcester Branch, so someday when Worcester has a much more robust reverse commute market the combo of Framingham-Clinton and Worcester-Clinton has some pingback viability for both Boston and Worcester. Deep future, of course...let's not get carried away earmarking anything past Northborough before 2030.

But the two halves of the Fitchburg Sec. were not created equal. Framingham-Nortborough-Clinton has more future passenger fungibility, more freight traffic, and connections to other rail lines oriented to the 2 large cities. Clinton-Leominster and the railbanked (non-abandoned but hardware removed) section to Fitchburg duplicate too much of the catchment area of another commuter rail mainline past the point where the schedules are any longer competitive, has less freight and non-growing freight (plus an outright freight-hostile town in Leominster that would like nothing better than to see CSX go away forever), and little to no incentive freight or passenger for restoring the 4-mile thru connection to the Fitchburg Line. I'd honestly forget about the part past Clinton Jct. and just let it sink or swim on the existing freight traffic, which is stable at the 20-year levels and definitely not going anywhere or at slightest risk for abandonment.

Clinton-south is the part that's eventually going to be worth MassDOT's while to lock up as a long-term hold under public control if CSX's asking price is reasonable. Much like the Framingham-Walpole portion of the Framingham Sec., which has no foreseeable passenger potential, it would still be a valuable transportation asset for the public trust that more than pays off its purchase price in usefulness at the 50+ year level. Northeastern states never pass up an opportunity to add stable active lines to their portfolio of public ownerships because of that. The remaining CSX eastern MA lines--Framingham Sec. (purchase in progress), Milford Branch (very likely to be sold when CSX hands over freight control to G&U because they'll have no use for it costing them property tax), and the Fitchburg Sec. all qualify as ones generating enough steady revenue to amortize the purchase cost at a multi-decade level and have intrinsic multi-decade value as long-term passenger holds. These are much wiser purchases than binge-buying inactive or barely-active lines (like Maine's DOT seems addicted to doing) for more than 5 cents on the dollar.
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Re: MassDOT purchase of Framingham Secondary?

Postby frrc » Sun Dec 21, 2014 7:05 pm

I recall CSX was asking $5 million (?) for the line from downtown Leominster to Fitcburg a few years ago, quite the price. Agreed on the NIMBY towards freight trains in Leominster, people don't like the horns issue, from the 2-3 times per week they enter the area. And the City of Leominster filed a law suit against CSX for a washed out culvert behind the Long Horn Steakhouse for environmental and safety reasons. Not sure how that law suit was resolved...

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