Newburyport Line extension

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Re: Newburyport Line extension

Postby TomNelligan » Mon Oct 12, 2009 2:28 pm

B&Mguy wrote:I know that the old Newburyport Station was located at the Washington St. crossing just to the west of Route 1. It was a nice central downtown location, and I agree it would have been nice to route the restored commuter rail service to this location. My guess would be that the lack of parking is why this wasn’t done. Shame how the car takes priority over preserving the character of the town.


Exactly. While some tourist-oriented interests wanted to retain the downtown station location that had been in use prior to the suspension of passenger service in 1976, the local NIMBYs were all frantic about rail patrons parking on their streets, and you can see who won that battle. In a more perfect world, Newburyport would have gotten both the current park-and-ride station off Route 1 south of town and a restored downtown platform to serve day-tripping tourists, but it didn't, and now that the rail line has been turned into a rail trail you won't see that anytime in the foreseeable future.
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Re: Newburyport Line extension

Postby BostonUrbEx » Tue Oct 28, 2014 3:36 pm

Does anyone know if the Newburyport "Clipper City Rail Trail" was designed for a rail-with-trail extension to Portsmouth?

Eyeballing Google maps, it looks okay up to Pond St -- then it tightens up, frees up, and tightens again all in between Pond and High. High to Washington would need to shift the trail, then up at Merrimac the trails widens up excessively, taking up two spans of the bridge over Merrimac St. Beyond Merrimac it looks good up to the bridge, where presumably a new bridge would have trail on the lower level and rail on the upper level? Maybe?

Now the trail in Salisbury, though brief (hell, I didn't know it existed until *just now*) appears to take the entire ROW (which looks narrow on map view) between the river and Mudnock St. Also looks like there's two significant washouts just north of Depot Rd in Seabrook.
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Re: Newburyport Line extension

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Tue Oct 28, 2014 6:04 pm

BostonUrbEx wrote:Does anyone know if the Newburyport "Clipper City Rail Trail" was designed for a rail-with-trail extension to Portsmouth?

Eyeballing Google maps, it looks okay up to Pond St -- then it tightens up, frees up, and tightens again all in between Pond and High. High to Washington would need to shift the trail, then up at Merrimac the trails widens up excessively, taking up two spans of the bridge over Merrimac St. Beyond Merrimac it looks good up to the bridge, where presumably a new bridge would have trail on the lower level and rail on the upper level? Maybe?

Now the trail in Salisbury, though brief (hell, I didn't know it existed until *just now*) appears to take the entire ROW (which looks narrow on map view) between the river and Mudnock St. Also looks like there's two significant washouts just north of Depot Rd in Seabrook.


Sort of.

The ROW from the current station to Route 113 used to have a maze of freight sidings on it, which is why it's so wide. You definitely have no problems here.

#1. Parker to Pond: if you shift the trail to the west side of the rail line it's on ground once occupied by all those sidings. Run it behind property lines separated from the ROW by the tree buffer, then cut over Overland Dr. and run path off to side next to the Elks Club before reaching Pond.

#2. Pond to 113: Note how there are parallel trails here for street-level access around the grade separation and a spur off to the skating rink. So...you're at intersection of Overland, Pond, and the skating rink driveway. Stick a traffic light there for safe pedestrian crossing. Continue path bolted to the skating rink driveway, and join up with the trail spur to 113. Absolutely no modification required on this block.

#3. 113 to Washington: This is the tough one. I don't have any good solutions here.

#4. Washington to Merrimac: Go through the back alley and parking lot to Merrimac, bolting cycle track onto the alley. If the rail restoration calls for any grade separation of Washington, then the ensuing retaining wall work could widen this space for a fatter path.

#5. Merrimac to waterfront. Note how the path splits in half here. You can either cross the street, go to the corner of Winter St., and have a path split off the sidewalk on the grass. Or cross the street, pass under the rail bridge, and put a path next to that sandy backlot meeting up halfway to the river by the current fork in the path, recycling some of that existing path. I'd choose the latter.



So...that's not too difficult. What you have to consider re: Newburyport's motivations when presenting them with a rail extension to Portsmouth (forget about a +1 extension to downtown...it's NH or nothing) is: They hate Route 1. It's a giant sprawling scar through downtown. They would love to downsize that over-wide quasi-expressway segment. So the bait for a rail extension is best presented to them in a package with Route 1 improvements. If Seabrook, Hampton, and Portsmouth are connected by rail that's an immediate traffic reducer on 1...and an opportunity for more reverse-commute and weekender visitors pumping money into the local economy. They would strongly consider making a trade: Route 1 downtown improvements for dropping any objections to the rail line. And if those Route 1 improvements entail a road diet through downtown to clear out a lot of the purely induced demand use...they would happily make the trade. And that also opens up some path alternatives if the road gets shrunken down in the cut between Route 113 and Merrimac. You might be able to line it with cycle tracks up on the embankment along Summer/Winter. That'll obviate the need for running any trail along the ROW after Step #2. You just do easy #1, easy/nearly as-is #2, and a variation on #4 and the route is preserved. The only thing lost is a little bit of grade separation. But Newburyport won't care if the Route 1 scar gets partially healed.

So...for the 5 miles of ROW + a bridge that Massachusetts would be responsible for in a rail extension, this is the necessary cost bloater that they have to sweeten the pot with to get the buy-in of a difficult rich 'burb. But the difference here is that Newburyport has fire in its belly about Route 1. It's not a frivolous trade at all. The net result is better for everyone.




RE: Salisbury. Their primary motivation for that trail is to link waterfront with downtown, and eventually to link downtown with the mostly complete Amesbury Branch trail at Lion's Park (right by the last MVRTA bus stop before the state line). So they will probably be extending it from Mudnock Rd. the extra half-mile to Lion's Park. The Amesbury Trail only has a 1/2 mile gap at the town line to fill before it can connect with the finished Amesbury half and make a complete circuit between the two towns' downtowns. Salisbury is not planning to take it any further north to the border. The ROW is in a deep cut at the border where it passes beneath Route 206, with no room due to abutting houses to build a side path at-grade. So Seabrook would have to build almost a mile's worth of trail itself to reach the nearest grade crossing. Salisbury has zero interest in interstate entanglements, so that's not going to happen.


You have a lot more room to relocate here.

-- Waterfront and side trail access to Route 1 next to Fraser Automotive: Ton of room here for rail-with-trail. Do a tree buffer and that's it.

-- Fraser Automotive to Downtown: Tricky. The marsh crossing can't accomodate both rail and trail. You would have to use your creativity, but since Route 1 on the marsh-facing side has no side streets and only a few sparse driveways, bolting a cycle track off to the side of 1 across the marsh is probably doable.

-- Routes to Downtown: If a side path to Mudnock Rd. is doable with *small* footbridges, deviate back west to the ROW between Dave's Fish Market and Hudson's Outboard. The Amesbury Branch wye starts right at Route 109. If the marsh isn't crossable here continue that Route 1 cycle track to School St. then backtrack to the ROW. Obviously the first option is preferable for grade separation.

I don't know about feasibility here with these options. But the stakes in Salisbury aren't very high. The town just wants Point A from the waterfront to Point B in downtown to Point C with a connection to the Amesbury Trail, and reasonable grade separation. They aren't so wedded to the desolate marsh that they really care which routing it takes, and there's nothing they really need that requires buy-in bait like downtown Newburyport with Route 1. Just find them a reasonable alternative route that's safe to bike and goes A-B-C.




Ultimately you're only talking 5 miles of Massachusetts ROW with only half of that sum trailed. Portsmouth is a big enough target that these are not the kind of NIMBY blockers that would derail such a project. It's ones worth bartering over (downtown Newburyport / Route 1) for concessions, or straight out overruling (any pooh-poohing from Salisbury for their compensatory trail route). Frankly, I'd be a lot more worried about blockers cropping up in New Hampshire if any NIMBY's there start floating trail trojan horses in the next 20 years. It's going to take a very long time for that state to ever have ability to proceed on a commuter rail project here...and it's majority their cost to float not MA's. Lots of time for somebody to throw cold water on it with a predatory trail in the slightly more densely-abutted Seabrook and Hampton portions. The MA portions are already done and have (above) well-known mitigation options that don't throw any really tough blockers. There's still a lot that can go wrong in NH on the timetables we're talking before commuter rail becomes any sort of realistic pursuit for them.
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Re: Newburyport Line extension

Postby BostonUrbEx » Tue Oct 28, 2014 9:41 pm

Good to see there's some margin for rail through the MA section. I certainly do realize though that it relies on NH not fouling up their ROW. Lets not forget about the "reversible one-way road" that some Hampton genius proposed for the ROW... yikes... At this point, though, I expect rail to Portsmouth before we even see rail to Manchester.

Also, is the freight potential for Newburyport dead and buried? The industrial park's density is so low, I wouldn't be surprised if you could figure out a way to get a spur to every single property! Is the town/state not interested in dangling this at potential customers? What would be the process? Offering tax rebates to rail users? And then putting freight rights from Salem to Portsmouth up for bidding (would actually require MBTA and State of NH both to do so, wouldn't it?)? They could then potential reap increased taxes via larger businesses or business with more output coming in, which possibly also means more jobs/more income tax revenue, and plus if they tack on a axle per mile fee for freight movements. Also spares the roads from congestion and wear-and-tear.

Also, I recall there being a map of freight customers in Newburyport just prior to abandonment of freight rights. Anyone know where to find it?
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Re: Newburyport Line extension

Postby GP40MC1118 » Wed Oct 29, 2014 12:20 am

Owens-Corning was the last customer in Newburyport prior to the Beverly Bridge fire.
I seriously doubt you'd ever get freight to return up there for various reasons.

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Re: Newburyport Line extension

Postby Watchman318 » Wed Oct 29, 2014 12:23 am

I've been out of the Newburyport area for 20+ years, so I thought maybe route numbers and stuff had changed a lot after I'd left. Google Maps says some things are pretty much still the same.
Nitpicks on geography and history (possibly just typos):
F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:Salisbury is not planning to take it any further north to the border.
The removal of the former bridge over Rt. 1 north of Salisbury Square kinda squashed that, for rail travel anyway. I suppose pedestrians and bicyclists could cross the road "at grade," but I think Rt. 1 was 40 MPH through there. I could be mistaken about that.

The ROW is in a deep cut at the border where it passes beneath Route 206, with no room due to abutting houses to build a side path at-grade.
Route 286.

-- Routes to Downtown: If a side path to Mudnock Rd. is doable with *small* footbridges, deviate back west to the ROW between Dave's Fish Market and Hudson's Outboard. The Amesbury Branch wye starts right at Route 109.
Rt. 110, maybe?
I don't know if there was ever a switch from the Amesbury Branch to go north (timetable east) on the old Eastern Route, so there wasn't a wye. Maybe long, long ago there was, but AFAIK all trains to Amesbury came from the west (Boston) rather than Portsmouth, and went back (TT) west. I think the only rail connection between Amesbury and Portsmouth was via streetcars.

Other than little stuff like that, a darn good analysis of it. I think extension of rail service would be great, but I think it's highly unlikely, especially rebuilding the Merrimack River bridge. The trail portion alone might have more success.
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Re: Newburyport Line extension

Postby deathtopumpkins » Wed Oct 29, 2014 7:30 am

Regarding freight, didn't I read somewhere that Pan Am gave up its freight rights north of Beverly Draw?



Watchman318 wrote:The removal of the former bridge over Rt. 1 north of Salisbury Square kinda squashed that, for rail travel anyway. I suppose pedestrians and bicyclists could cross the road "at grade," but I think Rt. 1 was 40 MPH through there. I could be mistaken about that.


Why does the prospect of one grade crossing "squash" the potential for rail service? There are dozens of grade crossings on the Eastern Route. If the T can't afford to build a new overpass there (they'd probably have to completely rebuild an old one by this point anyway), it wouldn't be difficult to regrade the ROW and cross route 1 at-grade.
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Re: Newburyport Line extension

Postby BostonUrbEx » Wed Oct 29, 2014 7:49 am

deathtopumpkins wrote:Regarding freight, didn't I read somewhere that Pan Am gave up its freight rights north of Beverly Draw?


Correct. Which is why I was asking what the process is for it to return. It's always, "it's gone now, so it's never coming back." But why?

Also, why do they shed rights, anyway? Do they pay property taxes on properties they have freight rights to, even if they don't own the property?
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Re: Newburyport Line extension

Postby deathtopumpkins » Wed Oct 29, 2014 8:22 am

I think the T might be a bit reluctant, given that north of Beverly the line is single track. Maybe once they build some of the north shore improvements they promised years ago (like another siding north of Ipswich) they'll be more receptive, but I think right now they'd rather not have freight potentially holding up trains up here (unless it rus at night or on the weekends when trains only run every 3 hours presumably).
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Re: Newburyport Line extension

Postby GP40MC1118 » Wed Oct 29, 2014 10:48 am

As I understand it, GTI/GRS at the time of the Beverly Draw fire embargoed freight east
of the bridge, ultimately giving up service. There was talk back in the 90's of Gloucester
wanting open up the small pocket yard at the station, but it never went anywhere. Last
customer up there was a cold storage facility. The difficulty servicing these far-flung
customers in a commuter zone was another factor. Ultimately, GRS's withdrawal or
indifference to commuter zone service was the real nail in the coffin.

The only GRS/PAR moves east of Northey Point besides shift moves on and off the Danvers
Industrial are rare lite engine moves to/from Beverly Jct prompted by "issues" in the North
Yard. Off to the top of my head, its probably been over a year since one of these moves
happened.

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Re: Newburyport Line extension

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Wed Oct 29, 2014 12:35 pm

Yes. Bad-old-days Guilford outright gave up all freight rights north of the Salem Jct. runaround...so Beverly, and the Rockport and Newburyport branches are in same boat as. . .
-- Needham Line (all)
-- Plymouth Line (all)
-- NEC from north of Hyde Park station (wherever the last customer used to be) to Back Bay/Worcester Line on the reconstructed portion of the SW Corridor
-- Greenbush east of the Fore River RR runaround in East Braintree (not sure if the division post reaches as far as the Weymouth Landing platform or not)
-- any abandoned lines (like the Stoughton-Taunton gap for SCR) that get restored
. . .in having no freight operator rights whatsoever. In the extremely unlikely event that there should there ever be a need for new freight on these lines, it goes out to an all-new competitive bid. If and only if the T puts the rights out to bid. If the NIMBY's are going to get cranky, they probably wouldn't do it. And if the customer isn't a must-have, they not only wouldn't do it but the freights probably wouldn't bother bidding. Whereas everywhere else on the system that has no active freight (Fitchburg Line inside of Willows, NEC from Canton Jct. to Mansfield, Old Colony from Southampton to Braintree, Reading Line from Wilmington Jct.-south) CSX and current-management PAR retain their trackage rights in perpetuity by company policy...whether they ever intend to use them or not. That was only bad-old-days Guilford that was throwing territory away left and right, even the trackage rights territory somebody else was maintaining for them.

Nowadays I believe when a one-off freight move like an electrical transformer has to get taken down one of these off-limits lines it takes a T escort and special permissions to stage it (didn't they do a transformer move on Plymouth several years ago?). At any rate, despite the backup link it would provide to Portsmouth Yard and Kittery + Newington Branch it's vanishingly unlikely PAR would ever re-bid for rights on a restored Eastern Route. The potential customers just don't exist and it's not the high, wide, and/or heavy clearance route the Western Route is being upgraded to be. That and I can't imagine local zoning in those bedroom communities is going to be all that kind to new industrial installations...industry period, not just industry with rail access.


deathtopumpkins wrote:I think the T might be a bit reluctant, given that north of Beverly the line is single track. Maybe once they build some of the north shore improvements they promised years ago (like another siding north of Ipswich) they'll be more receptive, but I think right now they'd rather not have freight potentially holding up trains up here (unless it rus at night or on the weekends when trains only run every 3 hours presumably).


North Shore Transit Improvements study called for adding passing sidings at Ipswich and Rowley to increase frequencies by +2 on the AM rush, +1 on the PM rush, and hourly off-peak service each direction. That was something they hoped would've been implemented long ago, but the T has done zilch with any of that 2004 study's recommendations except build the big honking Wonderland, Salem, and Beverly garages. All of the rail bridges up there are double-track width and all of the ROW on the Newburyport extension was re-graded for 2 tracks with the current single-track segments laid as non-centered track with open DT berth.

If/when service needed to increase an extra gear beyond just the North Shore study recs the whole route to Newburyport station can be DT'd. Hamilton-Wenham and Ipswich have available room for installation of opposite-side platforms, and Rowley was built so the platform-facing row of parking could be claimed to turn it into an island platform with ped grade crossings at each end (this is why the current platform is 25 ft. wide instead of 12 ft. like most side full-highs...that's center-island width). Of course, they would have to double-up Salem with a second side platform on a track turnout from the portal (I think--fingers-crossed--the station renovation still preserves space for a DT switch to a second platform) to increase capacity north of the station. And they'd have to zap some of the speed-restricting Chelsea grade crossings and probably upgrade the signal system to permit higher capacity on the branches. But the ROW is up-to-task for it so creeping infill of DT north of North Beverly is not only feasible but probably necessary in the short- and medium-term just on the current lines.

Obviously if Portsmouth goes on the table 100% of it to current Newburyport station goes double. Then north of there on the extension it's probably fully adequate to keep as single + passing sidings for the likely frequencies out to NH. But I suspect if/when that ever goes on the table most if not all of the current line will already be double. They planned well for it.

BostonUrbEx wrote:Good to see there's some margin for rail through the MA section. I certainly do realize though that it relies on NH not fouling up their ROW. Lets not forget about the "reversible one-way road" that some Hampton genius proposed for the ROW... yikes... At this point, though, I expect rail to Portsmouth before we even see rail to Manchester.


That was one...and only one...NH state legislature putting foot-in-mouth at PAR's announcement of abandonment of the Hampton Branch. The immediate reaction from the townsfolk was "OH GOD NO!" They want absolutely nothing to do with more induced demand on Route 1. He walked that remark back in record time. If anything has to be feared cannibalizing that ROW, it's trail and only trail.

Seacoast is very much supportive of commuter rail. If enthusiasm alone were enough to push it there'd probably be a renewed study going now, with mutual T interest. Unfortunately NH's uniquely unruly Legislature doesn't share their enthusiasm, so they are permanently held hostage by Concord on that. In a sane world the NH Main is top priority over all else, but they can't even gets heads-out-of-rears for that one so Nashua's splinter effort to get MBTA Lowell locals there may be the only commuter rail they see in the next 10 years (given that the T has Plan B layover site on the Haverhill side of the border to run with if it comes time to wash their hands of the Plaistow NIMBY's).

At the end of the day it's in NH's court. Portsmouth's such a juicy target that 5 miles in Massachusetts, a new bridge, and a Route 1-centric compensatory package for taking the trail is a no-brainer. It really isn't an onerous capital cost in Massachusetts. But they don't do anything without a total greenlight in NH. That's just not an advocacy MA can be in the driver's seat on; Salisbury and Seabrook are too small to push across the bridge for Salisbury's and Seabrook's sake.

The old scoping study from the late-90's did find the approach spans to the bridge in solid structural shape. Of course, that was before Newburyport removed 1 pier's worth of decking around the waterfront. If rehab is possible on the remaining approach structure that lowers the cost of the bridge considerably to just the structural rehab and a brand new draw span to replace the derelict swing. It's a pretty solidly-overbuilt hunk of steel compared to Beverly swing, Saugus draw, and the Haverhill Line's Merrimack crossing deathtrap.

Watchman318 wrote:The removal of the former bridge over Rt. 1 north of Salisbury Square kinda squashed that, for rail travel anyway. I suppose pedestrians and bicyclists could cross the road "at grade," but I think Rt. 1 was 40 MPH through there. I could be mistaken about that.


There's a couple of places where structurally unsound or extremely low-clearance bridges were removed. Embankments are still there at Route 1 in Salisbury. Definitely too steep for a trail head by the looks of it on Google Street View, but appears to have been a low-clearance bridge back in the day. I assume in a rail restoration scenario a new bridge goes in here, because the difference in grades between ROW and road is too big for a grade crossing. Look like it would be a relatively trivial production to do.

Believe there may be one recently removed or filled-in bridge in Hampton or Seabrook just a little bit south of the most recent PAR abandonment (Drakeside Rd. near the 101/1 interchange?) where it was extremely structurally unsafe. But I kind of doubt that area would get trailed. The swamp-crossing portion of the ROW between Seabrook Station and 101/1 carries the main feeder power lines from the nuke plant. Even with the rail bridges completely intact the state would probably have some hesitation bring a trail head south to Brimmer Lane. Homeland Security considerations and whatnot about those feeder lines. And if Salisbury doesn't cross Route 1 it's kind of pointless for Seabrook to try to do something between 286 and Railroad Ave. when the grade separation makes establishing a trail head so difficult. I think Hampton-north on the in-progress abandonment is the only place where ROW cannibalization is much of a concern in the 20+ years it'll take for the "put-the-fun-in-dysfunction" state gov't to get serious about funding commuter rail relief.
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Re: Newburyport Line extension

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Wed Oct 29, 2014 2:40 pm

http://www.rpc-nh.org/PDFs/docs/HampBranchFeasStudy.pdf

FWIW...here's the 2001 feasibility study. Includes cost projections, locations of bridge work, and sections explicitly dealing with rail trail accommodations and potential NIMBY's en route. NH side of the border only. Cost and ridership projections are pretty dated now, but it's an exhaustive amount of info on what the project would entail.
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Re: Newburyport Line extension

Postby NH2060 » Wed Oct 29, 2014 2:59 pm

One candidate for Executive Council thinks rail service should be in the picture (Fair use quote below):
The two candidates fielded questions about whether the council is just a backing for the governor, the importance of different infrastructure in the state and what the future of the state may look like in 10 years.

"New Hampshire has a bright future, but we need to plan long term for things like a commuter rail," McLain said. "I think in the long run it's not practical to commute in a car to Boston. We also need to continue to invest in the community college and university system."

http://www.seacoastonline.com/article/2 ... 63xv9.dpuf
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Re: Newburyport Line extension

Postby deathtopumpkins » Wed Oct 29, 2014 4:22 pm

F-Line: I'm not so sure double-tracking to Newburyport would be quite so easy. I know firsthand from when I worked for the state that going north out of Ipswich the track is centered on the ROW, and near the stations in Ipswich and Hamilton a lot of buildings are right up against the track. I'm specifically picturing the Ipswich Institution for Savings, and some of the retail in Hamilton. No way you could fit a second track in there without land taking, and certainly not a platform.

It would be nowhere near as hard as some other places, but I think you're dismissing it as too trivial.

However, as someone largely transit-dependent living in Ipswich, the line definitely needs expanded weekend service. Hourly would be fantastic. I frequently find myself not taking it on the weekend or driving to Beverly because I don't want to have to get where I'm going several hours early. I'm a huge supporter of extensions into NH and more frequent service though. Honestly, if Newburyport and Rockport weren't branches, but standalone lines they'd have much more frequent service than they do.
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Re: Newburyport Line extension

Postby nomis » Wed Oct 29, 2014 5:06 pm

... insert thought of DMU shuttle service here ... :-)

Honestly, shuttle service meeting the opposing branch's train at Beverly or Salem would be a quick fix for fixing the abysmal service past Beverly depot.
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