Haverhill Line Upgrade Discussion (Western Route)

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Haverhill Line Upgrade Discussion (Western Route)

Postby sery2831 » Tue Sep 29, 2009 9:56 am

Since we have a broad Stimulus money thread and one for the Fitchburg, I think we need one for Haverhill.

Seems like things are going to start happening soon. Some welded rail has been dropped along the line in key spots already. Here is an article from the Boston Globe.

From Boston.com: http://www.boston.com/news/local/articl ... e_upgrade/

Haverhill rail service to upgrade
Stimulus funds will add track, improve systems

By John Laidler, Globe Correspondent | September 27, 2009

Commuter train riders between Haverhill and Boston will see their service enhanced as a result of $17.4 million in improvements the state plans to carry out with federal stimulus money.

The administration of Governor Deval Patrick recently announced it was committing the combined stimulus funds for two projects to upgrade the infrastructure of the Haverhill commuter rail line.

One is a $10.2 million project to add a second track to a 6-mile portion of the line that is single track, from Lawrence to Andover. The other is a $7.2 million project to improve train control systems along the line.

“It’s a huge opportunity for the Merrimack Valley,’’ said Robert J. Halpin, president of the Merrimack Valley Economic Council.

“The improved commuting time that will result from double tracking can make valley communities more attractive for the commuting workforce,’’ he said, noting that it supports ongoing efforts by Haverhill and Lawrence to promote development near their rail stations.

Halpin said by spurring more people to ride the trains, improved transit service could also ease traffic pressure on Interstate 93.

The state has been allotted $319 million overall in stimulus money for urban and regional transit projects.

The money for the Haverhill line project is part of $64.3 million in projects that the state recently identified for funding, according to Colin Durrant, a spokesman for the state Executive Office of Transportation.

“The Haverhill commuter rail line is a key commuter rail line that serves Boston and Haverhill,’’ he said. “With the recovery funds, we are going to make improvements to service and reliability that people have waited for for a long time.’’

The Haverhill line extends from North Station in Boston through Malden, Melrose, Wakefield, Reading, Wilmington, Andover, Lawrence, North Andover, and Haverhill. In addition to commuter rail, the track system is used by Amtrak for its Downeaster service between Portland, Maine, and Boston, and by freight trains operated by Pan-Am Railways.

According to the state, the single-track system along the Haverhill line, coupled with an inadequate signal system, is a source of delays.

If a train becomes disabled along the single track, it can cause backups of other trains along the line.

With two tracks, trains can maneuver around the disabled train and maintain service near scheduled levels.

The double-tracking project would reduce the single-track miles on the line from 14 to 8. The project, expected to take two years once it gets underway, also involves installing new signaling equipment at Andover Street in Lawrence and Lowell Junction in Andover.

The second project calls for installing new track circuits, power circuits, and signaling equipment, and improvements to seven grade crossings.

The state says the project, expected to take three years, will enhance the reliability and safety of the system.

Halpin noted that double-tracking the Haverhill line was a key recommendation of a Merrimack Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization study looking at ways to reduce congestion and improve safety along the I-93 corridor stretching from the Andover-Wilmington line - where the highway drops from four to three lanes - to the New Hampshire line.

“It’s just tremendous we are able to move forward with the stimulus money’’ to carry out part of the double tracking, Halpin said.

He noted that progress is also being made toward the second recommendation of the study, which calls for expanding the three-lane section of I-93 to four lanes.

He said in an environmental impact study the state is performing on a planned I-93 interchange at Lowell Junction that the state has also agreed to study the impact of widening I-93 from the junction north to Interstate 495.

Anthony Komornick, transportation manager for the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission, said that because of the limitations posed by the Haverhill line’s single-track system, “We as a region don’t get the level of commuter rail service that other communities receive.

“One of our priority goals is to have the bottleneck that exists on the Haverhill line alleviated by building that separate track,’’ he said, noting the contribution that could make to reducing highway traffic.

In addition to providing relief to commuters, Komornick said, the project could also bring improvements to railroad freight service in the region, which would provide a boost to businesses that make use of it.

William Pillsbury, Haverhill’s director of economic development and planning, said the award of stimulus money for the Haverhill line project is “tremendous news.’’

“The city has been staunchly behind the state’s efforts to expand the intermodal aspects of transportation,’’ he said, noting for example its work to attract downtown development close to the city’s train station. “So being able to enhance the capacity of the system that underlies transit-oriented development is fantastic for us.’’
© Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company
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Re: Federal Stimulus Money For Western Rte(Haverhill Line)

Postby davidp » Tue Sep 29, 2009 3:38 pm

Are there any plans to do anything about the 5mph Merrimack River bridge?

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Re: Federal Stimulus Money For Western Rte(Haverhill Line)

Postby jonnhrr » Tue Sep 29, 2009 3:44 pm

Too bad they are going to P*ss away $$$ on widening I-93. You could add a lot of second track with that. It'll be like the widening of Rte 3, years of traffic jams during the construction, then a few months of smoothly flowing traffic until more people start using it and it becomes congested again.

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Re: Federal Stimulus Money For Western Rte(Haverhill Line)

Postby AEM7AC920 » Tue Sep 29, 2009 7:43 pm

davidp wrote:Are there any plans to do anything about the 5mph Merrimack River bridge?

Dave


The speed isn't 5 it's 15 now and there are still repairs slated for the bridge.
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Re: Federal Stimulus Money For Western Rte(Haverhill Line)

Postby jamesinclair » Tue Sep 29, 2009 8:30 pm

Wow, adding track! Is it sad that Im so surprised that theyre actually going to improve a line by adding capacity? It seems like most projects involve replacing ties or signals.
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Re: Federal Stimulus Money For Western Rte(Haverhill Line)

Postby djlong » Wed Sep 30, 2009 10:49 am

jonnhrr wrote:Too bad they are going to P*ss away $$$ on widening I-93. You could add a lot of second track with that. It'll be like the widening of Rte 3, years of traffic jams during the construction, then a few months of smoothly flowing traffic until more people start using it and it becomes congested again.

Having done the Nashua-to-128 commute many times since 1978, I can tell you that US-3's widening is a VAST improvement. They still managed to screw up the 495 interchange, though.

Whereas you had backups from Westford to Bedford before, you now have a jam at 495 (becaue of the stupid alignment of the incoming Lowell Connector traffic that should have been diverted to the cloverleaf) but few other problems.

Keeping this on-topic, though, the cost was some $300M (depending on who you listen to, $285M-$330M) and that's what extending commuter rail from Lowell to CONCORD NH with the wilton branch included would cost in their "blue sky" proposal.
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Re: Federal Stimulus Money For Western Rte(Haverhill Line)

Postby sery2831 » Wed Sep 30, 2009 11:01 am

Lets not go off topic... This is a discussion about the Haverhill Line only.
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Re: Federal Stimulus Money For Western Rte(Haverhill Line)

Postby jbvb » Wed Sep 30, 2009 7:52 pm

The welded rail wasn't dropped by Guilford, it was dropped by MBTA locomotives and a rented rail train. This leads me to hope that they aren't going to give Guilford/Pan Am another contract until (perhaps) they get around to finishing the Track 17 project (old eastward siding) at Lawrence. Still, I'm unimpressed that it's planned to take two years. Maybe they'll restore double track AS to Frye before the ground freezes? I can dream...
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Re: Federal Stimulus Money For Western Rte(Haverhill Line)

Postby diburning » Thu Oct 01, 2009 12:02 am

heh, the MBTA doesn't even trust them with the GP40MCs. And after 1006 came back exploding oil all over the place.... I don't know if they will send another one up there to be fixed.

With the added tracks, will there be added trains? Or is there still an equipment availibility issue?
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Re: Federal Stimulus Money For Western Rte(Haverhill Line)

Postby jbvb » Fri Oct 02, 2009 8:52 am

I've heard nothing about more trains. Maine would like 6 Downeaster round trips, but I haven't heard whether they've even resolved ongoing funding for the current 5. The MBTA might be able to tighten up schedules and turn-around times a bit, but currently the SRO part of the Haverhill line is Boston - Wakefield. Fixing that takes more capacity Sullivan Sq. - Wyoming, and probably some investment in Reading too. It wouldn't be an enormous amount of money, but it isn't being funded by this round of stimulus money.
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Re: Federal Stimulus Money For Western Rte(Haverhill Line)

Postby octr202 » Fri Oct 02, 2009 9:13 am

But - if the upper end of the line has more capacity, could for example evening express service be routed over the NH main and Wildcat, taking say the current Andover-Haverhill traffic off of express trips (currently one express and one semi-kind of express) that operate via Reading currently, allowing for more space on replacement trains to run Boston-Reading?

In my book, those Anderson locals scream out for using those slots to continue on to Haverhill, while turning more Reading service there, in order to speed up travel times overall. Ultimately, modernizing the Haverhill line doesn't work if millions are poured into the outer end, but the slow crawl and bottleneck remain closer in.
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Re: Federal Stimulus Money For Western Rte(Haverhill Line)

Postby jbvb » Sat Oct 03, 2009 9:34 am

In the morning, one Haverhill/Wilmington train runs express to Boston, the other runs local 7 min. behind the only Lowell inbound express. In the evening, there's a Lowell train that runs express to Anderson, but the one Haverhill train makes all stops. The only express service on the Reading line is the 5:10 outbound, which doesn't stop between Malden and Wakefield. There isn't an awful lot of scope for express service Boston - Wilmington, as there aren't any places where it is easy for one train to overtake another; it's best when the local is in a station which has an express track. The current arrangement of crossovers several miles apart works well for service interruptions, but you can't schedule overtakes unless there is a big hole in the opposing traffic.

In general, I've always felt the MBTA has no real organizational grasp of express service, and it shows when comparing their schedules with B&M-era operations. They could do more, even through Malden, by 'fleeting' trains, but the most effective form is: Local leaves for Reading. Express follows 15 minutes later, makes 5 minute transfer connection at Reading for Haverhill. It's cheaper for them to run one train, with the aisles blocked by standing people till Wakefield.
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Re: Federal Stimulus Money For Western Rte(Haverhill Line)

Postby jbvb » Sat Nov 14, 2009 2:25 pm

The welded rail dropped 6 weeks ago is undisturbed as winter approaches. However, they seem to be doing something serious about the Shawsheen River bridge at Lowell Jct. A container is serving as a storage shed. A temporary 2x4 railing has been cobbled onto the parapet of the bridge. Parts were present for a stairway down to water level. Multiple employees on hand as #214 passes, including Friday a diver getting dressed.
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Re: Federal Stimulus Money For Western Rte(Haverhill Line)

Postby Rockingham Racer » Sat Nov 14, 2009 4:22 pm

Thanks for the update; keep us posted!
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Re: Federal Stimulus Money For Western Rte(Haverhill Line)

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Sat Nov 14, 2009 5:29 pm

I'm fine with the outer end of the line getting first crack at double-tracking if that's all they could get for stimulus. They've moved rapidly enough for my satisfaction to get these upgrades built whenever the funding's been freed up. At least this will help the traffic management options from Lowell Junction north. They still have to fix the single-track segment on the end of the Reading line from Ash St. to Lowell Jct. to give the Haverhill line maximum throughput and total double-tracking on all possible portions of the route north of Oak Grove. And that shouldn't be hard because you can clearly see on the satellite view that the ROW is ballasted for double-track and that Reading station has a conspicuously wide outbound platform. But if the Plaistow extension is still an automatic if NH chucks in funding, then taking care of the Andover-Lawrence double-tracking and the Reading-Andover stretch are the necessary infrastructure upgrades before that can happen. At minimum you have to do that and get any substandard portions of the signal system upgraded, and then you can do the short Wilmington Jct. connector and possibly even the Wildcat Branch to get your express service permanently operational with good freight traffic management too.

The good news is that the underway Acton-Ayer double-tracking on the Fitchburg and the Andover-Lawrence double-tracking on the Haverhill leave just Reading-Andover and the tiny Waltham single-track section as the only single-track gaps to fill in on 3 of 5 northside lines. That really isn't a lot to go, and because these lines all used to be full double-track the cost isn't that bad and definitely accomplishable in 5 years if these little bits of stimulus money can be had. Figure Wilmington Jct. as another easy one. That just leaves the vexing issue of the Salem tunnel on the Eastern route as the only hard one, and Wildcat branch as the only potential NIMBY and PAR headache. Rockport branch is only singled between from Gloucester station to Rockport, which really doesn't require it because it's only 1 stop's distance at the terminus. And double-tracking the Eastern Route past North Beverly to a bit closer to the terminus (Ipswich?) is another one easily done with stimulus pocket change because that's another former two-track line still ballasted for the second berth...and that takes secondary priority to the Salem tunnel.


Compare with the Southside where there's only 2 full-double lines (NEC, Fairmount) currently, and no others that are even majority-double. 2 almost entirely single lines (Needham, Greenbush), a huge stretch of Franklin trackage past Norwood that's going to need expansion in under a decade before the line chokes to death on ridership and freight growth, all kinds of gaps on the Old Colony main needing filling because of ridership growth and mixed freight, and a truly daunting stretch from SS to Braintree that would be hugely expensive and disruptive to do...but will have to be done in the next 20 years because of how it caps Old Colony capacity and any future service to the Cape. Really, the only dirt cheap ones there is the Readville bottleneck on the Franklin, where there's only a couple hundred feet of single to upgrade, and the Worcester line fill-in through Beacon Park which they can probably do even before CSX moves west once the final hurdles on Westborough and Framingham yards are cleared enough for CSX not to mind temporarily giving up 1 track's worth of yard capacity.
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