Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Worcester vote on Department of Transportation plan for Worcester, Beacon Yards, Grand Junction bridge and line

The Worcester City Council has voted in favor of the Department of Transportation's plan to expand the freight yards there, so as to increase commuter rail use of the Beacon Yards while drastically reducing freight in the latter.

The plan will have major consequences for Worcester neighborhoods as well as metro Boston. In Allston and Cambridge it will not seem to reduce rail traffic in the Beacon Yards, since DOT wants to use that facility as a car barn for commuter rail as well as increase through traffic on the Worcester-Framingham line to both North and South Stations.

Eliminating rail freight almost entirely, as it aims to do, will in fact greatly increase truck traffic throughout metro I-495, with attendant problems for the environment, roadway maintenance costs, and public health. There are other consequences, some of which are outlined in the letter Marilyn Wellons sent to the Worcester Telegram on Monday, June 28, 2010:

To the Editor:

On the eve of the city's vote on plans to move the Beacon Freight Yards to Worcester, please consider the following:

1. Recently announced plans to send Worcester-Framingham commuter trains to North Station would free up space in South Station for the new South Coast service that will compete for it. Will some or eventually all Worcester-Framingham trains end up at North Station? Will commuters learn to accept this change?

2. The same plans would send some or all Worcester-Framingham trains over the Grand Junction rail bridge. This structure has been the Urban Ring Phase 2 (UR2) critical Charles River crossing. Although UR2 is now on hold, will the new commuter rail plans scotch UR2's for the same bridge?

3. Crossings in Framingham and in Cambridge are to be at grade, with all attendant problems.

4. Your recent article on the virtues of the CSX facility in Atlanta make an excellent case for keeping the Beacon Yards in Allston rather than moving them west, to Worcester, with the increased truck traffic there and within I-495.

With so many last-minute uncertainties and so much at stake, Worcester should think again about these plans, rather than merely cross fingers and wish to make the supposed benefits so.


For the Worcester Telegram's coverage of last night's vote on DOT's plans, see:

Marilyn Wellons