Tuesday, April 02, 2013

South Station Expansion Meeting

1. General.
2. Application to the Charles River.
3. General purpose of South Station Expansion.
4. Bicycle aspects.
5. Obtaining the Environmental Notification Form and filing comments.

1. General.

The Department of Transportation and the Massachusetts environmental secretary’s MEPA (Mass. Environmental Protection Act) office conducted a meeting in the office portion of South Station, Boston, MA, USA on April 1, 2013. This concerned the Environmental Notification Form being submitted with regard to this project.

Filing of this document, with opportunity for comment, is a first step in environmental notifications in this matter.

Succinctly, the project increases track capacity at South Station in Boston, MA by building new track facilities east of the current tracks. In the process, the current central mail processing facility in that location would be torn down and replaced by a new building further to the east in the South Boston Waterfront area.

Trackage would be squared off so that all tracks end at a concourse with access to the South Station lobby. The most recent addition of tracks 15 years ago was for the reconstruction of the Old Colony commuter rail lines to Plymouth / Kingston and to Middleboro / Lakeville. Those tracks currently end significantly before the other tracks in South Station.

2. Application to the Charles River.

The project, at first blush, is of major concern to the Charles River because of the passenger service proposed for the Grand Junction railroad which passes through / next to the Destroyed Nesting Area of the Charles River White Geese. I have recently reported on the belligerently destructive use of the Destroyed Nesting Area for parking of personal cars and for a very loud building with regard to work being done on the Grand Junction’s Bridge over the Charles River very close to the destroyed nesting area.

MassDOT did a study of passenger service being sneakily pushed for the Grand Junction by the Cambridge Machine and their associates in Cambridge government.

MassDOT found that adding Grand Junction passenger service lacked substantive merit and should not be considered as long as South Station is expanded so as to allow room for the passenger service there.

The key is that Grand Junction passenger traffic could be considered if the expansion does not go forward.

The South Station Expansion proposal got more interesting and beneficial when it turned out that South Station currently has problems with storing trains during the day between runs and that expansion would worsen that problem. Three locations were suggested for layover storage of trains to resolve the problem.

The best suggestion is the Beacon Railroad Yards visible from Magazine Beach on the south side of the Charles River in the Allston neighborhood of Boston. Harvard University owns the Beacon Railroad Yards and the adjacent I90 (Mass. Pike) off ramp to Cambridge and the Brighton neighborhood of Boston. This property is larger than Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. Harvard clearly sees it as the future home of Harvard Medical School.

The railroad is moving their yard to Worcester.

Harvard’s empire building looks very clearly like the root cause of all that environmental destruction on the Charles River.

Harvard’s ownership usage is subject to Massachusetts’ need of the Beacon Yards for transportation purposes. A layover yard for South Station is such a use. Use of Beacon Yard for South Station layover would put a severe cramp in Harvard’s empire building and give the Cambridge Machine less incentive to continue with its ongoing destruction on and near the Charles River.

Beacon Yards is about 4 miles distant from South Station along the railroad.

3. General purpose of South Station Expansion.

The immediate driving factor for South Station Expansion, and not really explained in the meeting, is the South Coast Commuter Rail project. This project would restore commuter rail to Fall River and New Bedford on the South Coast of Massachusetts. This service was killed with the expansion of the automobile highways 50 years ago.

To put it succinctly, this project is the logical follow on to the Old Colony restoration of 15 years ago. The state is now restoring service to communities more distant from Boston than those who most benefited from the Old Colony restoration.

The needs of Worcester are secondary to South Coast, but Worcester’s needs would also be resolved by the expansion.

It is part of the Patrick administration’s efforts to restore rail transportation throughout the state.

4. Bicycle aspects.

One of the many highly irresponsible aspects of welfare for contractors in highway projects in the Cambridge, MA, area is the moving of bicycles onto the sidewalks. Definitely exactly the wrong way to go if you want to expand bicycle commuting because these changes treat bicycles as not a mode of transportation worthy of respect.

The South Station Expansion project includes a proposal to reinstate Dorchester Avenue to full use.

The current arrangement of land going from west to east is South Station, Postal Annex, and then a stub of Dorchester Avenue which is now a private way for the Postal Service.

The main part of Dorchester Avenue is the main thoroughfare in Boston’s Dorchester Avenue neighborhood.

The proposal includes an option to reopen Dorchester Avenue as a public way and thus to resume direct access to the South Station part of the city from Dorchester.

The redesigned Dorchester Avenue makes sense for bicycle transportation. Bicycles would be in their own lane adjacent to motor vehicle traffic and would not be mistreated on the sidewalk as is the nonsense in Cambridge and related.

5. Obtaining the Environmental Notification Form and filing comments.

The simplest way to obtain the Environmental Form is to go to the project website, www.masdot.state.ma.us/southstationexpansion.

Comments may be sent by mail, fax or email until April 9, 2013 to:

Secretary Richard K. Sullivan, Jr.
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
MEPA Office
Attn: Holly Johnson, MEPA Analyst
Boston, MA 02114
FAX 617-625-1181
Email: Holly.S.Johnson@state.ma.us