Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Further thoughts on the MassDOT Presentation in Cambridgeport

Marilyn Wellons passes on the following additional thoughts about last week’s MassDOT presentation to the Cambridgeport gathering. They were prepared to brief a third party:


A young man from DOT who's nominally in charge of studying the proposed commuter rail service passed around big satellite views of the Grand Junction line. One was from the Beacon Yards in Allston and showed the bridge over the Charles. Another showed the northern portion of the line, to North Point.

He gave the history of the state's acquisition of the right-of-way. There have been 7-8 community meetings in Cambridge and Somerville. A ridership study is underway.

He said nothing was set, everything was being looked at. He couldn't confirm a total of 20 trains daily as had been reported. Nothing is settled.

A more senior DOT official was there. He's been the DOT point man for the Urban Ring, state rail, and state freight studies.

There was general concern about noise, congestion at the level crossings, possible pedestrian deaths, questions whether there would be a stop in Cambridge; whether there could be a parallel bike route along the line of rail. All are being studied, but on the last point DOT said such a route would require a large buffer between trains and bikes. Since this goes through dense neighborhoods that would seem to be very difficult.

On a possible stop in Cambridge, although they said everything was being studied, I've learned that establishing such a stop would likely trigger an environmental review, which DOT doesn't seem to want. No such review seems required now, at least for Cambridge. Mind you, DOT didn't make this point although it would have been possible to say so when people asked if there would be an environmental review.

This would reinforce the point that the entire project, from Worcester to North and/or South Stations, is, so far, segmented so as to avoid full environmental review.

Questions were whether there was space at North Station for the trains from Worcester as commuter trains now idle outside North Station because they can't all fit. DOT said they're holding to plans to tear down the post office at South Station for a South Coast rail expansion.

State Representative Marty Walz was there and asked if their study included anticipated peak use of commuter rail to the Garden for Celtics or Bruins games and the ca. 80 concerts a year there. The answer was no, but the study can look more deeply into that.

Preliminary results will be out in the late spring. MA DOT will then decide what to do.