MWDN: State to buy CSX rail tracks in MetroWest
September 24, 2009
By Charlie Breitrose, The MetroWest Daily News
A new agreement allowing the state to purchase the Boston-to- Worcester rail line from CSX Transportation would clear the way for more commuter trains to go through MetroWest, ease freight traffic and, down the line, address problematic crossings in Framingham and Ashland.
The state will pay $100 million for the Boston-Worcester line and lines in the southeast part of the state. Details of the agreement were released by Lt. Gov. Tim Murray yesterday.
State Sen. Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, called the agreement a first step toward addressing the problem of trains tying up traffic in downtown Framingham and Ashland.
“The way I view this, this is phase one in the rail process. This finally removes the barrier of the state not owning the lines,” Spilka said. “Phase two will be discussions about CSX retreating from North Yard in Framingham and mitigation for the at-grade crossings in downtown Framingham and downtown Ashland.”
Another part of the deal will move CSX’s main freight yard from Allston to Central Massachusetts. Spilka said that will likely take a couple of years, but when it happens, MetroWest towns will see less rail traffic.
“(Freight) trains will no longer need to go from Central Mass. into Boston,” Spilka said. “All the focus will be on Central Mass. as the hub, so freight trains will bypass the at-grade crossings in Framingham and Ashland. There will be a huge reduction in rail traffic.”
The agreement will allow both commuter and freight trains to run more efficiently, said state Rep. John Fernandes, D-Milford, who serves on the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation.
“It is a significant boost to commuter rail and a significant boost for use of rail for freight, which means fewer trucks will be on the roads,” Fernandes said. “Both will help the conditions of the highways, at the end of the day.”
Commuter rail service got a bump even before the deal was officially completed, Fernandes said. Five more trains will be going to Worcester from Boston each day, he said.
The talks between the state and CSX opens the possibility of improving rail service in the Franklin and Milford areas, Fernandes said.
A freight line may open up between Franklin, which is currently the end of the line, and Hopedale, Fernandes said. If that starts up, the line could be used for commuter rail service along the same line, but that would require an upgrade of the tracks.
“One of the things people in Hopedale are talking about is whether there is the capacity to do commuter rail to that location,” Fernandes said. “There is nothing formal, but it has been discussed between town officials and people from the state.”
That particular line, which is now unused, runs from Grafton through Upton, Hopedale, Milford, Bellingham and ends up in Franklin, Fernandes said.
Fernandes said Murray did a fine job hammering out the agreement.
“CSX is a tough company to do business with, but the lieutenant governor, who spearheaded the talks, deserves an enormous amount of credit,” Fernandes said.
(Charlie Breitrose can be reached at 508-626-3964 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)