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Old 04-03-2019, 03:14 PM   #1
stick n move
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Framingham grade crossings

Framingham has a pretty big issue of 2 at grade crossings through downtown that is a really hard situation to find a solution to. Lots of people have tried to find a good solution, but they never do. I was wondering what ideas people could come up with that could fix or improve this situation. The at grade crossings make traffic downtown a mess and if higher frequency trains are ever going to happen it will only get much worse. Really all that theyve come up with is to sink 135 under 126, which does next to nothing. They dont want to sink or build a bridge for 126 over the tracks because it will cut downtown in half. Sinking the whole train line below grade isnt even an option monetarily and service would be probably cut off for a while. What are some ideas people can think of?

Rt 126 crossing downtown


Bishop st crossing east of 126


Both grade crossingsand from outer view of downtown


Heres the main page for related documents for the city.
https://www.framinghamma.gov/269/Dow...lroad-Crossing

Pg 98 has the options. Essentially just sink 135 under 126.
https://www.framinghamma.gov/Documen...0091009?bidId=
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Old 04-03-2019, 03:25 PM   #2
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Re: Framingham grade crossings

I think at the bare minimum extending Franklin st straight down to 135 would at least help with some of the congestion because its the second main road that goes downtown, but it merges to 126 and only 1 road connects the north and south sides through the main downtown corridor. It would allow Franklin st to have its own crossing. This solves nothing as far as grade crossings, actually adding one, but should help congestion.

I think if the commuter rail station were moved east between 126 and Bishop st also, that puts it much more in the geographic center of walking accessibility of downtown vs being off to the side of downtown in the car centric spot its in now.
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Old 04-03-2019, 03:38 PM   #3
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Re: Framingham grade crossings

Turn Grant and Marble into a through route with an underpass (that goes under 135 and Howard). Put a second underpass from South (vacant lot east of the current alignment) to Howard. And an overpass from a realigned Clinton to 135.



There's no pretty or easy way. But those two underpasses would, at least, give alternate routes to the grade crossings.
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Old 04-04-2019, 11:57 AM   #4
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Re: Framingham grade crossings

Sinking 135 under 126 with frontages is an actual MassHighway proposal on the searchable project database, albeit scant on detail. It was supposed to be fast-tracked onto the TIP, but state rapidly backed off it and has let it langish on the unfunded universe for close to 10 years. While predictably expensive it would've prevented the backups on the 126 crossing by only having short signal cycles for turning lanes on the frontages.

There's not much else in the way of sensible improvements because City of Framingham is its own worst enemy. Neither 126 nor Bishop is quadrant-gated because the town rejected it despite the T offering it. The T planned to install security fencing along the ROW between crossings because of too many close calls with trespassers...city balked at it because citizens playing chicken with trains for a God-given right to a ped shortcut is A-OK to them. They've done about 80 bazillion renders of street grid reconfigs over the years with almost as many town meetings...all of the schemes so far have managed to deadlock themselves.

Outright elimination of 126, Bishop, and the 135 crossing of the Framingham Secondary are all physically impossible. The junction with a regionally mission-critical freight branch means changing track levels with a viaduct is extreme-blowout cost. Sinking tracks + junction is physically impossible because of the adjacent viaducts. And 126-under-135 was evaluated and rejected over cost and deeply unfavorable abutter impacts.

Basically, blanket mitigation and grid optimization are the only way to go. But Framingham must first start acting like it truly wants to help itself instead of forever proposing but rejecting.
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Old 04-04-2019, 01:46 PM   #5
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Re: Framingham grade crossings

Quote:
Originally Posted by stick n move View Post
I think at the bare minimum extending Franklin st straight down to 135 would at least help with some of the congestion because its the second main road that goes downtown, but it merges to 126 and only 1 road connects the north and south sides through the main downtown corridor. It would allow Franklin st to have its own crossing. This solves nothing as far as grade crossings, actually adding one, but should help congestion.

I think if the commuter rail station were moved east between 126 and Bishop st also, that puts it much more in the geographic center of walking accessibility of downtown vs being off to the side of downtown in the car centric spot its in now.
The CR station would have zero parking whatsoever if it moved east, which isn't a great alternative. Also, a future sale of CSX North Yard for redev (Framingham State U long-rumored to have interest) would infill a lot of development immediately around the current station. Thirdly, in an RER universe the station may need a third platform track for Framingham-terminating runs and/or Amtrak, and the current station is where that space is guaranteed.

Basically, there's nothing that can be done at the crossings-proper except installing quad gates, putting pop-up lane blockers on the immediate approaches, and optimizing the traffic lights for queue dumps. And installing that ROW safety fencing between crossings. All of course contingent on the city not mindlessly opposing this time.

The rest? Optimize, optimize, optimize the crap out of that street grid. And the city has to learn to accept the pros/cons of a workable design instead of reflexively always holding out for more when that "more" is never defined.
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Old 04-04-2019, 02:04 PM   #6
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Re: Framingham grade crossings

Quote:
Originally Posted by F-Line to Dudley View Post
Sinking 135 under 126 with frontages is an actual MassHighway proposal on the searchable project database, albeit scant on detail. It was supposed to be fast-tracked onto the TIP, but state rapidly backed off it and has let it langish on the unfunded universe for close to 10 years. While predictably expensive it would've prevented the backups on the 126 crossing by only having short signal cycles for turning lanes on the frontages.
I know thats why I provided the link.

Quote:
Originally Posted by F-Line to Dudley View Post
The CR station would have zero parking whatsoever if it moved east, which isn't a great alternative. Also, a future sale of CSX North Yard for redev (Framingham State U long-rumored to have interest) would infill a lot of development immediately around the current station. Thirdly, in an RER universe the station may need a third platform track for Framingham-terminating runs and/or Amtrak, and the current station is where that space is guaranteed.

Basically, there's nothing that can be done at the crossings-proper except installing quad gates, putting pop-up lane blockers on the immediate approaches, and optimizing the traffic lights for queue dumps. And installing that ROW safety fencing between crossings. All of course contingent on the city not mindlessly opposing this time.

The rest? Optimize, optimize, optimize the crap out of that street grid. And the city has to learn to accept the pros/cons of a workable design instead of reflexively always holding out for more when that "more" is never defined.
Yea thats why I think just extending Franklin street is the best option as far as addressing traffic the easiest way, although unlikely. Does nothing for at grade crossings, actually adding one, but without some EXTREME money/engineering nothing can be done. So I think thats really the only option, besides them sinking 135 which also doesnt address the grade crossing, but does address traffic.

How was the Natick trench built? Just a long time ago when the tracks were first laid?
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Old 04-04-2019, 04:23 PM   #7
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Re: Framingham grade crossings

Outright relocation - what is now Middlesex Avenue and the Middlesex Path was the original ROW. During the 1896 grade crossing elimination (which also included the addition of 3rd and 4th tracks), the new alignment was built.
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Old 04-04-2019, 05:05 PM   #8
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Re: Framingham grade crossings

And the reason why Framingham has all the grade crossings while nearly everywhere else does not is that until 1969 this was a junction of competing railroads: Boston & Albany, and the New York, New Haven & Hartford. B&A had the mainline and the westerly Nevins Yard. NYNH&H had the Framingham Secondary + Fitchburg Secondary acquired from the Old Colony as what was once a contiguous New Bedford to Fitchburg mainline, owned North Yard, and owned the Milford Branch out of Franklin whose stub now exists the lead tracks for CP (south) yard. With a whole lot of freight being interchanged between the three yards. As proof of competition, see how the Framingham Secondary used to cross the B&A on a diamond straight off the 135 grade crossing without having any switch onto the B&A like today.

Because of the separate ownerships, no one could agree on who would pay what share for grade separation, and so no action was taken until downtown was too built up to do anything. Realistically, that last opportunity to blow stuff up and rearrange things passed a solid 85-90 years ago when downtown stopped having any rural parcels left. Boston & Albany's turn-of-century crossing elimination blitz was already over at that point, and NHNH&H was concentrating its energy on crossing eliminations much closer to Boston not giving much priority to its lines through Framingham which were freight-heavy with scant passenger traffic (which was all kaput by the Depression leaving just freight).



Ashland retaining 2 crossings is the result of the same competition. NHNH&H's Hopkinton Branch ran from Milford to Ashland until 1940 with the old Ashland station off Main St. acting as a union station. The roadbed for the branch can easily be seen just west of the Cherry St. grade crossing, where it splits between a pond and the capped town landfill then crosses the long, lonely driveway to the current commuter rail stop out in the middle of nowhere. NYNH&H ran its own track apart from the B&A through the very short distance from Cherry St. to the station...so, again, neither railroad could agree on who paid what to eliminate the Cherry & Main crossings. As with Framingham, NYNH&H had very little passenger traffic to go to bat for on a rural branchline and thus had far less incentive than east-west juggarnaut-of-all-things B&A to want to contribute to any crossing elimination costs.

At least with the Ashland pair a modern elimination is possible (and very high-priority for RER + Amtrak because of the large freight volumes also still traveling here). The junction is long gone and there's a long enough straightaway to build up an embankment for a rail bridge over main, and rail bridge + partial road dip at Cherry. But those crossings persisted in the first place for the same reasons Framingham's did: railroads competing well, well into the car era having to coexist at a junction.
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Old 04-04-2019, 05:16 PM   #9
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Re: Framingham grade crossings

So Natick they dug out that whole trench? Are there any photos of this? Theyre so lucky that was done in the past and they dont even have to worry about it. Their new station renderings with a new pedestrian bridge, elevators, and high boarding platforms looks great too and its such a huge improvement. It sucks how competing railroads messed up so many things for so many people. I can only imagine Framingham without at grade crossings. So they wanted to sink it before? Do they go to single track and dig down one side at a time?
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Old 04-04-2019, 05:47 PM   #10
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Re: Framingham grade crossings

FWIW, there is some minor cleanup that can be done here, at least in terms of the other two seldom-used grade crossings in downtown: the westerly 135 crossing and southerly 126 crossing on the CP (south) Yard leads.

CSX has long stated that it is willing to sell North Yard for redevelopment...for a price (which no one has yet been willing to pay). So long as all North Yard functions could be relocated to CP Yard, the wye got left alone, and they left double-track on the Fitchburg Secondary out to yard limits so they can run-around a train. In other words: pay up for the real estate, do no harm, and have MassDOT chuck in some "pimp my yard" $$$ for CP and Nevins (west) Yards...then CSX will sign on that deal.

CP Yard is the largest of the three by a lot, but has been unstaffed and virtually unused since the GM plant closed in 2008 and the rail unloading facility for automobiles relocated to East Brookfield. It also has a long, long disused--but non-abandoned--connection onto the Framingham Secondary. Trace it from the north tip of the A-1 Auto Parts junkyard, across the extant Beaverdam Brook rail bridge, across Irving & Loring St.'s, through backlots on Tripp St., across the brook again, and then temporarily paved over by the Auto Auction parking lot. Reactivating this with the addition of a southbound wye track onto the Framingham Secondary on the other side of the scrapyard would allow for elimination of these crossings: 135 (west), Claflin St., 126 (south), Waushakum St. In exchange you'd have reanimated crossings on Irving, Loring, and/or Tripp (if it's not cut outright)...all low-traffic roads. Seems minor because of the scant train traffic at stake...but for emergency services it's a lot of savings to not have to prepare for blockages to the south or west any longer.

In addition, adding a southbound wye track behind the junkyard means that all freight jobs heading to Walpole and beyond to Readville, Mansfield-Attleboro, and Attleboro-Middleboro-Braintree can depart and arrive direct from CP Yard onto the Framingham Secondary without needing to cross 126/135. CP Yard also being nearly twice as large as cramped North Yard means that the constant shuffle of cars between the receiving yard at Nevins and North Yard can get pared down. There will have to be some new movements across 126/135 between the yards, but they can be bigger trains and more easily scheduled on the off-peaks. And the total number of movements across 135 may outright decrease when the only thing crossing over is yard-to-yard bulk Nevins/CP moves and not any locals leaving on a set schedule. For example, today's daily Middleboro run hits both crossings at about 6:00pm when traffic is still horrible; that won't need to happen anymore.

It's small...but when small is all you've got these tweaks to whack the superfluous crossings would qualify as one of those optimize!-optimize!-optimize! moves to throw in along with the least-worst/most-sensible of the street grid tweaking options. And that TOD along Farm Pond is 500,000 sq. ft. Yeah, CSX's asking price was awfully high. It's also getting more valuable by the year.
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Old 04-04-2019, 06:05 PM   #11
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Re: Framingham grade crossings

Quote:
Originally Posted by stick n move View Post
So Natick they dug out that whole trench? Are there any photos of this? Theyre so lucky that was done in the past and they dont even have to worry about it. Their new station renderings with a new pedestrian bridge, elevators, and high boarding platforms looks great too and its such a huge improvement. It sucks how competing railroads messed up so many things for so many people. I can only imagine Framingham without at grade crossings. So they wanted to sink it before? Do they go to single track and dig down one side at a time?
This is what Natick Center looked like in 1877 pre-trench:


Difference here, of course, is that the Saxonville Branch (abandoned 2005) was a Boston & Albany branchline under same corporate roof.


I have no idea what plans might have been for separating Framingham, because they never got that far on an agreement to a plan. Given how the junction is inconveniently centered on the crossroads, the most logical thing would've been to shift the two NYNH&H lines so they both merged together south of downtown just like their separate lines to Fitchburg and Lowell merged north of downtown past Route 9. Then have the reworked merger line pass perpendicular over present-day 126 (where it bends SW after the fork w/ Irving St.), present-day 135, and the B&A...then fashion some sort of wye configuration out of it. That would free up the B&A for 126/Bishop separation by decoupling it from the Framingham Secondary interface.

But you get the picture...the time to strike for that kind of line relocation would've been when there were still farms on the street grid east of 126 near Waushakum Pond. And that ship sailed about a century ago. Plus, NYNH&H doesn't exactly have top motivation to do all the work here when these are light-patronage passenger lines and they're just running heavy freight all day to/from South Boston and the interchanges with Boston & Albany here and and Boston & Maine in Fitchburg & Lowell.
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Old 04-04-2019, 07:05 PM   #12
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Re: Framingham grade crossings

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Originally Posted by HelloBostonHi View Post
https://hwy.massdot.state.ma.us/Proj...ECT_NO=606109# This was included in the most recent TIP for the 126 crossing, forgotten what the goal date for it was. And a Bishop St grade crossing redesign is part of another larger ongoing MBTA project on that section of the Worcester line.
That's the decade-old 135-under-126 plan, with its dated $115M price estimate. It is not on the actual TIP; it's relegated to the 2026-30 Long Range Transportation Plan filing cabinet. It only gets listed in the TIP appendices because it was an active TIP item within the last decade and because the LRTP designation means it gets an automatic re-eval in 7 years if no further consideration happens in the meantime. Charitably speaking, it's only "mostly dead".
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