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Old 08-19-2016, 09:26 PM   #1
BostonUrbEx
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North Station, Charles River Draw, & Tower A

The MBTA is currently planning to have shovels in the ground in 2018 to kick off a massive project that will improve North Station and all lines feeding into it. The end result will be two additional North Station tracks (bringing the total to 12 tracks), the replacement of both Charles River Draw spans (each span will now have three tracks, meaning 6 tracks over the river total), and enhancing the Tower A interlocking (the switches and signals approaching North Station). Tower A will possibly feature a new "middle ladder" to compliment the front and back ladders (contiguous crossovers grouped together, front ladder is closer to the draw bridge, back ladder is closer to Boston Engine Terminal). There will also be an "express" track for Rockburyport trains from the front ladder to Sullivan Square (as there will be no access to/from the middle ladder and back ladder, signal spacing will allow for higher speeds).

Temporary service impacts will definitely include terminating some trains prematurely. Some Fitchburg Line trains terminating at Porter Sq is absolutely a given, at minimum. North Station platforms will be shortened to allow for temporary switches as only one draw span will be in service at a time until complete. Ultimately, this means that for some duration of the project, only two tracks will be feeding all ten station tracks.
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Old 08-20-2016, 07:09 AM   #2
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Re: North Station, Charles River Draw, & Tower A

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The MBTA is currently planning to have shovels in the ground in 2018 to kick off a massive project that will improve North Station and all lines feeding into it. The end result will be two additional North Station tracks (bringing the total to 12 tracks), the replacement of both Charles River Draw spans (each span will now have three tracks, meaning 6 tracks over the river total), and enhancing the Tower A interlocking (the switches and signals approaching North Station). Tower A will possibly feature a new "middle ladder" to compliment the front and back ladders (contiguous crossovers grouped together, front ladder is closer to the draw bridge, back ladder is closer to Boston Engine Terminal). There will also be an "express" track for Rockburyport trains from the front ladder to Sullivan Square (as there will be no access to/from the middle ladder and back ladder, signal spacing will allow for higher speeds).

Temporary service impacts will definitely include terminating some trains prematurely. Some Fitchburg Line trains terminating at Porter Sq is absolutely a given, at minimum. North Station platforms will be shortened to allow for temporary switches as only one draw span will be in service at a time until complete. Ultimately, this means that for some duration of the project, only two tracks will be feeding all ten station tracks.
BostonUrbEx -- not to belabor the point -- but when the Foot / Bycicle Bridge opened I asked the DCR Commissioner about the original plan for a ped/ bike bridge at North Station and he said that the current plan [circa Summer 2012] was to hang or graft the ped/bike bridge to the upstream opening span of the draw bridge



Is that the current plan?
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Old 08-20-2016, 12:00 PM   #3
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Re: North Station, Charles River Draw, & Tower A

Sounds like a lot of disruption but worth it in the end. Any idea how long the actual drawbridge replacement will take?
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Old 08-20-2016, 12:39 PM   #4
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Re: North Station, Charles River Draw, & Tower A

Are there any renderings or documents that have been made public or is this word of mouth for now?
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Old 08-20-2016, 03:18 PM   #5
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Re: North Station, Charles River Draw, & Tower A

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Sounds like a lot of disruption but worth it in the end. Any idea how long the actual drawbridge replacement will take?
No idea, but I'd take any estimate with a grain of salt. I'm skeptical of anything starting in 2018 to begin with, let alone a time frame.

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Are there any renderings or documents that have been made public or is this word of mouth for now?
Nothing public. It is all technically still in the consulting phase, I suppose. But it seems everyone is amped up about an aggressive schedule so maybe it will be publicly released soon.




Whigh, I'll find out about the bike/ped addition ASAP.
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Old 08-20-2016, 04:34 PM   #6
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Re: North Station, Charles River Draw, & Tower A

2017 is when Beverly Draw repair mangles Eastern Route schedules for months, so the NS project is going to sidestep that one before starting.
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Old 08-21-2016, 01:08 PM   #7
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Re: North Station, Charles River Draw, & Tower A

Some things I forgot in the original post:

- The Fitchburg Line is going to be bumped away from BET and several layover tracks will be added to the existing layover area. I'd estimate 4 to 8 layover pads (2 to 4 new tracks)
- The Valley Track (the one track between the Lowell Line and BET) will be turned into approximately three layover tracks for one set each
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Old 08-21-2016, 02:20 PM   #8
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Re: North Station, Charles River Draw, & Tower A

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North Station platforms will be shortened to allow for temporary switches as only one draw span will be in service at a time until complete. Ultimately, this means that for some duration of the project, only two tracks will be feeding all ten station tracks.
Why not start by re-installing the 3rd draw on the empty upstream pilings and connecting it at the Track 11/12 and then take the other two out one at a time?
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Old 08-21-2016, 03:10 PM   #9
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Re: North Station, Charles River Draw, & Tower A

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Why not start by re-installing the 3rd draw on the empty upstream pilings and connecting it at the Track 11/12 and then take the other two out one at a time?
It's not that big a rehab project. Draw 3 is a much more expensive addition, and would require demolition of the former Spaulding building and construction of several new platforms to take full advantage of the capacity. That's pretty far down the short-term list of northside service improvements.
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Old 08-21-2016, 04:36 PM   #10
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Re: North Station, Charles River Draw, & Tower A

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It's not that big a rehab project. Draw 3 is a much more expensive addition, and would require demolition of the former Spaulding building and construction of several new platforms to take full advantage of the capacity. That's pretty far down the short-term list of northside service improvements.
Well, how will the final 6 tracks be arrayed when UrbEx writes:
Quote:
the end result will be two additional North Station tracks (bringing the total to 12 tracks), the replacement of both Charles River Draw spans (each span will now have three tracks, meaning 6 tracks over the river total),
Will the two added tracks be 1up/1downstream, 2 up (as the third draw would do) or 2 downstream?

Or you'd think that if they're taking one draw out of service, the first thing they'd do is replace it with a 3 (how could they do otherwise?) and if so, as soon as that's done they're up to 3 tracks until the final 3 come online.

So maybe the 2-tracks-only phase will actually be pretty short?
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Old 08-21-2016, 08:48 PM   #11
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Re: North Station, Charles River Draw, & Tower A

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Well, how will the final 6 tracks be arrayed when UrbEx writes:


Will the two added tracks be 1up/1downstream, 2 up (as the third draw would do) or 2 downstream?

Or you'd think that if they're taking one draw out of service, the first thing they'd do is replace it with a 3 (how could they do otherwise?) and if so, as soon as that's done they're up to 3 tracks until the final 3 come online.

So maybe the 2-tracks-only phase will actually be pretty short?
This is what I found online, from the Oct. 2015 MBTA board meeting: http://www.mbta.com/uploadedfiles/Ab...es.pdf#page=13. The draws themselves would each be widened to carry 3 tracks, and all the interlockings modified accordingly. Since this is still in early design phase we have no idea where they're ultimately going with this; they could've just been spitballing in that presentation.


Draw 3 would be an outright expansion of the station with 4-6 all-new platforms being built on the parking lot fanning out to the SW tip of the Garden building. The service increase triggers required to bring that expansion to the front-burner pretty much are "Indigos + New Hampshire". And that's not going to happen until Lowell/(Nashua) and Haverhill get full-size layover yards equivalent to Wachusett and Newburyport to loosen up BET storage for denser service layering across-the-board. NSX addresses much nearer-term northside capacity needs than the N-S Rail Link, and thus is something that'll get built anyway in the next 12-18 years because those requisite service increase triggers aren't too far-fetched or far away. But unlike SSX which is dealing with acute present-day capacity choke, Draw 3 isn't needed until the next big thing comes along that seriously amps up pan-northside frequencies (like Indigo-ish short-turns on multiple lines). It won't be nearly as daunting or high-profile a project as SSX because the expendable bare pavement for the platforms already exists, the building that has to be knocked down has already been deemed expendable to its transient tenants, and the drawbridge footings + lead track alignment already exist.

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Old 08-21-2016, 08:51 PM   #12
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Re: North Station, Charles River Draw, & Tower A

Yeah, I suppose the two track phase will be fairly short once the first new span opens. The end result would pretty much have to be one new track to the east (downsteam) and then one new track to the west (upstream) when all is said and done. I believe the downstream span is being removed first, but I didn't take a close enough look.
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Old 08-21-2016, 09:55 PM   #13
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Re: North Station, Charles River Draw, & Tower A

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This is what I found online, from the Oct. 2015 MBTA board meeting: http://www.mbta.com/uploadedfiles/Ab...es.pdf#page=13. The draws themselves would each be widened to carry 3 tracks, and all the interlockings modified accordingly. Since this is still in early design phase we have no idea where they're ultimately going with this; they could've just been spitballing in that presentation.
Thanks for digging this up! From the presentation they depict/spitball adding 1 upstream (at the Track 11/12 side of things) and 1 downstream (at the track 1 side).
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Old 08-21-2016, 11:04 PM   #14
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Re: North Station, Charles River Draw, & Tower A

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Thanks for digging this up! From the presentation they depict/spitball adding 1 upstream (at the Track 11/12 side of things) and 1 downstream (at the track 1 side).
Yep. I don't know how they realistically plan to do this because the amount of structural widening required on the approach spans turns this into a very big project indeed. I'd hedge on the side of "spitballing" until there's additional smoke backing this up as any sort of serious consideration.

Tri-tracking the draws mainly alleviates the problem of excessive platform layovers at-peak. It's similar to South Station's current capacity limitation of trains not being able to get off the platforms. The difference being that south it's more a problem of way too many cross-cutting movements bottling things up where north it's simply having too few lead tracks and too low a margin for error in timing shots across those 4 lead tracks. NS's problems are kept in-check by very delicate dispatching, whereas SS is now totally S.O.L. to further cope with controlling its conflicts. But NS is still quite brittle to delays at peak load if something gets momentarily out-of-sync at Tower A. Tri-tracking the draws is less an outright capacity increase than enabling reliable use of the capacity they currently have (incl. the closed platforms) without having to skate on thin dispatching margin for error. They then get a decently incremental boost in absolute capacity by being able to clear idle trainsets off the platforms without stress. That's good enough to absorb a lot more conventional schedule growth if/when the Lowells and Haverhills gain better outer layover capacity, the Fitchburg schedule gradually scales up to the slack capacity offered by Wachusett, Newburyport/Rockport get plugged by some by badly-needed peak additions, and the across-the-board off-peak schedules get normalized to minimize excessive gaps.


Draw 3 is then the project you undertake for the next "something big" service increase. Not steel-and-concrete linear extensions per se (there aren't really any MA-initiatable ones up north outside the obvious Lowell-Nashua and Peabody shorties). Think multiple Indigos to 128, guaranteed Lowell/Nashua every 30 minutes all day 6 days a week, Fitchburg reverse-peak parity to serve the fast-growing Devens job market, Downeaster increases to 8-10 daily trips, NH Capitol Corridor. The kind of service layering sophistication that finally takes advantage of the enormous untapped native capacity of the northside mainlines above-and-beyond today's vanilla, single-task peak direction commuter end-to-enders.
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Old 08-22-2016, 01:04 AM   #15
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Re: North Station, Charles River Draw, & Tower A

Putting an attached ped/bike bridge on the railroad drawbridge is a terrible idea and just unsafe. And I am glad I'll be retired if this ever comes to fruition.
Unabated passage could make it next to impossible to make rapid openings during boat season in a timely manner.

Having seen the proposed plans for the construction phase on the North Station side, I say good luck trying to run a near complete schedule. The T's apparent refusal to rethink the schedule and turning trains short like at Porter or Malden is nuts.

Of course, if the state/Mass DOT and the MBTA replaced those bridges during the 1984 fire outages we would be ahead of the game.

D
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Old 08-22-2016, 10:03 AM   #16
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Re: North Station, Charles River Draw, & Tower A

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Temporary service impacts will definitely include terminating some trains prematurely. Some Fitchburg Line trains terminating at Porter Sq is absolutely a given, at minimum.
Do you think that they can or will align the schedule with the GLX union square branch work? I would imagine that would simplify that part of the GLX if they do not need to complete the work in an active railway.
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Old 08-22-2016, 11:45 AM   #17
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Re: North Station, Charles River Draw, & Tower A

Since no one else has brought it up, there must be a simple explanation that's eluding me... but how is the old Spaulding building not in the way of tracks coming out of a 3rd draw upstream from the the current two?
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Old 08-22-2016, 12:35 PM   #18
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Re: North Station, Charles River Draw, & Tower A

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Since no one else has brought it up, there must be a simple explanation that's eluding me... but how is the old Spaulding building not in the way of tracks coming out of a 3rd draw upstream from the the current two?
It is in the way. If Draw 3 ever gets installed the building would be demolished. Right now it just houses overflow hospital office space, nothing interesting or non-expendable.
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Old 08-22-2016, 07:22 PM   #19
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Re: North Station, Charles River Draw, & Tower A

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It is in the way. If Draw 3 ever gets installed the building would be demolished. Right now it just houses overflow hospital office space, nothing interesting or non-expendable.
Okay. I know the building is non-essential. I was just confused because the state is announcing this project absent any sort of discussion about the building, which seems odd to me.

EDIT: I guess I misread the OP. They're replacing the two draws with two draws but with two more tracks than exist now. Does that work with the current footprint of the building?
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Old 08-23-2016, 05:35 AM   #20
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Re: North Station, Charles River Draw, & Tower A

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Okay. I know the building is non-essential. I was just confused because the state is announcing this project absent any sort of discussion about the building, which seems odd to me.

EDIT: I guess I misread the OP. They're replacing the two draws with two draws but with two more tracks than exist now. Does that work with the current footprint of the building?
Draws 1 & 2 aren't anywhere near the building, so that's OK. But tri-tracking the existing draws would require major structural work widening the approach spans over the water that currently pinch down in the middle at the draws, and I don't know how they'd execute that plan without very major, expensive, and long-term construction. So far it hasn't been explained in any way--including but not limited to cost--outside of that one spitball render from the FCMB presentation.


And to Dave's point a couple posts up, yes...having pedestrian draw spans as part of the main draws for the commuter rail's single most mission-critical and necessarily fail-safe piece of infrastructure is an insanely bad idea. If the not-very-tall N. Washington St. bridge sets the ruling height for Charles Basin boats, what is preventing DCR from building an adjacent fixed crossing off the N. Bank Bridge to switchback ramps at the boat landing behind Spaulding? They can even borrow the old Draw 4 support pegs to save a little money, since that one won't ever need to come back. This current plan is an ugly-ass kludge to get the T to swallow all the cost and inconveniences of something that should be a wholly separate pedestrian project. It's a security nightmare in addition to being a recurring scheduling fuck-up waiting to happen.
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