What is this all about?
Keolis has just announced upcoming construction work for the Framingham-Worcester line. They published this press release this afternoon and published a video with Rich Murphy explaining the work.
Let's dive into the details of what they have announced and provide some context.
First, the background. If you haven't already read it or just want to get a reminder on what heat restrictions are all about, read this post. As Rich points out in the video, the Framingham-Worcester line has the dubious distinction of being the most recent rail line brought under the complete control of the MBTA. The MBTA has invested quite a bit of money into construction projects to eliminate heat restrictions, and that work continues this spring.
Rich (and I) talk in railroad jargon about track 1 and track 2, and things like CP 4 and CP 11. Let's translate those into terms you can use to follow this story:
Track 1 = the northernmost track, or the track closest to New Hampshire. This is called the "outbound" track by Keolis customer service.
Track 2 = the southernmost track, or the track closest to Rhode Island. This is called the "inbound" track by Keolis customer service. But note that between Boston and Framingham, rush hour trains use track 2 for BOTH the inbound and outbound legs of their journey. Hence why I hate calling the tracks "inbound" and "outbound."
More about track numbering here.
CP = "Controlled Point." You can read about the definition of CP in the glossary.
CP 4 = The interlocking just west of the new Boston Landing construction. CP 4 is where the two tracks from Worcester become a single track through the Beacon Park freight yard.
CP 11 = What I call the "Weston switch," this is the interlocking between the Wellesley Farms and Auburndale stations, right next to the Leo J. Martin golf course and just west of Route 128.
You can see the precise locations of all these places on my map.
The last time I posted an update about the rail destressing projects was in September of last year. At that time, the MBTA had either completed or planned for work on most of the tracks, but not all. Back then, I got the scoop on an expansion of the scope of the project. With that expanded scope, all of the rail was due to be destressed (or replaced) with the exception of track 2 from Worcester to Framingham.
With today's announcement from Keoils, that section - track 2 from Framingham to Worcester - is now scheduled to be destressed. So when these construction projects are complete, all the rail on both tracks will have been destressed, and heat restrictions will no longer be imposed on inbound OR outbound trains.
Here are the precise details:
CP 4 to CP 11 (Weston switch) - will be destressed this spring
CP 11 to CP 21 (Framingham) - destressing completed late 2015.
CP 21 (Framingham) to Worcester - track replaced during 2014 and 2015
CP 4 to Framingham - destressed in 2015
Framingham to Worcester - will be destressed this spring.
You can use this map from last year to visually see what is happening. On that map, the dashed pink / orange line indicates track 2 where the rail destressing had not been scheduled (and hadn't even been funded until recently). Now, with today's news, that section of track will be destressed.
As you probably know, the heat restrictions usually only have a big impact on outbound rush hour trains. Outbound rush hour trains usually use track 2 from Boston to Framingham and then track 1 from Framingham to Worcester. As Rich mentions in the video, and as you can see from the list above, those tracks have already had destressing completed. So even without today's announcement, the prior work that has been completed will mean that heat restrictions this coming summer will have much less of an impact on the majority of daily Boston commuters.
But having heat restrictions on the other tracks can delay other trains, primarily because equipment that is delayed arriving in Boston can't leave ("turn") on time. So if an inbound afternoon rush hour train is delayed due to a heat restriction, an outbound train may be delayed even if it doesn't have a heat restriction on the path it is scheduled to follow. This is much more likely to happen now that they plan on keeping all equipment dedicated to a particular line with the implementation of the new schedules in May.
Other important tidbits from the video:
1) 30,000 ties to be replaced.
2) a new interlocking at CP 6 will be created and constructed.
3) a second track along the single track through the Beacon Park freight yard will be constructed, eliminating that single track bottleneck.
Although Rich doesn't state it in the video, I've been told that the second track through Beacon Park is part of this spring's construction project! That tidbit is probably the biggest news of the day. And buried here at the bottom so only you nerds that read this whole post will find out.