1) This post - quick take / status update / recap
2) Drainage improvements in Natick (with pictures & video!)
3) Recap of tie replacement (with pictures & video!)
Finally! The spring construction work is done. Well, actually almost done. Here is a breakdown:
1) Drainage project in Natick: completed on Monday 7/11/2016. Details in blog post below.
2) Tie replacement on track 1 from Boston to Worcester: completed on Saturday 6/25/2016. Except for directly in Framingham station - details in blog post below.
3) Railbed resurfacing (explanation in tie replacement blog post below): Almost complete. Looks like about 1 mile east of West Natick & 1 mile between West Natick and Framingham still to be done.
4) Rail destressing: Almost complete. Details below (in this blog post).
5) Collection of old ties from tie replacement: Ongoing, but in off-peak hours. Details in tie replacement blog post below.
The bottom line is that the major construction work that was causing mid-day delays (and the significant delay to P512 in the morning) is complete. For the rest of the summer, there should be minimal delays caused by track work. There will still be some over the next few weeks, but it will be much less disruptive than it has been prior to now.
In addition, most of the temporary speed restrictions associated with the construction have been removed. So those won't slow things down for us either. [See below for possible heat restriction delays...] The speed restriction near the Boston Landing construction is still in place and will remain until the final track configuration is complete.
The elimination of mid-day delays will also help with on-time performance of evening trains. When a mid-day train became delayed, it would delay the 'turn' of equipment at South Station - and those delays would cascade through the 5-6 PM peak hour.
I have no idea why the construction wasn't complete on 6/30/16 as promised. It wasn't for lack of trying - they had crews going 7 days a week through most of June. Just too much to do, I guess.
Some final thoughts (for this blog post) on the new schedule:
1) At the FMCB meeting today, there was some discussion of tweaks to the schedules. Apparently the MBTA is now willing to admit that the new schedules were too aggressive and the 'transit times' (time from start to finish) were reduced too much on the new schedules. This was reported by Mike Deehan of WGBH here. I have not seen an estimate of when the schedules will be re-issued or what lines will be affected. They might not make any changes to the Framingham-Worcester line yet, because...
2) As noted in this announcement, the construction on the Framingham-Worcester line has prevented a true analysis of the schedule performance. I think this is probably half true: mid-day and evening rush hour on-time performance cannot currently be analyzed with the June data since it was heavily impacted by the construction. But all trains before 9 AM should not have been heavily affected by construction, although there may have been some temporary speed restrictions related to the construction that affected those trains. So it's possible that they will delay making any changes to our schedules until they can get 'clean' data from periods with no construction.
3) A fellow Framingham-Worcester rider did an very in-depth analysis of recent on-time performance and posted it here. Lots to think about for all of us data nerds.
Other topics / thoughts
1) Heat Restrictions: For background on this topic, read this post. You can also use the category links on the right side of this blog (or way down at the bottom if you're reading this on a mobile device) to learn about Heat Restrictions and Rail Destressing.
As noted in previous blog posts, the MBTA spent a lot of money to fund and execute rail destressing on both tracks of the entire line. That's about 82 miles of track - or 164 miles of rail (CP 4 to CP 45 = 41 miles * two tracks * two rails per track = 164). Now that the rail destressing is done (or will be very shortly), heat restrictions will be much reduced. But not eliminated. As noted in this announcement, the new heat restriction rules will be a reduction in maximum track speed to 40 mph (instead of 30 mph) and only when ambient temperatures exceed 95 degrees (instead of 85).
2) Rail Destressing: Sources indicate that there are approximately 2 miles of rail destressing still to be completed on track 2 west of Framingham. Not sure if it is in the Grafton-Worcester stretch or the Ashland-Southboro stretch. Both those locations seem to get tagged with 'board trains on the opposite side' notices in the middle of the day, which must be related to some kind of construction.
3) Future tie replacement: We're not completely done with construction. With tie replacement work completed on track 1, track 2 is next. The construction crews will be remobilizing in the fall and restarting tie replacement work on track 2. I'm guessing after Labor Day. Someone pointed out that summer would be actually a better time to do the work since ridership is somewhat lower. I can't argue with that and I also have not heard an explanation for why the gap / pause in construction activity over the summer.
The track 1 tie replacement work started in late March or early April. Therefore the duration was about 3 months. Expect the same for track 2 in the fall. And therefore expect on-time performance / delays in the fall to be similar to what we just experienced in June. Sorry... don't shoot the messenger. And believe it or not, having maintenance done and money spent on our line is actually a good & necessary thing.
See the blog posts below for more details on:
1) Drainage improvements in Natick (with pictures & video!)
2) Recap of tie replacement (with pictures & video!)