1) Rail Destressing & Tie Replacement Projects
2) Boston Landing & Allston single track
3) Turn Table for new schedule
4) Track assignments for new schedule
1) Rail Destressing & Tie Replacement Projects
It was a race to the heat and the weather won. The MBTA was trying their best to accelerate the rail destressing construction so that it would be completed before the hot weather arrived. Our little late May heat wave dashed those hopes.
As I've previously reported, the funding for the completion of ALL rail destressing between Boston and Worcester was only approved in late March. Until that point, there was one large section of rail that would never have been destressed. So along with the tie replacement project, the last portion of the entire rail destressing project has been ongoing throughout this spring.
The last sections of track that needed destressing are typically used for inbound trains in the afternoon. All of the 'outbound' tracks have already been destressed. So how do outbound trains become delayed in that scenario?
As you may recall, the new schedule eliminated the idea of 'interlining' trains. Meaning that there are now 8 sets of equipment dedicated to the Framingham-Worcester line. They just go back and forth from Worcester (or Framingham) to Boston. In the middle of the day, some of them are parked in yards or go for service, since 8 train sets aren't needed for the reduced service in the middle of the day.
With no interlined trains, a delayed inbound train can delay an outbound train since that inbound equipment is needed for outbound trips. The inbound/outbound non-interlining system is also a reason why evening trains are delayed even though the construction ended before rush hour.
That's why it was so important to get all of the tracks destressed. So kudos again to however they came up with the money for these construction projects - we've gotten a big influx of money and the payoff will be good.
The other good news is that both the rail destressing project and the tie replacement project are ahead of schedule and will be completed in June. So only a few more weeks of construction and heat restrictions. After the projects are complete, there will be no more heat restrictions and no more construction delays west of Boston Landing. Hang in there, we're almost there!
Actually there will be construction later this year. The tie replacement project will continue on track 2 west of Framingham in the fall. So we're not completely done with construction delays. But the summer should be much better than recent weeks.
To be specific, the current status of the rail destressing project is:
CP 4 (near Boston Landing) to CP 11 (Weston switch) - destressing completed this spring.
CP 11 (Weston switch) 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 - destressing will be completed in June.
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.
Until Track 2 is fully destressed, certain sections of track 2 between Framingham and Worcester will have a 30 mph speed restriction imposed in hot weather. The previous rule was that ambient temperatures above 85 degrees at Worcester, Framingham, or Boston triggered the heat restrictions and that appears to be what happened on Tuesday 5/25. The temperature spiked above 85 degrees at Framingham and the heat restrictions were imposed. I'm not sure if Boston is still a part of the rule since the section of affected track is far from Boston. And who knows, the entire rule could have changed.
If you're a first time reader and would like the background on heat restrictions and rail destressing, read this post for an introduction to the topic. Also don't forget to use the 'category' links on the right side of this page to read all the posts about certain topics.
Astute readers may notice that I don't spend much time talking about the tie replacement project in the above discussion regarding heat restrictions. That's because the tie replacement actually has nothing to do with removing heat restrictions - the rail destressing is performed FIRST, and then the ties are replaced after the rail is destressed. The tie replacement is important, but it won't affect heat restrictions, regardless of what politicians and the mainstream media try to tell us.
The tie replacement project is proactive maintenance that maintains the track in good condition. Rotted ties are one of the most common causes of speed restrictions. Some of you may recall a 5 mph speed restriction just west of Yawkey at the CP 3 interlocking for about a week in April or May. That speed restriction was imposed after the FRA (Federal Railway Administration) inspection car came across the line and found TWO rotted ties at that location. That was enough to impose a speed restriction for safety purposes. So proactive tie replacement is very important to avoid the imposition of those speed restrictions (and keep the system safe!), but it doesn't really have anything to do with heat restrictions.
However, tie replacement is actually more disruptive to the rail bed than rail destressing. Therefore tie replacement results in speed restrictions that last longer (on the calendar) and affect more trains over more days. Areas where the ties are replaced have new ballast (stone) spread and tamped, which takes time to settle and stabilize. This results in a requirement for temporary speed restrictions related to the amount of tonnage (number and weight of trains) that pass over the modified railbed.
Most of the tie replacement has been completed (obviously, since they only have a few weeks left of construction!). The remaining few sections for tie replacement include a section on track 1 in Wellesley and Natick, a section within and near Framingham station on track 1, and a section on track 1 in Ashland and Southboro. Track 1 through Wellesley and Natick never carries rush hour trains (AM or PM), so temporary speed restrictions there don't affect most of us. Track 1 from Framingham to Worcester is the outbound track (all day), so temporary speed restrictions have affected lots of passengers on that stretch and will continue to affect us. It should also be noted that the temporary speed restrictions related to the tie replacement project will last PAST the completion of construction - again, the speed restriction remains in place until a certain amount of tonnage passes over the disturbed railbed. So expect delays through the Ashland and Southboro areas through June on track 1 (outbound track).
2) Boston Landing & Allston Single Track
The background on Boston Landing station is in this post. More good news to report today - the construction is ahead of schedule and the station should be completed before the end of this year. The original schedule put construction completion in the spring of 2017. With both the Celtics and Bruins practice facilities being built at Boston Landing, maybe we'll see players taking the train to practice this winter?
As most of you are aware, the section of track from CP 4 (near Boston Landing) to CP 3 (just west of Yawkey) has been the only section of single track between Worcester and Boston since the Mass Pike extension was built in the 1960's. That foolish decision is now being corrected, with the MBTA and Keolis starting construction on a second mainline track through this section.
As you pass through the former Beacon Park freight yard you can see this construction. The first step in the process is the removal of the 40 foot sections of 'stick rail,' which will be replaced with continuously welded rail. All of the switches connecting into the freight yard are also currently being removed. The path of the new mainline 'second track' will follow the existing path of the freight lead closest to the existing single track mainline. This includes going up onto the little 'rise' and under the Mass Pike viaduct since there is a column supporting the Mass Pike preventing the second track from being directly adjacent to the existing single track.
The only bad news is that this second track construction will be synchronized with the completion of the Boston Landing station, so the second track won't be completed as soon as we would all like. The new second track will be 'stubbed out' to align with the new tracks alongside the new Boston Landing station and only connected once the tracks alongside the station are completed.
For fellow rail nerds, part of this overall project will be the decommissioning of CP 4 (it will no longer exist as an interlocking). It will be replaced with a new interlocking at CP 6, which will be on the straight / tangent rail section along the Mass Pike near the Staples store on Soldiers Field Road. A freight lead switch will be included somewhere near Boston Landing station and the former location of CP 4 to allow freight trains to access the parts of Beacon Park yard still in service.
3) Turn Table for New Schedule
I've updated the "Turn Table" for the new schedule. Theoretically, with 8 dedicated sets of equipment, we should be able to figure out the 'turns' at South Station as well as the 'turns' at Worcester. I gave it a try but it is impossible since all of the equipment goes to storage or service in the middle of the day. How that equipment returns to service in the afternoon is where I couldn't 'reverse engineer' the schedule. We'll see if I can't get some additional information and create a more comprehensive table of equipment usage and all equipment turns.
4) Track Assignments for New Schedule
As detailed in previous blog posts, the 'inbound' and 'outbound' tracks are really not labeled properly or helpfully. Based on the new schedule, I've updated my table of track assignments, which includes the status of the rail destressing as of now. As explained above, this table will soon be covered entirely in green!
For information on which track is which, see this blog post.
I'm NOT 100% confident this is correct, so please let me know if you notice any errors or changes. Click on the image for a PDF version.
Also note that there are no leapfrog moves with the new schedule, and the Newton stretch is kept more consistent than with previous schedules (at the expense of reverse commute options for Newton passengers). Overall an operational improvement that should result in better service and less delays (remember, the current delays are primarily related to construction, and those should be gone soon).