Friday, February 29, 2008

Driving into Boston and Amtrak News

Last night I had to drive into Boston. I was meeting friends at Audubon Circle in Kenmore Square (a great little bar/restaurant). The traffic on the Pike Eastbound was extremely heavy from the 128 tolls through the Allston/Brighton tolls.

I sat for a bit on the Newton portion of the Pike. I noticed an outbound commuter rail was also sitting at a stop. I think I saw the P527 Local outbound train. I always get my Newton commuter rail stops confused, but I believe it was the Newtonville stop. It was a bit past 6:00 p.m., so perhaps last night's outbound P527 was running late. Anyho, I noticed that the train was definitely sitting for a good minute. I was basically parked for about a minute until traffic moved again.

Watching the commuter rail train from the Pike, I was curious about why an outbound train would be parked for what seemed like a long period of time. It is too bad the MBTA/MBCR isn't better at communicating some of the "whys" as the "whys" pertain to the commuter rail. Maybe if commuter rail rides understood some of the reasoning behind different actions, people would be less likely to critique the MBTA/MBCR. Case in point - the last comment made to this post.

I know Train Rider is not critiquing the MBTA/MBCR just to be a critic. Train Rider is just trying to understand why a commuter rail line that used to run consistently without incident.

Since I, fortunately, do not have to commute into Boston all that much during the work week, I can handle traffic on the Pike. One other Pike-related observation I noticed last night. Since when has the Allston/Brighton exit become a three-lane exit? That exit has always been a two-lane exit, so I don't understand how it suddenly becomes three lanes. Drivers are way to aggressive - if drivers let everyone merge, then the back up wouldn't be as bad. It took me over 20 minutes to get off that exit and onto Storrow Drive (where I hit more back-up). Driving anywhere in Boston during rush hour is a crap-shoot. I could have gotten off at Allston and meandered into Kenmore Square via Harvard Street and Commonwealth Avenue, but that can be pretty dicey too.

While I was sitting in traffic last night, I heard a news story on WBZ-1060 AM radio about Amtrak. Here is the scoop from today's The Boston Globe: "Amtrak riders may face new hassles." Concrete crossties, that were supposed to last 50 years, are crumbling under the tracks the Acela high-speed trains ride on.

To address this issue and other maintenance work, Amtrak has decided to shut down the MBTA commuter rail track between the Back Bay and Readville stations for a four-day period from June 14th through June 17th. This will impact commuters who use the Attleboro-Providence, Franklin, Needham, and Stoughton MBTA/MBCR commuter rail lines.

Along with shutting down parts of the MBTA/MBCR commuter rail line, Amtrak will not be running trains between Boston and New Haven, CT. Bus shuttles will move passengers between those cities.

Here is what commuter rail riders will be interested to learn:
Pesaturo said T officials and their commuter-rail contractor will get more details next week and make plans for alternative June service for passengers at Hyde Park and Ruggles stations. "The project has benefits for MBTA customers, because replacing the ties will allow Amtrak to lift the current speed restriction" of 60 miles per hour to as high as 79 miles per hour, reducing travel time, Pesaturo said.

When maintenance work will be done south of Readville was not clear. Amtrak officials said yesterday they have no idea how many ties between Boston and Washington are affected, where, or how long they will take to fix.

Amtrak expects to spend $24 million over the next two years replacing cracked concrete ties in the Northeast Corridor. They have already replaced 5,000 cracked ties. In 1978 Amtrak began replacing wooden crossties with concrete ones. The concrete ones were supposed to last 50 years, but they haven't.

In other train-related news, I noticed this story about one of the Winchester MBTA commuter rail stations. Hundreds of pounds of concrete fell from the ceiling of the Waterfield Road commuter rail station. The MBTA is responsible for the maintenance of this station. Patricia Jehlen (D), A state senator representing Winchester, has contacted MBTA GM Daniel Grabauskas "expressing her concern" about the situation.

I hope everyone has a great Leap Day!


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