Sen. Crighton Files Bill With Deadlines To Electrify MBTA Commuter Rail Lines; Framingham Line By the End of 2026

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FRAMINGHAM – Massachusetts State Senator Brendan Crighton, a Democrat from the Third Essex District, has filed legislation to set deadlines to electrify the commuter rail service in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Estimated costs by a non-profit organization TransitMatters puts the cost of the project at $800 million to $1.5 billion.

But that 2021 report also stated “electrification of the MBTA rail network is the most viable and cost-effective way to meet the goals of reduced emissions, increased reliability, and faster service.”

The SD.1190 legislation, if it passes, would require the “Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and its commuter rail contractor” to “operate a fully electric commuter rail system by December 31, 2035 and ensure sufficient zero-emission infrastructure is in place to accomplish said timeline.”

“Total electrification of the existing system and all future extensions, and the adoption of electric multiple unit (EMU) trains. Doing so will greatly decrease trip times, improve operating expenditures, and reduce the carbon footprint of transportation, both by removing local pollution from the rail network and making transit competitive with single occupancy vehicles,” noted the TransitMatters report.

A similar bill was filed in the Massachusetts House of Representatives (Bill HD.2742) by Rep. Steven Owens of the 29th Middlesex District and Jennifer Balinsky Armini of the 8th Essex District.

Sen. Crighton represents the City of Lynn and the towns of Lynnfield, Marblehead, Nahant, Saugus and Swampscott in Essex County, so his legislation prioritizes the commuter rail that serves that area first, but the Framingham/Worcester rail has a deadline of December 31, 2026.

And calls for a significant increase in train service by the end of 2029.

“By December 31, 2029, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority shall have the ability to operate service on the Worcester Line through Framingham Station every 15 minutes in each direction,” noted the legislation. 

“The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority shall implement electrification along all commuter rail lines by no later than December 31, 2035 and according to the below interim deadlines for each phase. Commuter rail lines serving environmental justice populations as defined in section 62 of chapter 30 of the General Laws shall be the first lines to electrify in Phase I,” the legislation reads.

Electric trains have quicker acceleration, lower fuel costs, produce fewer CO2 emissions and are lighter, meaning they create less wear on tracks.

But the infrastructure and capital costs to create electric trains are not cheap.

One estimate is as high as $4.8 million per track mile to electrify a track.

The estimated cost to electrification of the MBTA Commuter Rail system could range from $800 million to $1.5 billion, according to a 2021 report by TransitMatters is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to improving transit in and around Boston by offering new perspectives, uniting transit advocates, and informing the public.

According to the report the cost for the 44-mile Worcester/Framingham line would be about $180 million.

And weather can have impacts on third-rain electrified trains. For example, a British report noted Ice on the third rail stops enough electricity from reaching electric trains, which is not something diesel engines suffer from.

But the TransitMatters 2021 report noted “electric wires work reliably in winter, running without a problem in such places as Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, and northern Japan.”

“In Phase I, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority shall operate electric trains on the Fairmount Commuter Rail Line from South Station to Readville Station, Newburyport/Rockport Line through Beverly Station and the entire Providence/Stoughton Line by December 31, 2024,” according to the Bill filed.

“Not later than November 1, 2023, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation should begin construction on the Fairmount corridor Newburyport/Rockport Line environmental justice corridor to support rail electrification,’ according to the bill.

In Phase II, “Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority shall operate electric trains on the Framingham/Worcester Line by December 31, 2026.”

In Phase III, “Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority shall operate electric trains on the Middleborough/Lakeville Line by December 31, 2027.”

And in the final phase, “Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority shall operate electric trains on the remaining routes listed below and remaining sections of the Newburyport/Rockport Lines by December 31, 2035, South Coast, Haverhill, Lowell, Fitchburg, Franklin/Foxboro, Kingston, Greenbush, Foxboro Event Service, Needham, and Newburyport/ Rockport (beyond Beverly).

The legislation calls for the the MBTA governing board of directors shall monitor the progress of electrifying the commuter rail fleet in four phases.

“The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority shall implement service frequency standards to ensure that rail electrification technology meets the goals of a regional rail system,”

The deadlines in the legislation filed last week include:

By December 31, 2029, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority shall have the ability to operate service on the Fairmount Line, Newburyport/Rockport Line through Salem Station, and the Providence/Stoughton Line every 7.5 minutes in each direction. 

By December 31, 2029, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority shall have the ability to operate service on the Newburyport/Rockport Line branches from Beverly Station to Newburyport/Rockport every 15-30 minutes in each direction.

By December 31, 2029, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority shall have the ability to operate service on the Worcester Line through Framingham Station every 15 minutes in each direction. 

By December 31, 2029, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority shall have the ability to operate service on the remaining Lines and portions of Lines not mentioned above every 30-60 minutes in each direction.

By December 31, 2035, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority shall have the ability to operate service on the Fairmount Line, Newburyport/Rockport Line through Salem Station, the Providence/Stoughton Line, and the Worcester Line through Framingham Station every 5 minutes in each direction. 

By December 31, 2029, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority shall have the ability to operate service on the remaining Lines and portions of Lines not mentioned above every 15 minutes in each direction.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Board of Directors shall monitor the progress of the implementation of the service frequency standards.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and Massachusetts Department of Transportation shall submit applications, as appropriate, for federal funding to accomplish zero-emission infrastructure and electric commuter rail operations.

Oslo, Norway – December 24, 2018: Stadler FLIRT regional trains operated by Norwegian State Railways arriving at Sonsveien Station, south of Oslo, with a frozen winter landscape in the background.

editor

email: editor@FraminghamSource.com call or text at 508-315-7176


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