Interrupted train services on weekends this summer starting May 26; free shuttles to cover gaps

by beth on May 8, 2018

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Above: The MBTA plans beginning Memorial Day weekend will have rail commuters from Southborough to Boston hopping on and off shuttle buses. (images from MBTA website)

Recent news about construction projects scheduled for the MassPike this summer might have had you thinking that taking the train to Boston will be a better bet. Turns out that won’t necessarily be true on weekends.

The MBTA has announced that work on the commuter rail line through Southborough will interfere with weekend service this spring and summer. They will be using free shuttle buses to cover gaps.

Southborough Wicked Local reports:

Work to install new safety equipment on the Framingham/Worcester line will bring some hiccups for riders this summer.

Buses will replace weekend commuter rail trains on portions of the line between late May and the end of July. The shuttles will run approximately every two hours, closely following the regular weekend schedule.

Between May 26 and June 17, free buses will replace trains between Worcester and Framingham. Riders can still board the train in Framingham and pay the regular fare to travel inbound.

From June 23 through July 29, free shuttle buses will replace train service between Framingham and Wellesley Farms. Riders can also take the bus to Riverside and catch the Green Line to travel into Boston via the subway. A one-way fare from Riverside costs $2.25 with a CharlieCard, or $2.75 without.

Weekend commuter rail service between Worcester and Framingham will remain free until the project finishes at the end of July. . .

The project, which kicked off last year, will bring another round of major construction between July 26 and Aug. 11, requiring lane reductions on the Massachusetts Turnpike and service changes for the commuter rail and the MBTA’s subway and bus routes.

Shuttle buses will replace trains on the Worcester Line on two consecutive weekends, July 28-29 and Aug. 4-5. Details regarding bus diversions were still being finalized, according to a project website.

Click here for SWL’s full article. (It also includes info on highway construction.)

Click here for more details on the MBTA website about the Framingham-Worcester Commuter Rail Line plans.

1 Matthew May 8, 2018 at 7:14 PM

Is this safety equipment and/or the WiFi with giant towers?
The quote above says safety but the link describing the details says the following:
“There will be crews working along the line to install poles, fiber optic cable, signal houses, and antenna. Due to the number of crews working on different activities in different locations, large stretches of track need to be shut down.”

Are they sneaking the WiFi work in under the guise of mandatory safety upgrades?

2 Southviller May 9, 2018 at 7:40 AM

Hi Matthew,

They’ve stopped being sneaky about this project. In case you haven’t already seen, drive up onto bridge street and take a gander down the rails. They have come through with tree crews and evicerated about 8 feet of trees on both sides of the tracks in the past weeks. This was done during the time of day when homeowners will likely not be around to put up a stink about it. Lots of shade, habitat, and beauty gone in place of some lovely fiber optic towers.

No one in town seems to care at this point, leaving those of us near the rails primed to lose a lot of value in our homes. We had reached out to DPW and also Conservation when we saw the crews coming through, but no one seemed to be aware or be very interested.

3 beth May 9, 2018 at 8:25 AM

Very interesting.

The past public brouhaha in other places was over a proposal for 70 foot towers. It’s possible these towers will be shorter. But it’s hard to find any information on what they are doing. The closest I could find was an article by MassLive indicating that despite public records requests the MBTA was being very closed mouthed about their plans to improve wifi connectivity:

http://www.masslive.com/news/boston/index.ssf/2018/03/when_will_the_mbta_improve_wif.html

As for the DPW and Conservation Commission, I’m assuming none of the work would fall under their scope of power (unless they imfringed on wetlands, etc.).

Under the Town Code it does seem like the ZBA has to grant special permits before anyone can install wifi towers. (And that doesn’t appear to have happened.) But I don’t know if a state agency working on state owned land is somehow exempt from that. I’ll see if I can find anything out from the zoning department.

Presumably, they have the right to clear trees from their own property. I can’t help but wonder if they cleared them prior to going to local boards for permission to install towers to avoid abutters being able to use desire to protect trees as a reason to object to the project.

4 beth May 9, 2018 at 8:56 AM

I was able to confirm that they haven’t applied to the ZBA for a permit. Unfortunately, the zoning inspector is on vacation. So, I couldn’t find out if the state is exempt from going in front of the ZBA or if he has heard anything from them.

5 Southviller May 9, 2018 at 9:28 AM

Hi Beth,

We’ve had the same experience feeling in the dark, so I am not 100% if this is the same exact project, but the best resources come from North Andover, who was in the spotlight last year for delaying the MBTAs plans to build similar structures, they have a lot of links and info here: https://andoverma.gov/682/MBTA-Monopoles

And yes, the CSX (and MBTA) right-of-way is where this all took place. We were adamant about requesting they trim where possible, but they came back and took everything down.

6 John F Pelletier May 17, 2018 at 9:21 PM

For those above, this is for PTC or Positive Train Control systems. Will they being doing additional network stuff, likely as PTC provides better and faster connectivity between signals, switches, and existing communication boxes. Will it be the Wifi-project, I doubt it simply because the logistics would be simply amazing to plan that into the PTC project timeline… but I don’t know for sure of course…

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