MASSACHUSETTS SIERRA CLUB | North South Rail Link | Learn More
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North South Rail Link Project

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The Boston metropolitan region is currently served by a regional rail network that is divided into two separate systems, one terminating at North Station and the other terminating at South Station. Similarly Amtrak Northeast Corridor Service terminates at South Station, while the Amtrak services to Portland, Maine terminate at North Station. The two stations are separated by a distance of about one mile.

Why is the project needed?

The MBTA regional rail system grew significantly from 75,000 daily riders in 1990, to almost 91,000 passengers on approximately 300 daily trains in 1994. By 2010, ridership is expected to grow to 120,000 daily boardings. The number of intercity train passengers is also expected to grow. Today Amtrak carries nearly 3,000 passengers to and from Boston on approximately 20 daily trains. By 2010, this figure is expected to grow to approximately 7,000 passengers on 56 daily trains. Many of these riders have to transfer to the Orange, Red, or Green Lines to reach their final destination in downtown Boston. These transfers add to the burden of the rapid transit system which is approaching capacity during peak travel times.

The Rail Link will pair existing north and south side commuter rail lines for through operations resulting in a more efficient regional rail system. It will reduce transfers to the rapid transit system, solve anticipated future track capacity problems at North and South Stations, make intercity train travel more attractive, provide improved downtown access, as well as greater opportunity for reducing traffic on our highway system.

What are some of the anticipated benefits?

The Rail Link will:

  • Divert 55,000 daily trips from the highway system and 45,000 daily trips from the transit system
  • Reduce the demand for continued airport and highway expansion throughout the region
  • Decrease emissions and enhance air quality in the region
  • Reduce the need for people to transfer between modes, speeding up their trips
  • Provide inter-connectivity of the regional transit systems
  • Significantly increase the capacity of the regional rail system
  • Reduce congestion on the downtown portion of the MBTA Rapid Transit System
  • Shift people from automobiles to rail
  • Capture riders who currently fly along the Northeast Corridor
  • Make downtown much more accessible
  • Promote employment opportunities through new access
  • Serve as a catalyst for regional and downtown economic development.

How would North and South Stations be connected?

The project proposes to connect the two separate rail systems by constructing a rail tunnel under downtown Boston to link North and South Stations. The tunnel, which will begin at Back Bay Station, follows the alignment of the existing train tracks from Back Bay Station to South Station, and would then be located under the new depressed Central Artery It will continue under the existing North Station, cross the Charles River and emerge north of the Gilmore Bridge. A variation of this alignment is also being considered, which would shift the tunnel to the east of South Station. The tunnel would follow the Fort Point Channel, travel under the Russia Wharf Building and rejoin the Central Artery alignment near Northern Avenue.

Where would the Rail Link stations be located?

One station will be located either under South Station, or to the east along the Fort Point Channel with connections to the existing South Station concourse, the MBTA Red Line and the proposed South Boston Piers Transitway. The northern Rail Link station will be located adjacent to the proposed MBTA consolidated Orange and Green Line station (Super Station) between Haymarket and North Stations. The project is also investigating a central station in the vicinity of the MBTA Aquarium station at State Street, which would provide connections to the Blue Line.

How much will it cost?

The range of costs includes a two and a four track tunnel option as well as options for two or three stations. Project studies currently underway will refine the cost estimate and identify potential funding sources. The proposed funding scenarios will include traditional federal and state programs as well as innovative approaches based on emerging federal programs and private sector participation.

What is the current status of the project?

Studies are currently underway to address the engineering, operational, environmental and financial issues associated with the Rail Link project. These studies will comply with federal and state environmental review processes, and with the new federal investment guidelines. A combined Draft Environmental Impact Statement/ Report and Major Investment Study document will be prepared and circulated for public review and comment in early 2003. The next step is selection of a preferred alternative. Preliminary engineering, a Final Environmental Impact Statement/Report, and a financial plan will follow as funding becomes available. The project would then progress to more detailed design and then construction.



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