Massachusetts kills proposal to run commuter trains through Cambridge

Residents feared noise, traffic; officials cited lack of demand

December 12, 2011

Massachusetts transportation officials said last week that they are dropping a proposal to extend a commuter rail line through Cambridge to the north side of Boston, according to

The proposal would have added a spur for passenger trains to an eight-mile freight train line called the Grand Junction. This sparked considerable controversy in Cambridge, where residents worried about the noise and traffic that the additional trains would add.

However, last Thursday, officials from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) said they will not pursue what would be a $30 million project to create the spur and build a stop for commuter trains in Kendall Square, in Cambridge. The trains would then continue to Boston’s North Station.

 “We’re not closing the door on it, but we’re not moving forward [at this time],” said Matthew Ciborowski, the project manager for MassDOT.

More than 100 people broke into applause when they heard the announcement Thursday night at a meeting about the commuter rail proposal at a Cambridge school.

CSX freight trains already use the rail line. Ciborowski said the passenger trains would add another one to two trains per hour to the rail line, depending on the time of day.

Ned Codd, the director of project-oriented planning for MassDOT, said the agency feels it is necessary to increase public transit service for the metro west area of Boston and the preferable way to do that would be through commuter rail.

But Codd said that for now the state will try to improve the service by seeking to increase track capacity at South Station in Boston. Codd said that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and if the state is unable to do that, they could revisit the idea of adding passenger trains to the Grand Junction line to North Station.

Ciborowski said the state is currently soliciting a designer for the South Station project.

The state closed on the purchase of the Grand Junction line from CSX in June of 2010 and met with Cambridge residents to discuss the passenger train proposal in June of this year. Ciborowski estimated Thursday that by taking a commuter train on the Grand Junction line, commuters traveling from Worcester, in the middle of the state, to Kendall Square in Cambridge would shave 25 minutes from their travel time.

But Ciborowski said that a study has show that the number of riders on the Worcester/Framingham line would not increase significantly if the Grand Junction spur were added and a station were built at Kendall Square.

MassDOT is predicting the number of riders will increase on the line from 6,700 today to about 9,000 in the year 2035. Adding the Grand Junction spur would only boost the 2035 total to about 9,300, Ciborowski said.

The added trains would also have an environmental impact both from the trains and the emissions created by

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