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The MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board announced Monday it has made progress toward the electrification of the commuter rail.
Alistair Sawers, who leads the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Regional/Urban Rail Transformation Office, said the Providence/Stoughton Line is fully electrified — except a 1.7 mile gap at the Attleboro station in the process of being filled — and the agency has started to examine and plan for the electrification of the Fairmount and Newburyport/Rockport lines.
The project’s general manager, Steven Poftak, also announced he has committed $10 million to the project for the fiscal year 2022 Capital Plan, which state Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) said is a big step forward.
According to Sawers, the Fairmount Line and parts of the Newburyport/Rockport Line are in need of new catenaries, which supply the electric multiple units (EMU) with electricity.
Sawers said the MBTA is looking at obtaining battery-powered EMUs (BEMU) for the Newburyport/Rockport Line, but that would require station upgrades to make high level platforms.
Crighton said there are EMUs available throughout the country and, if acquired, they can be put to use on the Providence/Stoughton Line very soon. Sawers confirmed they are looking at options to acquire these EMUs.
“To hear Alistair say they can get this going immediately is a big step,” Crighton said. “We want to get this done as quickly as we can for the next year’s capital plan and for potential infrastructure coming in from the government.”
On the Providence/Stoughton Line, one to two bridges have been identified as conflicts to the project and have been added to the unbudgeted list to be fixed, while the routes to Beverly and Lynn includes bridges and tunnels that have not yet been examined.
Sawers detailed a list of updated infrastructure needed for the rail electrification transformation, including the addition of high level platforms, accessibility improvements, and repairing and brightening the stations.
Network improvements will also be required, such as turning the tracks, replacing drawbridges, adding double and triple tracks and improving signals and grade crossings.
The funding for the design of infrastructural changes to the safety system, bridges, tunnels, tracks, and signals between Lynn and Beverly need to be surveyed for estimated costs. The Fairmount Line also includes bridges that will be assessed.
The Lynn and Beverly routes are in need of a new heavy maintenance facility (HMF) to put the trains and maintain them. The Providence/Stoughton Line has a temporary facility, but there are plans for a future HMF that the Fairmount Line will use as well.
The MBTA board will host another meeting on May 24 to provide updates on the procurement of EMUs and the transformation process.
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