29 May 2014

MBTA Happenings

I don't write as much about the MBTA as I used to, probably because I'm not commuting every day. But whenever I head into the city I get an up-close look at one of the T's big projects.

A new station is being added on the Orange Line between Wellington and Sullivan Square stations to serve the Assembly Row complex (no relation), which is in the process of a phased opening. Currently there's outlet shopping and entertainment and, when fully built out in a few more years, there will also be housing, office space, and a hotel. Since the station is being built right along the existing track, it's easy to see the progress.

What isn't easy is to capture any of that progress with my camera. I've tried a couple of times, and even when on a slow-moving train it's extremely difficult to get any good shots. So you'll have to take my word for it, or go take a ride out there to see it for yourself. (The current projection for the station's opening is some time this fall.)

In the area where the new station is being built, the northbound and southbound tracks are side by side, too close together to allow a station with a center-platform design; there are also commuter rail tracks just east of the Orange Line tracks, so there was no space to build a separate platform on the northbound side, and as I witnessed the work on the station I wondered how this would be addressed. The station is being built just west of the existing southbound tracks, but over the past few weeks I've seen new track being laid on the far side of the station that will carry southbound trains when complete, and northbound trains will shift over to what is now the southbound track to serve the new station when it opens.

Except for the Silver Line stations along the waterfront, Assembly Square is the first completely new station to be added to the MBTA system since the realigned southern portion of the Orange Line opened in 1987. (The following year, Columbia station was renamed JFK/UMass, and was redesigned so that the Braintree branch of the Red Line, which used to split off north of the station, also served it.)

Meanwhile, the reconstruction project at Government Center station has been underway for about two months (the T has posted some illustrations and diagrams of what the station will look like when finished in 2016). While construction is underway, trains are passing through the station without stopping. I happened to pass through earlier this week, but unfortunately there are fences with opaque sheeting blocking any view of the work. Up at street level, the bunker-like "wart" that served as the station's entrance has already been removed, and if you're curious, there is a Twitter account belonging to someone with a view of the work area.

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