Blue Line Expansion [1]

The Lynn Extension

 

The present Blue Line uses a former roadbed of a narrow gauge electric commuter line from the area near Logan Airport to Wonderland.   Until recently the stations along the route were limited to four car trains.  The recent expansion and, in some cases rebuilding of the stations have made it possible to have six car trains.  Unlike its sister lines; the Red and Orange Lines, the Blue Line is restricted to shorter 48 foot cars due to some tight curves in the subway portion under downtown Boston. 

The idea of the extension dates back as far as 1947.   Those favoring the extension feel it would be a major boost to Lynn’s economy and be a major boost as the Red Line extension in the 1980’s helped Somerset build up.  Nevertheless the 4.5 mile extension faces a number of hurdles even before the first track can be laid.

There are three alternate plans for the expansion.  The first and easiest is a $155 million plan that would extend the Blue Line over Route 1A to the present commuter line.  This would be a transfer point between the heavy rail and Blue Line where passengers could transfer from the north to the Blue Line which would take them to downtown Boston and Logan Airport.

The most expensive would currently be $600 million.  The line would cross over busy Route 1A and continue over Ramsey Marsh and connect then with a new set of tracks that would run next to the existing commuter line (much like the present Green Line extension) and end at the Lynn Central Square train station.

blue line expansion plans  

The most controversial would be only (?) $400 million and be constructed along the former route of the narrow gauge electric line that ran from 1905 to 1943 from East Boston to downtown Lynn.  The line would run along Revere Beach Blvd. and cut through the Point of Pines neighborhood before crossing a new draw bridge over the Saugus River into Lynn.  This plan would have vigorous opposition from the City of Revere.  The other two plans would not meet opposition from the City of Revere. 

Taking into consideration the normal gridlock along Route 1A and other streets in the area during the rush hour the extension would be a major improvement.  At present the park and ride in Lynn is lucky to see less than 20 percent capacity.  With the extension that lot that has room for almost a thousand cars would most likely be filled.   With more frequent service than the present 12 trains a day commuter line it would give a major boost to Lynn for economic development.

there were hearings scheduled to start in 2008 for the public with hopes that the state could apply for a grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).   Should all go well there is at present no estimated date of completion.  

Since this was written the expansion apears to be the former right of way but in trouble. However there has been some severe cost overuns due, in part, to the route having buildings close ot or on in sections necessitating a costly bridge over the swamp land. That plus the fact that severe budgetary issues plague the "T" putting his project on hold for the time being.


Blue to Red[2]

If the plan to expand the Blue Line to Lynn appears to be controversial the connection between the Blue Line and Red Line at Charles/MGH is far more so.  The link would be between the present Government Square station via a new tunnel to the Charles/MGH on the Red Line.  The plan had been pulled from the list of transit projects designed to offset pollution from the Big Dig which in turn created litigation from the Conservation Law Foundation claiming that the State reneged on the promised project.  While the State did agree to complete the final design, expected to cost $300 million it never promised to build the connection. 

In November, 2006 the state agreed to design a $264 million tunnel connecting the two lines as part of the settlement from the litigation.  As part of the settlement the proposal to return light rail to the Arborway in Jamaica Plain was killed.   The State did agree to explore possible transit improvements to the existing transit infrastructure to existing public transit in that area.  The rationale given by both the city and MBTA was that the "temporarily suspended" service was unbuildable.  More information can be found on this site on the "E" branch of the Green Line.

The Conservation Law Foundation first received commitments from the state in 1990 after they threatened to sue to stop the Big Dig project.  The Foundation had been fighting with various agencies regarding the air quality.  The then agreement was made contingent on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency which enforced the Clean Air Act, approving the state's revised transit plan.

Under the present agreement the 0.4 mile project is to be completedby 2011 linking East Boston, Revere, Lynn with the MBTA's Red line.   The catch again is that the state is now claiming that the project would be too costly and not needed with the completion of the Silver Line bus service from South Station to Logan Airport.  Nevertheless the State faces heavy pressure from Partners Health Care and its affiliate, Massachusetts General Hospital. The link, according to Partners Health Care would be vital for over 19,000 hospital employees as well as the patients; many who ride the Blue Line and are now forced to transfer.

At the present time there is no set route that can be found including the location of several stations included in the new tunnel.  It is also questionable whether the present terminal, Bowdoin, will remain once the extension is finished.  There is also no word on whether or not there would be a physical track connection between the Red and Blue lines.  

 



[1] Boston Globe – 6 April 2008

[2] Part from The Boston Glove 30 November 2006

Feasability projections are by either the webmaster or by the project listed in documentation along with comments by the webmaster.

Feasaiblity for each expansion:

Blue Line to Lynn:

Short connection from Wonderland to the Purple Line -20 to 30 percent. While this is the least expensive it also is the least practical as it would not increase direct service to Lynn. On the other hand it would permit direct transfer for commuters on the Purple Line to the Blue Line and Logan Airport.

Expansion via former narrow gauge roadbed - 20 to 30 percent. The good point is that most of the roadbed might still be available. The bad point is that it involves a costly drawbrdige as well as running in an area not populated and also too close to the ocean where possible salt corrosion could be an issue.

Expansion via the route along the Purple Line to Lynn: 80-90 percent. This route goes along the Purple Line and could have an additional stop if feasible depending on topography. There is no mention on the drawbridge issue as to whether the line would require a new bridge or share the bridge with the existing commuter line. That could also create a problem due to the high voltage overhead cantenary lines.

Expansion from Government Center to Charles/MGH. This is a tough call due to the high expense versus the demand of the hospital for the connection. At the same time the "T" is claiming that bus service could supplement service. The idea of transferring to a bus after a rail trip defeats the purpose of a one seat ride. At this point I would give the project a15 percent chance of completion pending the ability to gather additional government funding. This project is a carry over from the Big Dig project.

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Unless otherwise noted all pictures are by Larry Mack and are copyrighted.  These pictures may not be used for other web sites and/or commercial purposes without the express approval by the webmaster.  The "T" and subway map are copyrighted and owned by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority and are used on this site with their approval.  This site is  not officially affiliated with the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority.