Hurdle remains on CSXT’s Worcester, Mass., project

Written by admin

While Worcester, mass., City Manager Michael V. O'Brien has committed to coming back to the City Council in three weeks with a deal to address issues associated with CSX Transportation's. freight yard expansion plan, some doubts are being raised about whether the biggest obstacle - finding a new roadway connection from Shrewsbury Street to Franklin Street - can be achieved, the Telegram & Gazette reports.

The biggest challenge city
and state officials are encountering in mapping out such a roadway is the
topography of that area and meeting design criteria for road and bridge
construction. As of now, it appears the only way a new roadway connection could
be built is if some of those criteria are eased. But that would come with some
liability, making it difficult to get state and federal support for the
project, according to Robert L. Moylan Jr., commissioner of public works and

To facilitate CSXT’s $100-million
expansion project – the current 28-acre freight yard would be increased to 51
acres in size – Putnam Lane would have to be closed. That has been a source of
much controversy because Putnam Lane is the only connection between Franklin
and Shrewsbury streets, from Washington Square to Piccadilly Plaza on
Shrewsbury Street.

So far, city, state and CSXT
officials have come up with 14 options to replace Putnam Lane, but all have
been ruled out with the exception of one that calls for constructing a new road
from Shrewsbury and Adams streets to Franklin Street, via Foch Avenue, a
private street next to the Brown Square Civic Club. A 320-foot bridge would
span the CSXT freight yard.

The estimated cost of
building the bridge alone would be $10 million to $12 million, while the total
cost of the road/bridge project would be $15 million to $20 million

Under that option, however,
the grade of the roadway would exceed city design criteria. While the city does
not want the grades for new roads to exceed 9 percent, Moylan said, the road
grade for this option would be 12 percent to 13 percent. That is similar to the
hill on Dorchester Street, from Vernon Street to Providence Street, he said.

Also, city design criteria
call for at least 100 feet of level area as an approach to the bridge, but Mr.
Moylan said only about 50 to 60 feet of level area can be designed for this

"Clearly, the big problem
with this option is that we have to somehow reduce the grade from 12 percent to
at least 9 percent," Moylan said. "We don’t want to exceed a 9 percent grade."

That design is based on the
bridge having a clearance of 23 feet above the train tracks. Maurice O’Connell,
vice president of government affairs for CSXT, said that standard is followed
because that is what is recognized by the Federal Highway Administration for
new bridge construction. The standard clearance used to be 21-1/2 feet, but it
was increased to accommodate the double stacking of freight containers. Moylan
said even if the city could get the clearance for the bridge lowered to 21-1/2
feet, the grade of the new roadway would still exceed 9 percent.

District 3 Councilor Paul
P. Clancy Jr. pointed out that the steep and hilly topography of the area make
the project more difficult.

"It’s the nature of the
neighborhood," Clancy said. "But there is such rabid concern that a connection
continue to exist between Shrewsbury and Franklin streets. The neighborhood
does not want anything less as a result of this project. They want to sustain
the same access they now have."

District 2 Councilor Philip
P. Palmieri, meanwhile, has been highly critical about the lack of any suitable
alternative roadway connection. He has called for hiring independent engineers
to take a look at the project.

"At some point, I hope we
get a plan that shows how CSXT will impact our community and what the benefit
will be," he said. "I’d like to know where and what the benefits for our
community are going to be. How is our community going to be improved and where
is it going to be improved?"

O’Brien and CSXT officials
said they remain committed to resolving the issues that have been brought up
about making the project a reality.

"We have been able to
narrow the issues and focus on the most important and that includes Putnam
Lane," O’Brien said. "I am committed to coming back in three weeks with a deal."

Categories: News