MBTA moves forward with Franklin Line Double Track Project

Written by RT&S Staff
MBTA kicks off first phase of South Coast Rail Project.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) Fiscal and Management Control Board approved a $30 million contract for second phase work and third phase preliminary design work of the Franklin Line Double Track Project, which will improve reliability and support future network growth by adding double-track segments to the Franklin Line. The contract was awarded to the MBTA’s Commuter Rail operator Keolis Commuter Services.

While the Franklin Line is one of the highest ridership lines on the commuter rail, the line also is utilized by freight trains on the same tracks with a short track segment west of Walpole Station used for passing: Trains pull into this short section of track and pause for trains traveling in the opposite direction to pass by. When the Franklin Double Track Project is complete, the second track being added will extend this track segment, allowing for passing trains to travel without stopping, improving the reliability of service schedules and supporting future Franklin Line network growth.

Keolis Commuter Services and the MBTA’s Railroad Operations team partnered to manage Phase 1 of the project, which aimed to add about 4 additional miles of double track between Walpole and Norfolk stations. Keolis was awarded the Phase 1 contract in February 2019, which included the design, procurement, construction, and commissioning of two new signal interlockings; the delivery of all subgrade preparation work, tree removal, major drainage improvements, bank stabilization, and new retaining walls; and replacement of a road bridge that included the removal of the existing bridge, requalification of abutments, the procurement of a new bridge structure, and installing and building the new deck. This work also included the plating of 11,000 ties, the demolition of rock ledges, and adding 150,000 tons of ballast. Phase 1 track construction is anticipated to be complete this month with all Phase 1 work on target to be completed in December 2019. The new track is anticipated to be commissioned in spring 2020 after the MBTA’s positive train control program completes its activities on the Franklin Line.

Following the completion of Phase 1 work, Phase 2 work will commence, which includes the addition of another 3.5 miles of double track west from Norfolk Station to Frank Street, which is just east of Franklin Station. The addition of this 3.5-mile segment improves the resilience of the line and decreases the time between trains from about 45 minutes (after the current Phase 1 project) to about 35 minutes. Phase 2 work, which is anticipated to be complete in December 2020, includes subgrade preparation; drainage improvement work; two interlockings, signal houses, signal gantries, and retaining walls; and new track infrastructure.

In parallel with Phase 2 construction taking place, preliminary design work will begin for Phase 3, which is focused on the 4-mile section of track between Walpole and Norwood Central Stations. Upon the completion of the design and construction as part of Phase 3, a double-track line will have ultimately been created along the entire line between South Station in Boston and Franklin Station, improving resiliency on both the Franklin and Fairmount Lines and creating the opportunity to potentially schedule Franklin Line express service.

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