Supporters of a North-South Rail Link challenge that’s been batted round for a century are dusting off the proposal and making one other push, in hopes the incoming administration will present extra curiosity within the dear connection than the prior one.
The challenge, which was final mentioned by transit officers in 2018-19 when a MassDOT feasibility research estimated a hefty price of $8.6-$17.7 billion, would join the Amtrak and Commuter Rail strains that at the moment finish at North and South station, through a tunnel below downtown Boston.
“We got no movement from the Baker administration on this,” mentioned former Gov. Michael Dukakis, a longtime advocate for the challenge. “It’s absolutely critical to the future of the city.”
At the time of the research, Gov. Charlie Baker mentioned the challenge was too costly. MassDOT had beneficial a $9.5 billion construct possibility for a two-track tunnel that might run below Congress Street and embrace connections to State and Haymarket stations.
But now proponents of North-South Rail Link, which was additionally the topic of prior research in 1993 and 2003, see a renewed alternative, Dukakis mentioned, and “have been pushing it hard with the new administration.” He described it as a “no brainer” that might take 60,000 vehicles off the street every day.
“Nothing really works unless you eliminate this ridiculous hole in the middle of Boston,” Dukakis mentioned. “This is the remaining key piece of the transportation system in and around Boston and this is a great time to get going on it.”
The group has detected curiosity from Gov.-elect Maura Healey, he mentioned, however it’s been increased from Lt. Gov.-elect Kim Driscoll, a previous supporter of the challenge in her capability as mayor of Salem, a north-of-Boston metropolis that might profit from the connection.
Neither Healey nor Driscoll would remark straight on the place they stood on the rail connection, however did point out this week that they have been open to wanting into it.
“Maura and Kim are learning more about North-South Rail and always welcome discussion about how we can make our public transportation system more interconnected so that it works better for everyone,” mentioned Karissa Hand, spokesperson for the Healey-Driscoll transition.
Advocates, who keep that MassDOT’s 2019 price estimates for the challenge have been a lot increased than they assume will probably be, are looking for roughly $60 million in federal funding to kickstart the trouble, mentioned former state consultant John Businger.
That funding would enable for the completion of two paperwork wanting into the environmental impacts of the North-South Rail Link, stories that Businger mentioned may also embrace an up to date price estimate for the challenge.
“That’s a drop in the bucket,” Businger mentioned, evaluating that $60 million determine to the $108 million in federal funding MassDOT, in partnership with Amtrak, is looking for for the start of an East-West Rail connection.
TransitMatters Executive Director Jarred Johnson mentioned a number of steps need to be taken previous to completion of a North-South Rail Link, which he described as the final word objective for transitioning to a regional rail community, akin to extra dependable electrical trains, the elimination of bottlenecks, and accessible stations.
In late 2019, the MBTA’s-then Fiscal and Management Control Board mentioned choices to overtake the Commuter Rail, which included electrification of essential strains and extra frequent service, one in all which included a North-South Rail Link at a whopping $29 billion.
Critics on the time likened it to a different “Big Dig,” an unflattering reference to a freeway megaproject in Boston that exceeded its price range by roughly $12 billion.
Charlie Chieppo, senior fellow on the Pioneer Institute, mentioned taking one other have a look at connecting North and South stations is a “legitimate debate,” given the shift towards a world that depends much less on vehicles and extra on public transportation, however isn’t totally on board with how a lot it will price.
“Despite what Gov. Dukakis has said in the past, I think it’s going to be unbelievably expensive,” Chieppo mentioned. “To be perfectly frank, my fear is I don’t want to spend a lot of state money for something that is going to partly help Amtrak.”
An MBTA spokesperson deferred touch upon whether or not there have been any new discussions about North-South Rail to MassDOT, which referred the Herald to its 2019 feasibility research.