Friday, September 21, 2012

Massachusetts set to buy more CSX right-of-way

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Massachusetts next month expects to acquire 90 miles of rail right-of-way owned by CSX Corp., in part to improve MBTA passenger service for large portions of the state.

The acquisitions planned include 45 route miles between Worcester and Boston, roughly bisecting the state on an east-west axis, 37 miles between Taunton, Fall River, and New Bedford, in the the state's southeastern portion, and eight miles north of Boston.

Massachusetts would pay CSX $100 million for the lines, and assume operating and maintenance costs.

For its part, CSX plans to invest $129 million to improve intermodal capacity in the Bay State, involving clearance work and track rehabilitation. Projects include yard construction in Worcester, Westboro, and West Springfield, while Massachusetts and CSX would both contribute to bridge work at 31 locations running from the border with New York State, in the west, to Worcester, allowing double-stack train operations.

CSX also plans relocate a major yard from Boston to Worcester, which will open the former yard area for 80 acres of new development along the Charles River in Boston.

Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation Richard A. Davey said state control of the purchased lines would help reduce delays caused by CSX freight trains, and also promote "clear lines of accountability as to how we provide better service."

Observers note Amtrak's Inland Route service, linking Boston with New Haven, Conn., via Worcester and Springfield, Mass.,  also might benefit from the purchase of the Worcester-Boston route.

Amtrak recently signed a 99-year lease with CSX to assume control this November of the Empire Corridor between Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and New York State's capital region.