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State says it has to completely replace closed Hyde Park bridge, but just a possible design still months away

Acela train about to go under bridge

Part of the problem: All the trains leave little time for repair work.

MassDOT says the River Street bridge in Cleary Square is beyond repair, so it's started work on designing its complete replacement - with preliminary plans hopefully available for the public to look at in the first quarter of 2023.

In the meantime, MassDOT is planning a virtual public meeting at 6 p.m. on Oct. 11 on the decrepit bridge - shut in May.

MassDOT says it looked at making repairs to the old iron bridge, but concluded it couldn't possibly fit in all the needed repairs in the small windows of time it would have on a span across a stretch of the Northeast Corridor that carries both high-speed Amtrak trains and several MBTA commuter lines:

MassDOT has determined that repairing the existing structure is infeasible given the magnitude of work needed and the limited time to perform it during railroad closures and that a considerable time saving in constructing the new bridge can be achieved by maintaining the current structure as pedestrian-only with vehicular traffic detoured. The removal of utilities and relocating the Amtrak electric wires from the current structure; two activities which were originally part of the new bridge project, have been advanced as early action steps.

Rust never sleeps on the underside of the bridge:

Rusted underside of the bridge

The bridge remains open to pedestrians.

Barriers on the Gordon Avenue side of the bridge:

Top side of the bridge
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Comments

If only the T electrified the Fairmount Line, they could reroute NEC and MBTA service up the Fairmount Line giving them the redundancy they'd need to fix the bridge.

But, nah, let's play pretend with batteries instead.

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Voting closed 38

The Fairmount line, that the other side of the Sq.

This bridge cover all of the south shore lines and the Acela.

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Voting closed 13

As for Acela, Ari's point was that Acela could use Fairmont as alternate routing if that branch had been electrified. They would have to shut down the Hyde Park/Cleary Square station during the work, but all the trains could still make it to South Station by branching at Readville.

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Voting closed 11

Amtrak still has diesels they could bring in and (in theory) run trains on the Fairmount tracks.

I wonder if their Acela coaches are even compatible with diesels. Definitely would be slower, if at all possible. They could run their older "regional" coaches with diesel, certainly.

I wonder where they would do switchover in such a situation - maybe Providence?

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Voting closed 7

They could theoretically run trails to RTE and tow them with diesels from there (I'm not sure they can run HEP off a diesel but the might). But it might be just as easy to have everyone on AMTK just transfer to a diesel train to BOS. Hopefully they could get it all done in a weekend.

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Voting closed 9

So do MBTA diesels.

It would be a complicated shuffle to tow an Acela or Northeast regional trainset via the Dorchester Branch to Hyde Park, then uncouple the diesel and let the train proceed from there under catenary. It would probably add an hour to the trip time.

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Voting closed 7

You just run diesels between Boston (via Fairmount) and New Haven, where they have experience switching between diesels and electrics that goes back decades. Even now, there are occasional times when Amtrak will run diesels between here and there (various repair projects).

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Voting closed 8

In college, back in the late 1970s, I took Amtrak to NYC a lot because my family was there. Every trip had the wait at New Haven to switch engines. And, of course, the air quality in South Station was terrible because of all the diesel fumes. I can't remember when they finally switched to all electric, but it was a welcome change.

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Voting closed 6

Once the routine and a coordinated schedule is established, the diesel-electric locomotive swapout takes about 10 minutes. That's what it used to take at New Haven, anyway. The rest of any time difference would be whatever difference in performance there is between electric and diesel.
I have no idea how much time difference diesel-towing a train including an electric locomotive (or two) would make.

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Voting closed 7

Many years ago when my now-adult children were young, I remember a bridge replacement in CT (maybe New London) that required the shutdown of Acela for some number of days. The northeast corridor service was all regional trains and was routed west to Springfield and then down to New Haven. I'm sure of that detail because I took a train to NY and it was horrible - the Amtrak trains were of a lower priority than freight and and we just sat on the tracks waiting a lot.

It also meant no service between Boston and New Haven.

Not proposing this as an alternative, but just pointing out that a similar problem has occurred before. Also, I believe this bridge was only Amtrak trains, but I could be wrong.

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Voting closed 13

Attleboro, Mansfield and Franklin aren’t part of the SS? News to me.

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Voting closed 6

Wrong thread

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Voting closed 7

Greenbush, Middleboro, Kingston all go through JHK UMass and go down the red line.

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Voting closed 5

That wasn't what they were saying.
The Fairmount line crosses (and has some connections to) the main line at Readville, south of this location. Trains from the south could switch between the main line and the Fairmount tracks there, and get to/from South Station that way. Doubtless there would be other issues to work out, but that connection could be of some use.

The South Shore lines don't run on the main line or Fairmount. They run over in Dorchester next to the Red Line and the Expressway.

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Voting closed 14

Keep the bridge closed until the MBTA electrifies the Fairmount Line?

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Voting closed 10

ummm... the battery thing is with buses, isn't it? Replacing the electric buses? So, it's not like choosing battery buses kept them from electrifying a train line.

...and... since none of Commuter Rail's equipment is electric, none of it needs an electrified Line. So, it's not like the Fairmount Line not being electrified is stopping any commuter rail trains from being re-routed through there.

Did you have a point in there somewhere?

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Voting closed 11

Actually, it's for trains that operate as ordinary electric trains under wires, but from batteries where there are no wires. It's pretty elegant, actually, as it will save a lot of money. But it wouldn't help this bridge project, as Amtrak trains have no batteries and can't be re-routed off the Southwest Corridor (which, oddly, is the most northern and easterly end part of the Northeast Corridor).

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Voting closed 17

Thank you.
It sounds like it would be interesting tech for filling gaps in systems, or service outages, and maybe between systems on intercity routes. I wonder, though, how much distance/speed they could get for a train of any useful size running on just batteries.

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Voting closed 6

Battery electrics are fine for remote, low frequency locations. But the weight of the batteries cause them to operate on a similar profile to diesel trains, which is to say they suffer from slow acceleration/deceleration. One of the goals for electrifying the MBTA system is improved performance on that particular feature, so the battery trains will completely fail on that metric.

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Voting closed 14

… low performance and expensive.

Overhead wire is relatively inexpensive. Substations are relatively expensive, and in-motion charging trains require just as much power (if not more, because of battery losses) and also have performance declines. So unless it's a low-service branch line, there's really no reason not to run overhead.

More here.

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Voting closed 15

Back in the mid-80s when the Southwest Corridor was being built out, the main line tracks of the NEC and Orange Line were depressed into the current trench. During that time trains for Needham were also shut down for a few years. This closed the last leg into Boston for those years, including passage through Hyde Park.

To be clear, this was well before electrification.

During the build out two tracks from the NEC main line to the Fairmount branch were created and all Amtrak (diesel) and MBTA (diesel) trains were re-routed into and out of Boston that way. There was already a freight connection there and that was expanded upon and was only a few thousand feet in length.

After the Southwest Corridor was re-opened, the tracks were pulled up leaving the single freight connector in place. This can easily be seen via Google Satellite views. CSX freight still has an occasional night move through here.

The Acela trainsets have a standard rail coupler under their nose. The nose cone adds to its aerodynamics, but when needed the cone can be removed to connect with a standard train or locomotive to tow it someplace. How that works for things like heard end power (for lights, heat, and AC) from the diesel is unknown to me, however I do believe the connections are there. Amtrak regionals (no speed cone) are similar.

So in theory, a diesel locomotive could connect with an Amtrak consists of cars with the electric pantograph retracted, and tow it into Boston. With a little patch and paint of that freight connector or restoration of the two tracks, this might be seamless. A long term problem is that signal systems may not be adequate and not consider such a special connection anymore which by federal law would have to be installed and maintained.

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Voting closed 8

Not only at night, I can see CSX Trains leaving during the day. I live near the HP CSX yard.

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Driving through there is so much more pleasant now.

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Voting closed 7

But only because all of the problems have been pushed a few blocks away.

To take the photos for the story, I drove down West Street to Hyde Park Avenue, around 4:30 p.m. Traffic on West was backed up all the way to DeForest Street, even with a cop directing traffic at West and Austin (there were three more cops at West and Hyde Park Avenue, although at least when I turned there, they were just standing there, not directing traffic).

It will be interesting to see if the state plans to do anything about the lights at River and Gordon, right at the end of the bridge, or if they're just going to say, sorry, that's a city issue and ignore the problem there. Given how long it took to get traffic lights installed at the Father Hart Bridge in Readville, where city and state roads intersect (over the same train line), one might be forgiven for a lack of optimism.

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Voting closed 14

I thought all traffic problems are supposed to be blamed on the drivers just for existing.

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I wonder if they could do one of those bridge systems that are pre-built adjacent to the old one and slipped into place over a weekend with little or no disruption. Or does that make too much sense?

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Voting closed 8

Unfortunately we are only in the design phase, so the time frame is probably 2 years. This is another example of how our elected officials have completely failed to take charge of the crumbling infrastructure. This bridge is a major link in the Hyde Park, West Roxbury, Dedham area, and should have been replaced years ago. It is also a much smaller version of the Morrissey Boulevard and Kosciuszko Circle disasters, existing and forthcoming.

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Voting closed 6

no powerful state reps (and certainly not the beige turd) have to pass over/under/near the bridge so it’s never been a priority.

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Voting closed 5

"the beige turd"?

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Voting closed 6

Will it be like the Milton bridge going into Lower Mills, that took at least 15 years.

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The state of this bridge is shameful. This was not some surprise failure or fault, it's been steadily rotting away with no action or planning at all. If you look at the inspection history, it's been consistently identified as being in 'Poor' condition since at least 2009, and the recommendation on the 2017 inspection was to replace it. Just walking over it you can see such obvious corrosion that steal struts have rusted into pieces. Yet any work was only barely into the planning stages and forecast to begin the project (not actually replace the bridge) in 2024.

Given how much traffic the bridge saw (including plenty of trucks and buses) and that it goes over a rail corridor, we're very fortunate that it was caught and closed before it started dropping rusted chunks onto an Acela or Amtrak train.

Now it's shut, probably for the next two years, and all the traffic is being pushed to the West street bridge and the Reservoir bridge. I'm sure no one will adjust their maintenance schedule to account for the additional 20,000 cars being rerouted over them.

Details on the bridge: https://bridgereports.com/1234995

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Voting closed 10

The River Street bridge has been in bad shape for decades.

One will likely find inspection reports that show that inspections were done and while the quality was deemed acceptable, what details did the inspections involve?

Does MaDOT maintain high-tech equipment for detailed testing? In order to conduct a hands-on visual inspection of the girders the power has to be shut off, even for a few hours only, so inspectors can get up close in a bucket. Were there "track orders" for that to happen at Amtrak? Track orders are special instructions regarding where power is cut, where rail lines are closed for maintenance and what the procedure is for a span of time. If MaDOT has the proper equipment how was it dispatched and signed out, and what staff was assigned to that job? If not, who were the specialized bridge inspection contractors? There should be a record of their contract on file.

Full inspection should include checking how much rust is flaking and the density of the remaining metal that is supporting the weight. Tests for microfractures should be done with x-rays or ultrasound. Are there detailed records of the analysis?

Bridges are supposed to get some kind of inspection every 2 calendar years. During the last decade was any of the above done?

Disclosure... I have contacts in the rail industry and queried about a different bridge almost 20 years ago. I reached an Amtrak VP of operations in NYC through a favor and asked about "track orders" for work of this nature. The reply was that no such orders had been issued. By extension, that meant no such detailed inspection to test the undercarriage of this other bridge could have been done. From there, the number of questions to be raised goes geometric.

We may want to consider that River Street is not the only bridge in need of serious work. and while this one is MADOT, some are owned by the MBTA and some by the City of Boston. One size does not fit all.

With a design off through till sometime in 2023, and given other bridge replacements in this area, Robert Street's RR bridge in Roslindale being one, You need to start accepting that this will be closed for at least another 2 years easily, and maybe longer. The logistics of demolition alone will be challenging, not to mention changes to the support structure itself.

The River Street bridge also carries utilities such as water (obvious from the photo). Some also carry natural gas. So moving utilities is also on the plate. This will be no easy replacement.

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Voting closed 9

i wonder if instead of a bridge, they probably wouldve built it by now (nevermind just sketching it out).

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Voting closed 5