MBTA Completes Purchase of Widett Circle to Improve Critical Rail Efficiency

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) announced it has completed the purchase of Widett Circle, a key component in a larger strategy to improve Commuter Rail service and to better meet the transportation needs of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Widett Circle consists of 24 acres and is located one mile from South Station and adjacent to existing MBTA Commuter Rail facilities. With the completion of this purchase, the area will be used by the MBTA to improve Commuter Rail operations through new facilities that allow for train storage and maintenance activities near South Station for nine of the T’s 14 Commuter Rail lines, accounting for two-thirds of all Commuter Rail service.

Widett Circle will allow the MBTA to better serve Commuter Rail operations’ existing and future equipment and maneuvering needs and will provide additional maintenance and layover functions for trains operating from South Station. These increased functions are critical for more frequent service on the Fairmount and Worcester Lines, as well as additional, future regional and urban rail service that would include the West-East Rail between Pittsfield and Boston, and South Coast Rail Phase One Service between Boston and Fall River/New Bedford. As part of the South Station Expansion (SSX) project, the MBTA identified Widett Circle as a critical location to provide layover functions on the south side of the Commuter Rail network, and a yard at Widett Circle was included in the SSX State and Federal environmental filings that won approval in 2016 and 2017.

The completed purchase of Widett Circle builds on the Healey Administration’s priority to increase access and equity for residents who utilize public transportation and supports the Commonwealth’s goals in investing in a green future for public transportation.

Currently, the MBTA’s yard in the Readville neighborhood of Boston is the layover facility closest to downtown Boston, located nine miles away from South Station. As a result, trains that are not in passenger service must travel back and forth along the Fairmount Line creating a burden on resources including train crews, additional costs associated with the use of fuel, as well as the potential for creating congestion along the line. A central location for a layover yard will allow trains to begin and end service from each corridor more efficiently. By adding a layover yard that is only one mile from South Station, the MBTA will be able to reduce its “deadhead” miles by more than 50,000 miles per year, reducing operating costs by shortening trips to and from the layover yard and increasing capacity for trains in passenger service.

An expansion of rail capacity at Widett Circle will allow the MBTA to:

  • Address current deficiencies and provide additional storage and servicing capacity on the south side of the T’s Commuter Rail system;
  • Reduce the distance non-revenue trains must travel for layovers, reducing deadhead miles traveled to Readville, resulting in costs savings and environmental benefits such as a reduction in diesel emissions in Environmental Justice communities;
  • Relieve congestion on the Fairmount Line by limiting non-revenue travel distance, providing the opportunity for a potential increase in revenue service;
  • Reduce the time trains must layover at South Station, which will free up platform capacity for additional services at the station.

As the MBTA moves forward with utilizing Widett Circle for rail operations, design work is expected to incorporate resiliency measures into its planning to address impacts as a result of climate change, as well as considerations for improving stormwater drainage.

The purchase price for the Widett Circle area is $255 million. The MBTA Board of Directors authorized the purchase of Widett Circle in December 2022 with $155 million in MassDOT funds and $100 million in MBTA Capital Investment Plan (CIP) funds.

-via Press Release

This article was posted on: April 18, 2023