Moulton: South Station expansion massive waste of $2b

Moulton: South Station expansion massive waste of $2b

Criticizes Pollack for suggesting rail link, expansion could both be done

US REP. SETH MOULTON on Tuesday called the expansion of South Station “a massive waste of $2 billion” and criticized the Baker administration for suggesting that it might be possible to both expand South Station and build an underground rail link between North and South Stations.

“Unfortunately, it shows me that a lot of people just don’t understand the North-South Rail Link,” Moulton said in a phone interview. “The South Station expansion is a massive waste of $2 billion and it’ll be obsolete in 10 years. It also cripples new development opportunities for decades to come and it does nothing to improve our standing as the 45th state in the nation when it comes to transportation.”

Moulton was responding to comments made on Monday by state Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack. Pollack is pushing ahead with the expansion of South Station to accommodate more trains even as the state is spending $2 million on a study of the North-South Rail Link, which is estimated to cost $3 billion to $5 billion. Asked when the state would have to choose between the two projects, Pollack indicated they weren’t mutually exclusive.

“I’m not sure that we agree with the North-South Rail Link Working Group that it is an either-or,” she said. “There are costs and benefits to the South Station expansion and there are costs and benefits to doing the North-South Rail Link. We agreed that we would look at them both in the same time frame, which is why we’re getting the feasibility study [for North-South rail] off the ground. It’s not impossible that we would decide to expand South Station and then decide later on to do the rail link. We are just proceeding with both of them at this point.”

The transportation secretary said a study of the South Station expansion identified the need for seven additional tracks there. She said a similar study for the North-South Rail Link hasn’t been completed yet, so it’s difficult to know whether the link would eliminate the need for more track capacity at South Station.

“I think it is an open question whether it would actually make sense that every single train would go through the North-South Rail Link or whether they would stop at South Station,” she said.

Moulton said it would make no sense to do both projects. He believes the North-South Rail Link would make the South Station expansion unnecessary. The South Station expansion is being pushed to add seven additional tracks to expand service to the south and west of the city. But Moulton said the rail link between North and South Stations would make the extra tracks at South Station unnecessary. Trains would still stop there, but once the entire commuter rail system is linked together, trains could park overnight just about anywhere, preferably where land is cheaper and more readily available, Moulton said.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Instead of using valuable land around South Station to park trains, Moulton said the property could be developed for better uses. Backers of the North-South Rail Link say South Station expansion would stymie $10 billion in economic development.

Moulton hailed Pollack as “brilliant” on transportation issues. “I see Secretary Pollack as a partner in getting to the right answer on this, but we clearly need more folks to present on this to the administration,” he said. “Not a single expert we’ve consulted on this thinks South Station expansion is a good idea.”