Pollack: T scrapping Auburndale station design

TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY STEPHANIE POLLACK said on Monday that the MBTA is scrapping its design for a new Auburndale commuter rail station in response to concerns that the proposal might negatively affect the overall operation of the entire Framingham/Worcester Line.

The transportation advocacy group TransitMatters initially raised concerns about the proposed design in February, saying the MBTA’s approach could cause service disruptions for all users of the line. TransitMatters accused the T of rebuilding the station “in the worst possible way.”

The Auburndale station, located on the Framingham/Worcester Line adjacent to the Massachusetts Turnpike, currently features one low-level platform on the south side of the tracks. The existing platform requires passengers to climb steps to board a train, making the station inaccessible to people with disabilities.

The T proposed addressing the problem by demolishing the existing station while building a new handicapped-accessible station on the north side of the tracks. The T then proposed installing switching gear that would allow trains to swap tracks before reaching the next stop, West Newton, which has its station on the south side of the tracks.

The estimated cost of the fully-designed project was $11 million, with a little over $4 million for the new station and $6.68 million for the switching equipment.  TransitMatters said the switching proposal could hinder performance on the line and proposed building two handicap-accessible platforms on both sides of the track so trains could stop coming to and going out of Boston. The transit advocacy group estimated the cost of its approach would be about the same as the MBTA’s.

Pollack met recently with state lawmakers representing Newton and informed them the T was going back to the drawing board on the Auburndale station design. She was vague, however, about what kind of plan will eventually emerge.

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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.

“We talked about the very legitimate concerns that have been raised that the particular design could degrade the operation of the entire Worcester Line and everyone agreed that, as important as it is to bring better accessibility to the station in Auburndale, no one wants to see that happen at the expense of the overall operation of the Worcester Line,” Pollack said after a meeting of the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board. “We talked about taking a look at some options that would improve accessibility without degrading operation of the line. I committed to getting back to the elected officials in a month or two.”

Pollack downplayed the T’s decision to walk away from a design that was 100 percent complete. “One of the reasons we go public with 100 percent design is to get feedback and the feedback we got pointed out some very legitimate concerns that we now need to address,” she said.

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