Wachusett (MBTA station)

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Wachusett station construction, December 2014.JPG
Station construction progress as of December 20, 2014
Location 10 Authority Drive
near Routes 2 and 31
Fitchburg, MA
Coordinates 42°33′12″N 71°50′52″W / 42.5534°N 71.8477°W / 42.5534; -71.8477Coordinates: 42°33′12″N 71°50′52″W / 42.5534°N 71.8477°W / 42.5534; -71.8477
Platforms 800-foot high-level side platform
Tracks 3 (2 mainline plus 1 station siding)
Connections Bus transport MRTA: Route 11
Parking 360 spaces[1]
Disabled access Yes
Opened Late 2016 (planned)[1]
Passengers (upon opening) 400 daily (forecast)[2]
Preceding station   MBTA.svg MBTA   Following station
Terminus Fitchburg Line

Wachusett is an under-construction station on the MBTA Commuter Rail Fitchburg Line. It is northwest of the intersection of Massachusetts Route 2 and Route 31 in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.[3] When completed, it will serve as the northwestern terminus for Fitchburg Line trains. Wachusett will extend service 4.5 miles (7.2 km) west from Fitchburg on the Pan Am Southern main line, lengthening the Fitchburg Line to 54 miles (87 km). The station is expected to draw 400 daily riders.[2]

After years of planning and discussion, work on the station began with site preparation in December 2012. Construction began in mid-2013 for a planned opening in late 2016.[1]


Former service[edit]

Freight wreck at Westminster station in 1914

The station will be the successor to a pair of former stations on the Fitchburg Railroad which opened as part of the Vermont and Massachusetts Railroad in 1851.[4]

Westminster station, serving Westminster, Massachusetts, was located on Bartherick Road off State Road (MA 2A), about a mile west of the new station site.[5] Service to the station ended around 1945.[6]

Wachusett station (sometimes styled as Wachusetts) was located south of Princeton Road (MA 31) in the Crockerville section of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, about half a mile east of the new station.[5] Service to Wachusett station lasted until 1960, when all passenger service west of Fitchburg was terminated by the Boston & Maine Railroad.[4] The derelict freight depot, located just south of the station, was demolished in 2005 or 2006.[7]

MBTA commuter service ran between Fitchburg and Gardner from January 1980 to the end of 1986, but trains did not make stops at Wachusett or other intermediate stations.[8]

Planning for restoration[edit]

Restoring service to this station in Gardner, which had previously run from 1980 to 1986, was considered but rejected in favor of a shorter extension to Wachusett

Restoring commuter rail service past Fitchburg has been considered since 1987. In 2000, the Massachusetts State Legislature passed a bill that directed the MBTA to "conduct a feasibility study regarding the reestablishment of the commuter rail line to the cities of Gardner and Athol on the existing Fitchburg/Gardner/Athol spur line" as one of many expansion and improvement projects.[9]

However, restoration of service all the way to Gardner, much less Athol, was deemed impractical for several reasons. Gardner is 64 miles (103 km) and Athol 81 miles (130 km) by rail for North Station - outside normal commuting distances.[4] The line between Fitchburg and Gardner would cost $104.2 million to double track, and speeds are limited due to the grades going through the Wachusett Mountain range. Because the Route 2 expressway is faster along the corridor than rail service would be, the station at Gardner would have attracted just 50 riders per day.[10] Instead, the study recommended a 4.5-mile (7.2 km) extension to a new park-and-ride station off Route 2 in West Fitchburg.

Funding and design[edit]

Entrance to the station construction site in January 2013. Signs noting the contributions of the Federal Transit Administration (part of US DOT) are displayed.

On February 17, 2010, the US Department of Transportation awarded a $55.5M TIGER grant for the station and a new layover facility in the town of Westminster.[3] The project officially began with a publicized groundbreaking on October 18, 2010, and was originally scheduled to be completed by the first quarter of 2012.[11][12] However, by February 2012, the station was just at 30% design phase, with track and signals to reach 30% design by late spring. As of then, the estimated completion date was October 2013.[13]

The new station is to consist of a single high level side platform 800 feet (240 m) long. A third track will be constructed as a station siding so that commuter trains do not foul the Pam Am main. The third track will deviate slightly from the main so as to accommodate the lengthy platform on a minimal 1-degree curve despite the sharper curve of the main tracks. The station project also includes a new parking facility with 360 spaces as well as a MART bus dropoff area and a kiss-and-ride.[1]

On March 16, 2012, a kickoff event was held for a "smart growth corridor" consisting of 12,500 acres (5,100 ha) acres within a 2.5-mile (4.0 km) bikeable radius of the station.[14] In October 2012, $3.6 million in federal funds was given to the now-$63 million project to cover a budget shortfall due to design and site issues. As of then, the station was to be completed by the end of 2013 and to open in Spring 2014.[15]

Layover yard controversy[edit]

Wachusett Layover under construction in December 2014

Although the station itself has not been the subject of significant controversy, the proposed layover facility 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to the west met with community opposition in Westminster over noise pollution effects.[16] The layover, with six 1000-foot tracks, would replace a similar, smaller yard in East Fitchburg.[1] Work on the layover began in late 2012; on December 28, 2012, the town issued a stop work order over allegations that the MBTA had not obtained the proper permits.[17] In March 2013, the town filed a complaint to the Inspector General of the US Department of Transportation, alleging that delays in the project were a result of the MBTA misleading town officials rather than ordinary construction delays, and asking the DOT to stop work on the project pending an investigation.[18] As of January 2014, the MBTA was proceeding with construction of the layover yard, with projected completion by the end of 2015.[19]


Site clearing work in January 2013

The MBTA begin soliciting bids for pre-construction site preparation for the station and the associated layover yard in June 2012.[20] A $3.75 million contract was awarded and notice to proceed given on November 26, 2012.[21] Site preparation work began in early December. Bidding on a nominally-$27.592 million contract for the primary station and layover yard construction opened in February 2013.[22] Bids came in lower than expected; a $22.9 million contract was awarded on May 22, 2013, for construction to be completed by the end of 2014.[23] Track and signal work and bridge repairs were placed in separate contracts.[24]

Notice to proceed for construction was given on June 14, 2013.[22] A second publicized groundbreaking was held on August 12, 2013.[25] In January 2014, an MBTA presentation stated that service would begin in "early 2015".[26] By October 2014, the planned completion date slipped to later in 2015.[27]

In October 2014, the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority announced that it would run dedicated bus service from Gardner to Wachusett station when the station opens.[27] By the end of 2014, retaining walls for ramps to the platforms and concrete bases for light poles in the parking lot were in place. Track and signal work on the Pan Am mainline will begin in Spring 2015.[24] In January 2015, the opening was delayed further to Fall 2016.[24]


  1. ^ a b c d e "MBTA Wachusett Commuter Rail Extension Project". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Retrieved 4 December 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Montachusett Regional Planning Commission (24 August 2011). "Transit" (PDF). 2012 Regional Transportation Plan. Montachusett Metropolitan Planning Organization. Retrieved 4 December 2012. 
  3. ^ a b U.S. Department of Transportation (February 17, 2010). "Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Grants" (PDF). Retrieved 21 February 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c Karr, Ronald Dale (1995). The Rail Lines of Southern New England. Branch Line Press. pp. 163–5, 200, 203. ISBN 0942147022. 
  5. ^ a b United States Geological Survey (1890). "Ashby & Fitchburg & Leominster". Atlas of Massachusetts (Prelim. Ed. 1884-1888). WardMaps LLC. p. 19. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  6. ^ United States Geological Survey (1944). "Historic Aerials". Nationwide Environmental Title Research, LLC. Retrieved 5 December 2012.  Westminster station is marked on 1944 and earlier maps, but not 1946 and after.
  7. ^ Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Economic Affairs; United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency, Google Earth aerial imagery, Google Inc.  The freight depot is visible in 29 April 2005 imagery but is gone in 10 September 2006 imagery.
  8. ^ Belcher, Jonathan (31 December 2011). "Changes to Transit Service in the MBTA district" (PDF). NETransit. Retrieved 21 February 2012. 
  9. ^ "An Act Providing for an Accelerated Transportation Development and Improvement Program for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority". Session Laws: 2000. Massachusetts State Legislature. 30 June 2000. Retrieved 17 July 2000.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  10. ^ Central Transportation Planning Staff (January 2004). "Chapter 5C: Service Expansion" (PDF). 2004 Program for Mass Transportation. Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  11. ^ "Fitchburg Railroad getting back on track with a little help from a TIGER". United States Department of Transportation. 18 October 2010. Retrieved 21 February 2012. 
  12. ^ Montachusett Regional Transit Authority. "Fitchburg Commuter Rail Extension Project: Environmental Notification Form" (PDF). Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Retrieved 21 February 2012. 
  13. ^ "Meeting of the MART Advisory Board: Tentative Agenda" (PDF). Montachusett Regional Transit Authority. 16 February 2012. Retrieved 21 February 2012. 
  14. ^ Owen, Paula J. (17 March 2012). "Input is sought on smart growth corridor". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Retrieved 17 March 2012. 
  15. ^ Hartwell, Michael (3 October 2012). "MART to get $3.6M in federal money to extend Wachusett rail line". Sentinel and Enterprise. Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  16. ^ Melanson, Alana (7 February 2012). "Layover-station critic in Westminster calls for study". Sentinel and Enterprise. Retrieved 21 February 2012. 
  17. ^ Owen, Paula J. (28 December 2012). "Westminster orders MBTA to stop work on station". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Retrieved 28 December 2012. Selectmen today issued a cease and desist order on alleged unlawful earth removal at the construction site of the proposed Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority layover station in Westminster Business Park. 
  18. ^ Joseph E. Flanagan et al. (25 March 2013). "Re: MBTA Wachusett Extension Project (Massachusetts) Award No. MA-78-0002" (PDF). Town of Westminster. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  19. ^ "The Fitchburg Commuter Rail Line Improvement Project". MBTA. Retrieved 8 Apr 2014. 
  20. ^ "Construction Bid Solicitation". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 11 June 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2012. 
  21. ^ "Awarded Contract: D40CN01". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 26 November 2012. Retrieved 3 December 2012. 
  22. ^ a b "Construction Bid Solicitation #D40CN02". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 15 February 2013. Retrieved 22 February 2013. 
  23. ^ Owen, Paula J. (23 May 2013). "Contract awarded for Westminster layover train station". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Retrieved 24 May 2013. 
  24. ^ a b c "Fitchburg Commuter Rail Line Improvement Project: Project Update" (PDF). Massachhusetts Bay Transportation Authority. January 2015. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  25. ^ Jessen, Klark (12 August 2013). "West Fitchburg: New Wachusett Rail Station". Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Retrieved 12 August 2013. 
  26. ^ "Fitchburg Commuter Rail Line Improvement Project: Project Update" (PDF). January 2014. Retrieved 8 April 2014. 
  27. ^ a b Petalas, Kimberly (24 October 2014). "MART announces plan for commuter rail access for Gardner residents". Leominster Champion. Archived from the original on 26 October 2014. Retrieved 26 October 2014. 

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