Beacon Park Yard

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The yard in 2012 shortly before closure

Beacon Park Yard was a CSX Transportation rail yard in Allston, Boston, now owned by Harvard University. The yard opened in 1890 on the site of a former trotting park, from which it took its name. It was closed in 2013 following the relocation of the yard's container operations to Worcester, Massachusetts and opening of a transload facility in Westborough, Massachusetts. Plans for the yard include relocation of the Massachusetts Turnpike Allston exit, construction of a new MBTA commuter rail station and layover yard, and a major real estate development.


Rail usage[edit]

Freight cars in Beacon Park Yard around 1900

The Boston and Worcester Railroad (B&W) began operating through Allston in 1834.[1] Beacon Trotting Park opened east of Cambridge Street in 1864 on land just north of the railroad.[2] In 1890, the Boston and Albany Railroad (B&A), successor to the B&W, bought the land for use as a rail yard, named Beacon Park Yard after the trotting park.[2] The B&A became part of the New York Central Railroad in 1900.[1]

In 1958, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority bought the rail line east of Route 128, including the rail yard and freight sidings, from the NYC for construction of the Massachusetts Turnpike.[1] The Turnpike was routed along the north edge of the yard, with a toll plaza and interchange to Cambridge Street and Soldiers Field Road there. A truck tunnel was built under the Turnpike at the west end of the yard to provide access from Cambridge Street, and a set of ramps provided yard access to and from the westbound Turnpike. This enabled use of the yard for transload operations, where freight was transferred from long-distance freight trains to local trucks in the yard. The NYC became part of Penn Central on February 1, 1968, which in turn became Conrail on April 1, 1976.[3] When Conrail was broken up in 2000, freight operations on the line, including Beacon Park Yard, became part of CSX Transportation.[4]

Closure and redevelopment plans[edit]

Container trains at Beacon Park Yard in 2010
Beacon Park Yard, empty of CSX cars, in 2014. The MBTA train at left was being used for the press conference announcing plans for West Station.
Beacon Park Yard in 2016, with all but seven yard tracks removed.

In the late 1990s, Harvard University began planning a major expansion southward in Lower Allston, where substantial parcels of marginal industrial and derelict land could be redeveloped for academic, research, and commercial use. In 2000, the university purchased 47 acres (19 ha) of "Allston Landing North" - land north of Cambridge Street, and between Cambridge Street and the Turnpike - from the Turnpike Authority.[5] In April 2003, the university purchased 91 acres (37 ha) of "Allston Landing South" - including Beacon Park Yard, the Worcester mainline tracks, the Turnpike mainline and interchange, and CSX's engine yard - from the Turnpike Authority for $75 million despite the objections of local politicians including Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.[5] Although both purchase agreements granted permanent easements to CSX and MassDOT, the objectors expressed concerns that wealthy Harvard would attempt to buy out CSX and disrupt freight service to Boston.[6]

In 1998, a new station in Allston-Brighton began to be considered as part of the Urban Ring planning process. In 2007, the City of Boston allocated $500,000 in funding for the Allston Multimodal Station Study.[7] The study analyzed both commuter rail and DMU local service along the corridor, with potential stops at Faneuil, Market Street, Everett Street, Cambridge Street, West (Ashford Street) inside Beacon Park Yard, and Commonwealth Avenue. It recommended an Everett Street stop, with stations at the other locations to come later.[8]

In September 2009, MassDOT reached a major agreement with CSX and Harvard over several railroad properties in the state. The state bought the outer Framingham/Worcester Line, Track 61, the Grand Junction Railroad, and several branch lines needed for South Coast Rail from CSX. The state also partially funded a new container yard in Worcester and a transload facility in Westborough, which allowed CSX to eventually vacate Beacon Park Yard for redevelopment.[9][10] The state inherited CSX's easements, requiring Harvard to petition the state before developing any property; because of this, Harvard did not include the site in its 2007 master plan.[11]

Construction of the Worcester container yard began in 2011, and CSX vacated Beacon Park Yard in February 2013.[12][13] CSX demolished buildings, removed old rail cars, and completed soil and groundwater remediation to make the site usable for future development.[5]

In December 2015, Harvard University completed the purchase of an additional 19 acres (77,000 m2) of CSX land north of Cambridge Street for $97.25 million. Harvard's plan is to use the land as a park and later redevelopment.[14]

In 2017 and 2018, the yard was used as a staging area for the replacement of the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge.[15]

Allston Interchange Project[edit]

Beacon Park rail yard, upper left and Interstate 90 Allston interchange, center, facing south-west. Under the proposed plan, I-90 would be moved closer to the MBTA mainline at the southern edge of the yard. West Station would be constructed near the large white building at top left.

As part of the development of the yard, the state plans to reroute the Massachusetts Turnpike (Interstate 90) just south of its current alignment within the confines of the old yard, in order to make the road safer and free up 60 acres for development. All electronic toll collection will eliminate the need for the existing toll booths at the interchange, allowing a simpler layout.[16] In September 2014, MassDOT announced that a new commuter rail station, West Station, will be constructed at the south edge of the yard.[17] The plan includes a commuter rail layover yard for the MBTA, new streets, bicycle paths and more parkland along the Charles River.[18] The MBTA also plans to use part of the yard as a layover facility for commuter rail trains, with storage for up to 30 train consists.[19]

As of July 2016, the project plans to file a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) in 2017 and hopes to break ground in 2019.[20]:p. 9 Earlier estimates suggested a 3-4 year construction time.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Karr, Ronald Dale (1995). The Rail Lines of Southern New England. Branch Line Press. pp. 278–282. ISBN 0942147022.
  2. ^ a b "Important Allston Brighton Dates". Brighton Allston Historical Society. Archived from the original on 15 April 2012. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  3. ^ Belcher, Jonathan (27 June 2015). "Changes to Transit Service in the MBTA district 1964-2015" (PDF). NETransit. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  4. ^ "CSX Transportation, Inc. Beacon Park Yard in Allston, MA: Response to Comments on Draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)" (PDF). United States Environmental Protection Agency. 2005. p. 10. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  5. ^ a b c Harvard University (17 August 2015). "I-90 Allston Interchange Task Force Meeting" (PDF). Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  6. ^ Pasternack, Alex L.; Schuker, Lauren A.E. (11 April 2003). "Officials Irked by Land Deal: Despite protests, board approves Harvard bid". Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  7. ^ Elowitt, Karen (26 April 2007). "Allston could get commuter rail station". Wicked Local. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
  8. ^ "Allston Multimodal Station Study" (PDF). Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation. 15 June 2009. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
  9. ^ "PATRICK-MURRAY ADMINISTRATION FINALIZES AGREEMENT WITH CSX TRANSPORTATION" (Press release). The Official Website of the Governor of Massachusetts. 23 September 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  10. ^ Kyle Cheney (23 September 2009). "Harvard will be allowed to purchase and develop Beacon Park Yard". Wicked Local. Gatehouse Media, Inc. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  11. ^ Quach, Michelle L.; Zhu, Peter F. (25 September 2009). "State To Take Over Allston Railyards: Move potentially opens up Harvard-owned land for long-term development". Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  12. ^ Kotsopoulos, Nick (June 17, 2013). "CSX project wrap-up means money for city". Telegram & Gazette. Worcester, Massachusetts. Retrieved 1 September 2014.
  13. ^ Dyer, John (14 February 2011). "Land at a premium, railroad exploits its air space". Boston Globe. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  14. ^ Carlock, Catherine (16 December 2015). "Harvard completes Allston Landing acquisition with $97M land buy". Boston Business Journal. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  15. ^ Picon, Andres (July 20, 2018). "Commonwealth Avenue bridge replacement project to begin Thursday". Boston Globe.
  16. ^ a b Rocheleau, Matt (23 October 2013). "Photos: Conceptual designs of project to straighten Mass. Pike in Allston". Boston Globe. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
  17. ^ Dungca, Nicole (30 September 2014). "New transit station to connect Allston to downtown". Boston Globe. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  18. ^ Allston Interchange Presentation, MassDOT, June 27, 2016
  19. ^ "MBTA Layover Facility Alternatives Analysis Report, March 2013" (PDF).
  20. ^ "Allston I-90 Interchange Improvement Project – Placemaking Output Meeting Notes of June 27, 2016" (PDF).

External links[edit]

Media related to Beacon Park Yard at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 42°21′21.89″N 71°7′22.24″W / 42.3560806°N 71.1228444°W / 42.3560806; -71.1228444