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September 23, 2010

Murray, CSX Tout Worcester Freight Rail Expansion Plans


At Wednesday night's annual meeting of the Worcester Research Bureau, Lisa Mancini, an official with CSX, called the $100 million agreement between her company and the state an "extraordinary" public-private partnership.


The agreement allows for the expansion of commuter rail service between Worcester and Boston and makes Worcester the freight rail company's New England hub.

Mancini joined Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray, other state officials and more than 300 attendees for the research bureau's meeting at the DCU Center in Worcester.

Mancini, who's proper title is senior vice president of labor relations and human resources, credited Murray with helping to strike the deal between the state and the company that will allow the Jacksonville, Fla.-based CSX to more than double the size of its Worcester operations. The company has plans to build a "state-of-the-art" intermodal station in Worcester.

The state also purchased portions of track between Boston and Worcester from CSX. The purchase will allow the state to expand commuter rail service between the two cities to as many as 20 roundtrips per day.

Both projects are expected to be done by 2012.

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"I think this showed that we can be advocates and not adversaries," Mancini said about the company's partnership the state.

The investments, Mancini said, will spur other economic development in the region.
"You will see big box distributors start to locate near that rail terminal, which will bring jobs," she said.

Murray said expanded rail service will create a "cross-pollination" connecting Worcester and MetroWest with Boston. He also noted the CitySquare groundbreaking, which occurred last week, saying the proximity of that project to Union Station is turning the area into a "transportation hub."

"We know from case study after case study ... (that) where you have good, affordable and accessible transportation options, investment follows and companies follow as well," Murray said.

The two biggest hurdles for the CSX terminal construction are the need to secure state environmental permits and to acquire more than 20 acres of land in the Franklin Street area.

CSX has begun the process to acquire the land through eminent domain, which must be approved by the state. Mancini said she would prefer if CSX was able to broker a deal with the local landowners to purchase the land.

The improvements in Central Massachusetts, Mancini said, will allow the company to transport freight into Massachusetts more efficiently. Low-bridge clearances have prevented the company from being able to double-stack freight containers on trains in Massachusetts. CSX and the state are sharing the cost of work to raise bridges and lower tracks to allow for double stacking.

With the expansion in Worcester along with improvements CSX is making elsewhere in the country, Mancini said the length of transcontinental freight trips could be reduced by 36 hours. She called that part of a "rail renaissance" making rail more competitive with transporting freight by truck.

CSX is also making upgrades at its Westborough facility. That work, which will not require any land acquisitions, is also expected to be completed by 2012. The company is also expanding its West Springfield facility to serve as a temporary hub until the Worcester work is complete.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story noted there were more than 100 business leaders at the event. Worcester Research Bureau staff estimated there were more than 300. 

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