October 1, 2018

MBTA board approves Union Station platform expansion

Photo/Grant Welker
Several tracks run by Worcester's Union Station, but only one platform allows for boarding. The MBTA is looking to change that.

An MBTA board approved a design contract Monday for a second train platform at Worcester's Union Station, a first step toward an expansion of the station's capacity.

Design and bidding processes are expected to last about two years, with construction lasting another two years, according to the MBTA. The T's fiscal and management control board approved the project unanimously, with costs limited to $4 million.

The T is looking to add a second platform at Union Station to enable more trains to move in and out of the station more quickly, Beth Larkin, the T's assistant general manager for capital delivery, told the board. Having only one platform today for boarding limits the station to just one train at a time, she said.

"That leads with issues in respect to reliability," Larkin said.

Union Station is among the busiest in the commuter rail system for end-of-the-line stations. On an average weekday, nearly 1,500 commuters board a train in Worcester, according to an MBTA report using 2016 numbers. That's second only to Lowell among stations at the end of a commuter rail line and eighth highest among all commuter rail stations.

The Framingham/Worcester line is the commuter rail system's second busiest, with an average weekly ridership of just over 16,000 people per day. The Providence/Stoughton line has more than 26,000 riders on an average weekday.

Union Station sees 20 inbound and 20 outbound trains between Boston on the Framingham/Worcester line, but would have a capacity for more trains with a second loading platform, including express trains, Larkin said.

Direct routes on the so-called HeartToHub express train take just over an hour to reach Boston from Worcester. A typical route takes roughly an hour and a half.

Union Station is also a stop on an Amtrak line that runs from Boston to Chicago.

The MBTA has not said how much the construction of the new platform itself could cost. The platform would be fully handicapped accessible, Larkin said.

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