The double-track South Acton station was opened to public in 2016. Image courtesy of Pi.1415926535.
Construction works undergoing at the Wachusett station. Image courtesy of Pi.1415926535.
The rebuilding of Littleton station was completed in June 2013. Image courtesy of Pi.1415926535.

Fitchburg Commuter Rail Line improvement project

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) extended the Fitchburg commuter rail line, a 50-mile (80.5km) corridor from Boston to Leominster, Massachusetts, US. The project is funded by the US Federal Government’s Small Starts programme.

The scoping package for the project was filed with the US Federal Transit Administration (FTA) in April 2007. Construction commenced in January 2012 and was completed in September 2016. The line was opened to public in 2016.

"Developed by MBTA, in association with the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority, the project involved an investment of approximately $200m."

Developed by MBTA, in association with the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority, the project involved an investment of approximately $200m.

Details of Fitchburg rail line improvement project

The present Fitchburg commuter rail line had the oldest infrastructure in the MBTA commuter rail system and included 18 stations. A total of 35 revenue service trains were running through the Fitchburg line each day, serving 13 communities between Fitchburg and Boston.

The improvement project involved the construction of new stations at South Acton and Littleton, the extension of double track from South Acton to Ayer and improvements to seven bridges along the line. It also included an additional project known as the Wachusett extension, which extended the Fitchburg line services by 4.5 miles to a new station at Wachusett in West Fitchburg.

New stations

South Acton station was added with a new track on the south side of the existing single mainline track. New, full-trail length platforms were added to the new station, allowing level platform-to-coach boarding.

Major improvements at the station include the construction of the station building, inbound platform foundations and two high-level platforms. South Acton will feature passenger shelters, a train approach warning system, variable message signs and platform lighting. Security equipment comprises CCTV video surveillance cameras, police emergency call boxes and public telephones.

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The improvement project also included the rebuilding of Littleton station, which began in 2011 and was completed in June 2013. The new station features a fully accessible high-level, centre island platform, an enclosed overhead walkway with ramp system, as well as new and expanded parking. Train approaching warning systems, variable message signs and electric car charging facilities are also installed.

A new layover facility at Westminster was also built to replace the existing Fitchburg Line Layover Facility. It comprises six train storage tracks along with an electrical substation and maintenance building, to facilitate the overnight storage of commuter rail trains.

Signalling system and track installations

The signal system and tracks were upgraded to increase the maximum train speed from 60mph to 80mph. The works involved the installation of new signal system from Weston to Acton, and from Boston to Acton by August.

Approximately a mile of double track was constructed from South Acton to West Acton. The track installation works also included new crossovers at Lincoln.

Funding for the commuter rail line improvement

The $159m improvement project received $75m in funding from the US Department of Transportation (DoT) in October 2011. The Wachusett extension project was supported by the transportation investment generating economic recovery (TIGER) programme.

Contractors involved

McMahon Associates conducted the service expansion study and the improvement implementation plan study for the project.

McCourt Construction was engaged for the construction of the new South Acton station. S&R Construction was awarded a contract worth $26.7m to build the Wachusett extension.

White Contracting received a contract from MBTA to perform improvements to the existing tracks and signal systems.