$100M expansion; CSX details plan to double its freight yard in Worcester.


Byline: Nick Kotsopoulos

WORCESTER - CSX Corp. plans to more than double the size of its freight yard on Franklin Street and make the city its new freight hub for New England.

The $100 million project is part of a private-public partnership between the state and CSX to reposition its freight operations in Massachusetts, so the rail line between Worcester and Boston can be opened up to more commuter trains, with a goal of eventually reaching 20 to 25 commuter trains per day, according to Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray.

There are currently 12 round trips per day between Worcester and Boston. The Worcester-Framingham line carries more than 9,000 passengers into Boston each weekday.

CSX has long operated a freight yard in the Franklin Street area, just east of Interstate 290. About 400 trucks per day enter and exit the 23-acre facility.

But because CSX will be moving its main freight operations out of its Beacon Park yards in the Allston section of Boston, the company needs to reposition its freight activity at existing rail yards it has in Central and Western Massachusetts.

As a result, Maurice O'Connell, vice president of government affairs for CSX, said yesterday the company wants to expand its freight facility in Worcester by another 28 acres, boosting it to 51 acres.

To accomplish the expansion, Mr. O'Connell said, CSX is looking to assemble 11 parcels of privately owned commercial properties near the existing freight yard, as well as acquire portions of public streets.

He emphasized no land will be taken through eminent domain and the parcels will be acquired through privately negotiated sales.

Mr. O'Connell said what makes Worcester most attractive as a freight rail hub for New England is its east-west and north-south rail connections, along with its access to Interstates 290 and 190 and the Massachusetts Turnpike. He said what often happens now is that freight shipped on rail to Boston from points west has to be trucked back to Central and Western Massachusetts.

"(Worcester) is where our customers want to be," he said. "They prefer to be in the Worcester area because it is an ideal location for them to get their products out. Not only will this distribution create new jobs, but it will also create a number of other economic development opportunities in the city."

The biggest tract of land that CSX is looking to acquire is directly across from its freight yard on Franklin Street - an area bounded by Franklin Street to the north and Grafton...

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