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Town of Acton, MA
South Acton Comuter Rail Train Station
The South Acton Train Station Advisory Committee (SATSAC) is the group which advises Acton’s Board of Selectman on matters relating to the train station and the MBTA.
What’s going on with the train station?
The MBTA is putting in dual tracks between Acton and Ayer, making the entire Fitchburg line dual-track, except around the Waltham station. The dual tracking requires new stations in South Acton and Littleton.
What kind of station is being put into South Acton?
The future station is a dual platform design. The platforms will be raised to be level with the floors of the train cars. There will be entrances on both the Maple Street and parking lot sides, and a bridge with stairs and elevators to cross between them. A building on each side will provide a small amount of shelter. In addition, canopies will cover a portion of the platform.
How did this design get chosen?
In 2009 the MBTA offered a station design with no Maple Street access, and with long enclosed ramps on either side of the bridge crossing the tracks. The feedback that SATSAC received in various public forums was that the ramps were overwhelmingly large, and the long ramps had security issues and access problems for those with disabilities.
Realizing that the community was against the design, the MBTA agreed to spend several million additional dollars to switch to a dual platform design to allow Maple Street access, and to add elevators to address the access issues.
When the new design came in, it was very good. However, Acton’s Historic District Commission (AHDC) felt that certain elements of the design had a negative effect on the neighboring South Acton Historic District. An agreement was reached to have members of the AHDC and SATSAC work with the MBTA and its contractors to address aesthetic and usability concerns. The final design is complete. Work continues on the site plan and landscaping.
Will the construction disrupt train operations?
Train service on the western half of the line will be suspended on many weeksnd during the construction season (late spring, summer, & early fall). Sometimes the suspensions will be just west of Acton, but at other times it will affect service to the east as well. No substitute bus service will be provided during the suspensions. The news page will always have the current suspension schedule.
A couple of train bridges to the east of Acton are being replaced. During the weekends that they are installed, bus service will replace train service. There will be a similar disruption, when the elevator footbridge is installed at the South Acton station.
When construction causes portions of the parking lots to be inaccessible at the South Acton station, the contractor will provide offsite parking and a shuttle. Will the changes to the line and the station affect the schedule?
Improvements to the tracks and faster boarding will reduce the travel time to Boston from Acton by about 6 minutes. The improvement in stations west is more significant, allowing for 1 hour travel time on the express from Fitchburg. In addition, new signaling increases reliability by allowing trains to travel in either direction on either track without reducing speed. A disabled train won’t disrupt the entire schedule.
When the Acton and Littleton stations are complete, the trains that now turn around in Acton will turn around in Littleton instead.
What about the station parking deck that was being planned?
A parking deck is not part of the train station project. SATSAC was originally formed to look into adding a parking deck using funds from a clean-air settlement being offered by the MBTA. Before Acton could reach consensus on the parking deck, the funds were no longer available, and the station project had started.
What about the station parking situation then?
The station construction will cause some rearrangement of the station parking lots, but we expect to have the same number of spaces in the new station. There are however, significant increases in parking at several stations to the west. Littleton is doubling the number of spaces, Ayer is adding a new lot, and a new station with parking is being added at Wachusett. Along with the increased number of trains going to Littleton, this should offer some relief on the Acton parking situation.
There is often parking available at the West Concord station.
SATSAC will continue to look for improvements to the parking situation.
Is the station going to connect with the Assabet River Rail Trail?
Yes. Regulations require that the rail trail terminate at a public transportation facility. Accommodations have been made for the rail trail to end at the Maple Street entrance to the new South Acton station. There is space in the new design to have twice as many bicycle racks and lockers as we have at the station now.
Are there other impacts?
All the grade crossings in Acton will be replaced, and will include pedestrian sidewalk gates on at least one side. Mass. Ave. will get an island for increased safety at the West Acton Crossing.
SATSAC and the town’s engineering department are looking into replacing the lights in the parking lot with efficient lights that won’t leak light into the neighborhood around the station.