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MBTA to open rebuilt Yawkey Station in March, boosting service on Framingham-Worcester rail line

February 26, 2014 12:36 PM

Yawkey Rendering.JPG

(MBTA)

A rendering of the soon-to-open rebuilt Yawkey Station.

The MBTA plans to open the rebuilt Yawkey commuter rail station in Boston next month, clearing the way for the transit agency to boost service across the entire Framingham-Worcester line, officials announced Wednesday.

The station is set to open and a new schedule for the commuter rail line is set be implemented on March 10, T general manager Beverly Scott announced.

“I would like to thank everyone for their patience,” she said in a statement. “We’re very excited about launching this new era in the continuing process of improving the Worcester-Framingham commuter rail line.”

Completion of the $14.9-million Yawkey Station overhaul was delayed by about two months while the contractor worked to address accessibility-related issues, T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said.

That delay forced the T to hold back on implementing increased service across the Framingham-Worcester line. The Yawkey project includes constructing a second track allowing more trains to move through.

The new schedule will bring the total number of weekday round trips on the Framingham-Worcester line to 24, up from 22 roundtrips currently. The revised schedule also allows trains to stop at more stations while making those trips.

The line only offered 10 weekday roundtrips just before the state struck a deal in 2009 to buy a 21-mile stretch of the line’s tracks for $50 million from railroad company CSX Corp.

Since then, the T has incrementally increased train trips and stops, while improving other aspects of passenger service on the line that was once among the least reliable in the agency’s commuter rail network.

The rebuilt Yawkey Station, located steps from Fenway Park, features a pair of 700-foot-long train platforms that are fully accessible to people with disabilities, four new elevators and stairs, track realignments, an open mezzanine and a new main station lobby, or head house, at Yawkey Way.

More changes to the station are planned to be made if and when the long-delayed, yet-to-break ground massive Fenway Center mixed-use development is built around the station.

Those future improvements include building new entrance shelters on Brookline Avenue and Beacon Street and extending Yawkey Way so MASCO shuttle buses, which serve the Longwood Medical Area, can pull up to the station.

When a parking garage for the Fenway Center development is built, solar panels installed atop the garage will power Yawkey Station, which will make it the first “net-zero energy” rail station in Massachusetts, officials have said.

During the recent construction project, the station remained in use. Riders would use one side of the platform while work would take place on the opposite side, officials said.

State officials held a formal groundbreaking ceremony for the project in the fall of 2010, but the actual work did not start until June 2012, about when officials had originally hoped to finish construction.

The project’s start was delayed because the state needed to wait until the track purchase deal with CSX was complete.

The project was paid for by the state, including through the use of federal stimulus funding, officials.

The developer of Fenway Center, Meredith Management Corp., has agreed to maintain the station’s entrances and elevators after the project is complete.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com.
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Free rides after 8 p.m., extra service on MBTA for New Year's Eve

December 26, 2013 10:48 AM

The MBTA said it will continue its annual tradition of offering free rides after 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, while boosting service on its subway and commuter rail lines to accommodate people traveling to celebrate First Night.

On New Year’s Eve, the T's Green, Red, Orange, and Blue lines will operate on modified weekday schedules with extra trains running at “rush-hour levels of service” from about 3 p.m. until 2 a.m., officials announced.

The T’s commuter rail lines will also run on modified weekday schedules with additional service, including a number of lines that will see extra outbound service and some delayed outbound departures between midnight and 2 a.m., officials said.

To see a detailed list of extra commuter rail service and delayed departure times, click here.

Meanwhile, the T’s Silver Line, buses, trackless trolleys, express bus routes and boats will run on regular weekday schedules on New Year’s Eve, officials said.

The T’s paratransit service, the RIDE, will run on a regular weekday schedule with extended hours until 2:30 a.m.

On New Year’s Day, the four subway lines will run on Sunday schedules as will the Silver Line, the RIDE, the commuter rail and buses, meaning some commuter rail and bus lines will not operate, officials said.

For a detailed list of subway and bus routes that will not run on New Year’s Day, click here.

The T will not run boat service on New Year’s Day.

City officials have encouraged people traveling in and around Boston on New Year's Eve to ride public transit, including the T. A number of streets will be closed to traffic, while parking will be banned on others. For a detailed list, click here.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com.
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Milford voters overwhelmingly reject proposed casino

November 19, 2013 11:20 PM

Milford voters emphatically rejected a $1 billion Foxwoods-backed gambling resort on Tuesday, crushing a casino proposal five years in development, and shrinking the field of applicants for the state’s most lucrative gambling license.

The casino plan proposed by Foxwoods and its partners, the last of 11 original Massachusetts casino or slot parlor applicants to reach the ballot box, joins a prominent list of pricey projects to die at the hands of the voters.

“There was always a lot of opposition,” acknowledged somber Foxwoods chief executive Scott Butera, after the votes were counted. “We tried to change people’s minds and educate people, but we weren’t able to do it. “It just wasn’t meant to be.”

The Bay State suburbs have proven to be the graveyard of casino dreams, and Milford voters followed suit, defeating the proposal 6,361 to 3,480 in a town-wide referendum. Turnout was 57 percent of 17,400 registered voters, according to the town clerk’s office.

Regional planners outline potential impact of Milford casino project

November 15, 2013 05:05 PM

The impacts on the entire region from the proposed Foxwoods casino in Milford are really no different than any other very large development that creates a lot of jobs and attracts a lot of patrons, according to Marc Draisen, executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.

Over the past several months, the council and the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission have been working with area towns to identify the likely impact of the proposed $1 billion casino off Interstate 495 and Route 16 on issues such as traffic, public safety, and water.

And while there would be some significant positive impacts, including jobs and economic benefits, if the complex proposed for Milford wins a state gaming license, the planners primarily focused on identifying and commenting on the negatives, Draisen said.

A 183-page draft report paid for with a grant from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission suggests ways to minimize or mitigate those negatives on a number of nearby towns, including Ashland, Bellingham, Franklin, Holliston, Hopkinton, Medway, Millis and Upton.

The draft report does not take a position on whether a casino would benefit the region, or how it would change the region’s character.

“We try to stick to the numbers,” Draisen said. “Every large-scale development changes the community it’s located in and those communities surrounding it; this is no different.”

Draisen said his agency’s charge was to focus on the communities around Milford to identify potential impacts that may need to be mitigated, so that they could be covered by the formal “surrounding community’’ agreements required by the state’s new gaming law.

But first, Milford voters will have two chances to decide whether there may even be a need for those negotiations.

A special election Tuesday will serve as a binding referendum on the Foxwoods proposal; a majority vote against the community hosting the casino would end the developer’s bid.

If Milford’s voters approve the project, the plan can move forward. Special Town Meeting is slated to convene next month to decide on a request to rezone the casino site, which requires a two-thirds majority.

The draft report by the regional agencies is being reviewed by local officials, and a final version is expected to be completed early next month.

Traffic has been a major concern for Milford and surrounding communities since the casino proposal first surfaced, and the regional planners also have questions about Foxwoods’ proposed mitigation plans.

The plans call for extra lanes, known as connector/distributor roads, to be built in each direction along Interstate 495 between the Routes 109 and 85 exits, and a connector that would provide access to the 187-acre site and Route 16.

“We think that will go a long way toward alleviating traffic along that stretch,” Draisen said.

But, he said, the draft report raises concern about backups north of the new lanes at I-495 and the Mass. Pike.

In addition, Draisen said, there wasn’t enough consideration given to casino employees who are more likely to use local roads when driving to and from work.

The draft report agrees with Foxwoods’ assumption that residents of neighborhoods along East Main Street (Route 16) in Milford, between I-495 and the Holliston town line, will see the most traffic impact from the casino, but it also identifies other potential problem areas.

The report cites routes 109 and 85, which was identified as likely having more traffic than Foxwoods’ predicts; the intersection of Route 16 and Route 126 (Summer Street); the intersection of Route 16 and Highland Street; Route 16 at South Street and Courtland Street, an intersection that currently has no traffic signals; as well as 11 intersections in Holliston, Medway and Millis.

Crime also is considered by the regional planners.

“It is hard to predict, but there will be an increase in call volume to the police and fire departments, and towns have to be prepared,” Draisen said.

The draft report suggests additional information is needed to determine whether things like additional holding cells, training for responding to emergencies in high-rise buildings, and long-term crime investigators would be needed in surrounding towns, and whether existing mutual aid agreements with Milford need to be restructured.

Drunken-driving arrests and “a variety of other motor vehicle related issues, including speeding, stop sign violations, accidents, and mechanical breakdowns,” will also go up in surrounding communities, according to the draft report.

Water concerns are also addressed.

“There are questions about peak days, and the effect on other future developments,” Draisen said.

The draft report raises questions about Foxwoods’ plans to provide adequate water capacity in the future, and concerns raised by Hopedale and Mendon, which rely on the Milford Water Co. for their supplies.

“Those questions have not adequately been answered yet, but presumably they will be,” Draisen said.

Foxwoods is competing for the lone casino license that will be issued in Greater Boston. A project proposed by Steve Wynn in Everett has been endorsed by the city’s voters. A Suffolk Downs proposal for a casino straddling the East Boston-Revere line is in jeopardy after East Boston voters rejected the plan. Suffolk Downs is attempting to put its complex entirely in Revere, where voters embraced its proposal.

Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at eishkanian@gmail.com.

Report raises questions on Foxwoods casino bid in Milford

November 13, 2013 12:54 PM

BOSTON (AP) — A background check by investigators for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission has raised questions about the ability of a group led by Connecticut casino operator Foxwoods to manage a proposed $1 billion resort casino in Milford.

The report, released by commission staff on Wednesday, urged the five-member panel to consider issues Foxwoods has had in finding additional financing, along with Foxwoods’ current debt and overall financial condition.

The commission is holding a two-day hearing before deciding whether the bidder, formally known as Crossroads Massachusetts, is suitable to submit a final application for the sole eastern Massachusetts resort casino license allowed under the state’s 2011 expanded gambling law.

The report said commissioners should question the ‘‘business ability of the applicant to run a successful gaming operation in Massachusetts given its difficulty in finding an additional equity interest and the current debt load and declining revenues of their proposed operator.’’

Karen Wells, director of the gambling agency’s investigations and enforcement bureau, said at the outset of the hearing that she was unable to advise the commissioners as to whether the Foxwoods bid should be cleared to continue in the process. She said the ‘‘glaring issue’’ involved the failure of the group to secure a 55 percent equity ownership interest in the project.

‘‘The IEB is not in a position to make a recommendation about suitability because we don’t have a complete picture of what this applicant is going to look like,’’ Wells said.

Scott Butera, Foxwoods’ president and chief executive, told the commission that Foxwoods was in active negotiations with two entities that had made ‘‘very strong offers’’ to fill the gap in equity funding.

‘‘I am confident in short order we will have that done,’’ Butera said.

He did not identify the potential equity partners, citing confidentiality in the negotiations, but said one was a private equity firm with experience in the casino industry, and the other a publicly traded company that would provide funding for the real estate portion of the development.

Butera said Foxwoods successfully restructured its debt earlier this year and is now on sound financial footing.

Stephen Crosby, chairman of the commission, said the panel would make a written recommendation on suitability at some point after the hearing was concluded.

Foxwoods must also gain the approval of Milford residents in a referendum scheduled for Tuesday before it can file a formal application by the Dec. 31 deadline. The project would be built on an undeveloped site near Interstate 495.

Las Vegas casino operator Steve Wynn, who has proposed a $1.2 billion resort casino along the Mystic River in Everett, is also pursuing the eastern Massachusetts license.

Another potential bidder for the license, Suffolk Downs, suffered a major blow last week when East Boston voters rejected the project in a referendum. The thoroughbred race track has since opened discussions with officials in Revere — where residents voted to back the proposed casino — about the possibility of moving the entire project into that city.

Regional and vocational technical schools would get more money under bill

October 24, 2013 04:39 PM

Regional and vocational technical high schools would be eligible for additional state funding for capital projects, under legislation filed by Sen. Kenneth Donnelly, an Arlington Democrat.

Advocates for the bill (S 228) told lawmakers on the Joint Committee on Education Thursday that regional and vocational technical high schools desperately need the state’s help to fund renovation and improvement projects because it is nearly impossible to get several different towns all to agree to take on the debt.

James Laverty, superintendent at Franklin County Technical School, said his school has done as many renovations as they can over the years without asking the towns for money.

“We will have to go to 19 towns at town meeting with our hat in our hands,” he said.

The odds are stacked against them to get all the towns to approve a large renovation project, Laverty said.

The town of Heath, in Franklin County, has only two students who attend the school out of 500 students. If 70 people in Heath show up at town meeting, and 36 vote no, “the whole project is dead in the water,” Laverty said.

Under the legislation, regional and vocational technical high schools would be eligible for additional reimbursement, which is calculated by the Massachusetts School Building Authority based on a four-part formula. A school district can receive up to 80 percent of the cost of a capital improvement project, and must pay for any remaining share of the cost.

The formula awards percentage points of reimbursement in three mandatory income-based metrics. Regional school districts often have unequal shares for each city or town when improvement costs are allocated, according to Donnelly’s office. The legislation would increase the percentage points awarded in the grant process for regional schools by 10 points, and vocational schools would receive 20 additional points. The goal is lower the costs for cities and towns, according to Donnelly’s office.

If the Legislature offers a “little more” and regional school capital projects can get closer to 80 percent reimbursement from the MSBA, “it would make it a little easier,” Laverty said.

Alice DeLuca, the Stow representative to the Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical High School in Lexington, said vocational and technical high school students are at a disadvantage compared to their counterparts at traditional high schools because their schools cannot renovate and bring in the latest technologies.

State lawmakers need to back up with money the support they voice for vocational and technical schools, she said.

“These schools provide the middle skills that everybody says they want,” DeLuca said.

“The kids who go to vocational schools do not have a nice, new renovated building and they are never going to unless something is done,” she added.

Survey seeks opinions on Norfolk County judges

October 21, 2013 10:00 AM

DEDHAM, Mass. (AP) — The state’s highest court is sending questionnaires to attorneys and court employees in Norfolk County, seeking input on 35 judges as part of an ongoing program to evaluate judicial performance.

The Supreme Judicial Court’s survey covers several categories including a judge’s knowledge of the law, fairness and impartiality, temperament on the bench and treatment of litigants, witnesses, jurors and attorneys.

Lawyers who have appeared in court in the county over the last two years will receive questionnaires.

All questionnaires are confidential and do not ask for the names of the respondents. The resulting reports also will be confidential and are given only to the judge being evaluated and to the chief justices of their courts.

Questionnaires will be accepted by the SJC through mid-December.

Fun ways to celebrate Halloween west of Boston

October 20, 2013 12:27 PM

On the one hand, there is the kitschy Halloween beloved by small children, with silly or clever costumes, jack-o’-lanterns, and mountains of candy. On the other hand, there is the haunted-house fun of a good scare — be it from a gory costume or a spooky noise.

While traditional house-to-house trick-or-treating may still be the best way to spend Halloween itself, there are also any number of ways to explore the other dimensions of the holiday -- whether your preference leans more toward a walk through a graveyard or a craft activity.

Here some of the many ways to celebrate Halloween in communities west of Boston this year.

-- Halloween Walk and Tour of the Old Burying Ground in Lexington takes place Saturday (Oct 26) at 6:30 p.m. and leaves from the Depot Building, 13 Depot Square. Admission is $10 for adults and $6 for children, with discounts for Lexington Historical Society members. For reservations, more information, call 781-862-1703 or go to www.lexingtonhistory.org.

-- Frightful Friday at Gore Place, 52 Gore St., Waltham, in its final installment this week, has tours starting at 7 and 8:30 p.m. Admission is $15 adults, $10 for ages 5 through 12 and Gore Place members. Capacity is limited. For tickets, call 781-894-2798 or visit www.goreplace.org.

-- Murder at the Masquerade takes place at Merchants Row in the Colonial Inn, 48 Monument Square, Concord, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m., with doors opening at 6:15. The ticket price, which includes a gourmet three-course dinner, is $69. For reservations, e-mail kkunce@concordscolonialinn.com or call 978-371-2908, ext 544.

-- Spookapella, a concert by North Shore Acapella and guests, takes place Saturday Oct 26 cq/ts at the Center for Arts, 14 Summer St., Natick. The show begins at 8 p.m.; tickets are $22, or $20 for TCAN members. For tickets or information, call 508-647-0097 or go to www.natickarts.org.

-- Halloween Open House at Dana Hall School of Music, 103 Grove St. in Wellesley, is next Sunday, (October 27)2-4 p.m. Admission is free, but reservations are encouraged; call 781-237-6542 or e-mail music@danahall.org.

-- Pumpkin Patch, a seasonal party held annually by the Sudbury Valley Trustees at Wolbach Farm on Wolbach Road in Sudbury, is scheduled for Saturday(Oct 26). Admission is free for SVT members; $2 per person for nonmembers, with a family maximum of $10. For more details, call 978-443-5588 or go online to www.svtweb.org.

-- Decorate a Bag at Artbeat, 212A Mass Ave. in Arlington, Saturday (Oct 26)from noon to 7 p.m., and next Sunday (Oct 27) from noon to 5 p.m. Admission and supplies are free. For more information, call 781-646-2200 or go to www.artbeatonline.com.

-- Halloween Family Day at the Spellman Museum of Stamps and Postal History, on the Regis College campus at 235 Wellesley St. in Weston, takes place Saturday (Oct 26)from noon to 4 p.m. For more information, call 781-768-8367 or go to www.spellman.org.

-- Welcome to Our [Halloween] Home at the Orchard House, 399 Lexington Road, Concord, offers a special after-hours tour Saturday scheduled for Saturday(Oct 26)from 4:45 to 5:45 p.m. Admission $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and college students, $8 for ages 6-17, and $4 for ages 2-6. A family rate for two adults and up to four youths for this event will be offered at $30. Space is limited; reservations can be made by calling 978-369-4118, ext. 106; for more information, go to www.louisamayalcott.org.

-- Tales of the Night at Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary, 208 South Great Road in Lincoln, takes place Thursday and Friday (Oct 24 and 25)from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tickets may be purchased in advance for $11 before Wednesday, Oct. 23, or after that for $13. Call 781-259-2218 or go to www.massaudubon.org/drumlin.

Penn National deemed suitable by state to pursue Plainville slots parlor proposal

October 3, 2013 04:23 PM

From the In the Cards Blog:

The hastily arranged corporate alliance between the Plainridge Racecourse and Penn National Gaming Inc. today cleared a key regulatory hurdle when the Massachusetts Gaming Commission concluded that Penn National is suitable to operate a slots parlor in the state.

The unanimous “positive” suitability determination was issued by the five-member commission this morning.

“The Applicant has met the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that it meets the standards for suitability,’’ the commission concluded in its seven-page written ruling.

The commission decision clears the way for Penn National and Plainridge – and its host community, Plainville – to compete for the sole slots parlor license to be issued in Massachusetts.

Also in the running is a development plan at Raynham Park, the simulcast betting facility and former dog track in Raynham, and a gambling, dining, and entertainment hall proposed by Cordish Cos. for Leominster.

Plainridge and Raynham Park have won the backing of their host communities, and Leominster voters backed the Cordish plan Sept. 23.

Plainridge and Penn National both appeared to have lost the race for the slots parlor in unrelated events this August.

First, the commission ruled that Plainridge owners were not suitable largely because former track president Gary Piontkowski had taken more than $1 million from the struggling track’s money room over several years. And then, Tewksbury residents voted against a Penn National slots parlor plan in their town.

But Penn National and Plainridge owners quickly reached an agreement under which Penn National will buy the track if it wins the slot license, a change in ownership approved by a majority of Plainville residents and the gaming commission.

Today’s ruling by the commission keeps the resurrected hopes of Plainridge and Penn National alive into the next round of competition.

The commission hopes to award the slot license by the end of the year. It will be the first license issued under the 2011 Massachusetts casino law, which authorized three resort casinos, no more than one in each of three regions of the state, and one slot parlor, which can be built in any region.

The slot parlor is limited to 1,250 machines and will have no live table games. It will pay 49 percent of its gambling revenue in state taxes, and requires a minimum investment of $125 million.

Sen. Richard Ross gains another committee seat

October 2, 2013 06:03 PM

The workloads of the three remaining Republican state senators have grown since former Minority Leader Richard Tisei gave up his seat in 2010 to run for lieutenant governor and former Sen. Michael Knapik resigned this summer to take a job at Westfield State University.

Senate Minority Whip Richard Ross, who has no junior members to whip and already serves on 13 committees, this week picked up a new job, ranking member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Knapik used to hold that post, which placed him on budget bill conference committees and conferences with the House on other key bills.

A Wrentham funeral home owner, Ross already sits on 13 legislative committees.

In the 40-seat Senate, Republicans face logistical difficulties tending to their assignments. Hedlund, the assistant minority leader, sits on 12 committees and Tarr serves on 11.

By contrast, House Minority Leader Brad Jones, one of 29 Republican members of the House, does not serve on any committees. The Senate’s GOP ranks were five-strong back in 2010 when Scott Brown briefly served before giving up his seat to join the U.S. Senate, opening the path for Ross to fill his seat.

Here is a description of Ross's district:

Norfolk, Bristol and Middlesex -- Consisting of the towns of Franklin, precincts 1 to 4, inclusive, and precinct 7, Millis, Needham, precincts A to C, inclusive, I and J, Norfolk, Plainville, Wellesley, precincts B, F, and G and Wrentham, in the county of Norfolk; the city of Attleboro, ward 1, ward 2 and ward 3, precinct A, and the town of North Attleborough in the county of Bristol; and the towns of Natick, precincts 6, 7, 9 and 10, Sherborn and Wayland in the county of Middlesex.


– M. Murphy/SHNS

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