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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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Natick family gets Jewish charity's 5 millionth book

February 3, 2014 11:12 AM
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Photo provided by PJ Library
PJ Library founder Harold Grinspoon (left) with Jake Kotin, 4, of Natick (center) and PJ Library director Marcie Greenfield Simons (right) after they arrived to celebrate the 5 millionth book delivery.

PJ Library, a Jewish family engagement program that distributes free books and music to Jewish children around the world, including more than 3,300 children throughout Greater Boston each month, delivered its five millionth book last week. It went to the Kotin family of Natick on Jan. 30.

The program works to strengthen Jewish families and communities by giving families Jewish books and music for bedtime bonding.

As part of the celebration, PJ Library founder Harold Grinspoon and library director Marcie Greenfield Simons read "The Mystery Bear: A Purim Story," to Jake, 4, son of Mike and Erica Kotin.

“The idea behind PJ Library is to bring children and their parents together to share a great story that leads to conversation about Jewish values and culture," said Grinspoon. "We are aiming to keep the Jewish heritage alive and strong for the next generation and generations to come.”

PJ Library offers more than 100 engagement programs every year throughout the area for families to come together in their local community. It has worked with more than 9,000 Boston-area families since 2007.

“It is thrilling to be delivering the five millionth PJ Library book in Natick, part of the Greater Boston community,” said Greenfield Simons. “The JCC of Greater Boston was one of the very first communities to bring PJ Library to their local families—and the impact it’s had on the families and the community has been spectacular. We are so pleased to honor them on this milestone occasion.”

PJ Library in the Boston area is sponsored by the JCC of Greater Boston, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, local donors and the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. For more information on the program, visit www.pjlibrary.org.

Maggie Quick can be reached at margaret.quick@globe.com.

Natick Army Labs test jacket technology for U.S. Olympic snowboarders

January 30, 2014 12:43 PM

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Handout, U.S. Army/Natick Soldier Systems Center

The U.S. Olympic Snowboard team in their new Burton jackets. The technology for the jackets, which will be worn in Sochi, was tested at the Natick Army Labs.

The Sochi Winter Olympics just got a bit more local.

The Burton jackets that the U.S. Snowboard team will don for their Olympic runs were tested at the U.S. Army's Natick Soldier Systems Center, also known as the Natick Army Labs.

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Handout/Natick Soldier Systems Center
Dr. Phil Gibson, a physical scientist at the Natick Army Labs, tested various swatches for Burton last year that helped the Vermont-based company develop their DRYRIDE Vaporshell laminate. The snowboarding and apparel company sponsor this year's US Olympic snowboarding team and provides them with the jackets, which were technologically designed specifically with Sochi in mind.

"Sochi is actually a pretty warm area, so we had a great waterproof exterior, but we also wanted the coats to be breathable," said Colin Alger, category manager for technical outerwear at Burton. "This is a technology where they can layer if they need to."

The Army base specializes in researching and developing products for soldiers, including fire-resistant uniforms, tasteful yet compact meals on the go, and solar-powered tents. Researchers at the base have helped create popular products like bulletproof vests, GPS systems, and Tang.

A base spokesman said the facility's renowned scientists often team up with private companies for research and development, which allows the Army to keep an eye on evolving technologies they may not otherwise have encountered.

"It's a win-win situation," said Bob Reinert, a spokesman for the base. "This way the Natick researchers are able to stay state-of-the-art with what's going on in the commercial world, and then the companies generally pay for the testing on the other side of things. It benefits both sides."

Alger said Burton wanted to work with Gibson because he is known for conducting a specific experiment that tests humidity levels on both sides of a fabric -- which was key to the snow sports company for testing fluctuating humidity on both the inside and outside of their jackets, Alger said.

"They were the credible source to give us a stamp of approval, to legitimize our technology against other public companies," Alger said. "We're really happy with the results, which said we’re right up there if not better."

Alger said the new jackets help keep the rider warm and dry -- not just from outside snow, but also from their own sweat, which he said is a breakthrough technology.

"Our new technology is unlike others, when you feel yourself sweating and that's when the jacket starts to perform," he said. "But with our technology, you don’t get damp and cold inside your jacket, you stay dry and comfortable the whole time. That’s what we were going for and that’s what we were able to achieve by testing with the Natick center."

The new technology will be made available to the mass market for the company's 2015 line, which debuts in fall 2014.

The Olympic snowboarding events start Feb. 6 with slopestyle qualifications. There are 10 snowboarding events in the Olympic Games.

For more, visit the official Olympic snowboarding website.

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U.S. Army photo/David Kamm

Dr. Phil Gibson demonstrates the humidity test he used on the Burton jackets, which will be worn by the U.S. Olympic Snowboard team.

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Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

Natick library to host panel of women authors

January 8, 2014 01:53 PM

The Morse Institute Library is hosting an author panel Jan. 12 that will discuss everything from enchanted worlds to living without makeup.

Deborah Doucette, author of Bad Girls; Dina Keratsis, author of Cake: A Fairy Tale; and Phoebe Baker Hyde, author of The Beauty Experiment, will lead the discussion that starts at 2:30 p.m. in the Lebowitz Meeting Hall of the library.

The free event will be followed by a book signing and copies of the books will be available to purchase. Refreshments will be served. The library is located at 14 East Central St., Natick.

Maggie Quick can be reached at margaret.quick@globe.com.

Lisa Marie Presley to perform in Natick this Friday

January 6, 2014 03:30 PM

Lisa Marie Presley will soon be in the building.

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Lisa Marie Presley
The only daughter of Elvis Presley will kick off her 2014 tour with a performance in Natick this Friday.

The show, which is for ages 21 and up, will take place at The VERVE at Crowne Plaza, located at 1360 Worcester St. in Natick.

Tickets for Presley's performance are still available and cost $20 in advance, $25 at the door, or $150 for a VIP package that includes a meet-and-greet with the daughter of "the King."

Presley will also appear in New York City on Saturday for a performance at the City Winery. She is also scheduled to perform in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Canada this year.

For more information on the Natick show, visit the venue's website. For more on Presley, visit her official website.

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Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

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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Watch: Wellesley firefighters rescue dog trapped in ice

December 24, 2013 12:31 PM

Wellesley firefighters had a rough time rescuing a dog that fell through the ice into a bone-chilling Charles River Sunday, authorities said.

For their efforts, the Wellesley Fire Department will be given an award by PETA, the animal rights organization.

Firefighters had to fight through patches of ice near the border of Dover and Wellesley to rescue a golden retriever named Crosby, said Wellesley Fire Captain Jim Dennehy. The dog fell through a thin patch of ice during an afternoon walk, he said.

Rescuers donned ice suits and swam through the freezing waters to get close enough to Crosby, who was then grabbed by the collar, Dennehy said. A team on the shore then threw a rope to rescuers and pulled the humans and canine to safety, he said.

“The dog wanted to get out of the water pretty bad,” he said. “It was cold, so the dog was shivering pretty good.”

Dennehy said it was a good thing rescuers arrived when they did.

“There was a current, so the dog would have tired out after a certain amount of time,” he said.

Once ashore, firefighters wrapped Crosby in a blanket and warmed the dog in the back of a police cruiser before returning her to her owner, Dennehy said.

For saving Crosby’s life, the department will receive PETA's Compassionate Fire Department Award, according to the organization.

"The compassion and heroism shown by the Wellesley Fire Department is an inspiration," said PETA executive vice president Tracy Reiman in a statement. "Wellesley is very fortunate to have first responders who are ready to protect and serve both residents and their beloved animal companions."

The fire department will receive a framed certificate, a letter of appreciation, and a box of vegan chocolates from PETA.

PETA reminds all dog guardians to always keep their animals on a comfortable and secure harness when taking them for walks.

For more coverage of Wellesley, go to boston.com/wellesley.

Foundation for MetroWest awards $228k in grants to various communities

December 16, 2013 02:03 PM

Representatives from the Foundation for MetroWest announced last week that the foundation has awarded $228,000 in grants to organizations in various communities west of Boston.

The announcement was part of an event held last week at The Center for the Arts in Natick.

The 2013 distributions were focused on three key service areas: arts and culture, environment, and family support. This year's grant recipients will use the money to fund a variety of programs along the lines of these themes, including support for families at-risk of becoming homeless; workforce training and job placement programs; improving access to the arts for underserved populations; the removal of invasive species from local watersheds; and resources to the elderly and victims of domestic abuse.

“During this time of unprecedented financial need, Foundation for MetroWest is proud to support organizations throughout the region,” said Judith Salerno, the foundation's executive director. “By distributing these much needed funds, we are doing our part to ensure that the MetroWest region remains vital and strong.”

A complete list of grant recipients in each category is as follows:

Family Support

  • Advocates, Inc., Framingham
  • Bethany Hill School, FraminghamCOMPASS for Kids, Lexington
  • Cooperative Elder Services, Inc. Lexington
  • Employment Options, Inc., Marlborough
  • Framingham Adult ESL, Natick
  • Household Goods Recycling of Massachusetts, Acton
  • Jewish Family and Children’s Service, Waltham
  • Jewish Family Service of MetroWest, Framingham
  • LVM Literacy Unlimited, Framingham
  • MetroWest Legal Services, Inc., Framingham
  • MetroWest Mediation Services, Framingham
  • Minuteman Senior Services, Bedford
  • Natick Service Council, Inc., Natick
  • New Hope, Inc., Attleboro
  • Newton Community Service Center, West Newton
  • REACH Beyond Domestic Violence, Waltham
  • SMOC - Voices Against Violence, Framingham
  • Waltham Partnership for Youth, Waltham
  • WATCH, Inc., Waltham


Arts and Culture

  • Assabet Valley Mastersingers, Inc., Northborough
  • The Center for the Arts in Natick (TCAN), Natick
  • Danforth Art, Museum\School, Framingham
  • Framingham History Center, Framingham
  • Gore Place, Waltham
  • Medway Friends of Elders, Medway
  • Music Access Group, Dedham
  • New Repertory Theatre, Watertown
  • North Hill, Needham
  • Plugged In, Needham


Environment

  • Charles River Watershed Association, Weston
  • Lake Cochituate Watershed Council, Inc., Natick
  • Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions, Belmont
  • Massachusetts Audubon Society, Lincoln
  • OARS, Concord
  • Waltham Land Trust, Waltham

The foundation has distributed over $8 million in grants to the local community since its inception in 1995.

For more information, visit the foundation's official website.

A look at Brazilian immigration in Framingham and beyond

December 16, 2013 08:45 AM

THE GREEN and yellow Brazilian flag adorns many downtown shops in Framingham, reflecting the pride of the town’s dominant immigrant group. But as much as the waves of Brazilian immigrants have transformed Framingham over the past 30 years, the town has been a melting pot for generations — only slightly more than half of its immigrants are from Brazil. One in four Framinghamites is foreign born.

All the same, immigration continues to cause political friction even in a town seemingly accustomed to newcomers of all nationalities. For here a microcosm of the national immigration debate played out very intensely on the local level: Town Meeting members faced a vote to require the town-funded English as a Second Language program to check the immigration status of its students to qualify for two classes funded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Globe subscribers can read the entire column here.

MetroWest Regional Transit Authority hosting hot chocolate bar event Friday in Framingham

December 9, 2013 04:22 PM

The MetroWest Regional Transit Authority will host a holiday-themed customer appreciation event this Friday complete with a hot chocolate bar and a raffle, according to the transportation organization.

The event will be held at the organization's central headquarters at 37 Waverley St. in Framingham on Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m., and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. -- during the most popular commuting times, the organization said in a statement,

The hot chocolate bar will feature the popular winter-time drink and different mix-ins, as well as whipped cream and sprinkles. Cookies will be served alongside the hot chocolate.

The organization will also have a free raffle, with two pre-loaded Charlie Cards as the prize. Those entering the raffle do not have to be present if their name is picked as a winner, the organization said.

The authority provides fixed-route bus and paratransit service to 11 communities west of Boston. For more information, visit the MWRTA's official website.

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Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

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