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CSX finalizes agreement to expand rail service west, south of Boston

Posted by Your Town  September 23, 2009 04:49 PM

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Massachusetts reached a final agreement on a $100 million deal with railroad giant CSX that is expected to improve service between Worcester and Boston and lay the groundwork for a long-planned line to Fall River and New Bedford, Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray announced today.

The initial deal, to buy railroad tracks and a rail yard from CSX, had first been announced last year. But the sides acknowledged at the time that they had yet to work out a major sticking point -- establishing who had to pay in the event of a lawsuit involving a train crash or fatality on the tracks between Framingham and Worcester.

With a compromise reached, the state plans to take over those tracks sometime in 2011, giving the MBTA the ability to run more trains between the state's two largest cities, said Murray, who has championed the issue since he was mayor of Worcester. It also allows the T to maintain and dispatch the tracks, in hopes of improving service on one of the T's most popular but least reliable lines. A CSX spokesman, Bob Sullivan, would not confirm the 2011 turnover date but said the company would like to complete it as soon as possible.

The deal also gives the T control of the right-of-way needed to build the New Bedford-Fall River line and several properties around Boston that could improve service in and out of South Station.

“It's an enormous opening of opportunity,” said Senator John Kerry, who helped in negotiations.

But it is not without some risk.

The liability question was significant because CSX will continue to run freight trains along the track -- even after the state takes ownership -- and the company had been demanding complete immunity from lawsuits, even if its engineers were responsible for crashes. CSX has had that immunity in Massachusetts since a 1994 agreement was signed to let the T use the tracks, but Murray has insisted the protection put taxpayers at too much risk of paying millions of dollars on behalf of a private company.

Under the compromise announced today, CSX will pay the MBTA $500,000 a year toward the cost of its overall legal insurance and it agrees to pay the T's $7.5 million deductible if its employees are found "clearly at fault because of willful misconduct." State law caps train crash-related lawsuit payments against the T at $75 million.

Private civil lawyers say taxpayers could still end up paying for CSX negligence that does not meet the higher legal standard of "willful misconduct."

“Undeniably, it's exposing the MBTA, and therefore the Commonwealth, to more liability,” said Jeffrey Catalano, secretary of the Massachusetts Bar Association, who is suing CSX and the MBTA over a 2005 death on another part of the tracks. “It's challenging to establish willful misconduct.”

Murray acknowledged the agreement falls short of complete protection, but said it was a substantial improvement over the old deal giving CSX complete immunity.

“This is we think a reasonable compromise on both sides,” he said.

CSX has been involved in similar negotiations in other states and has consistently fought off attempts to accept liability, telling the Globe last March that the issue was "nonnegotiable." Sullivan said that the new agreement is “a mutually acceptable solution and we think it allows the Commonwealth to advance its vision."

See previous coverage here.

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9 comments so far...
  1. Great another chance for all the corrupt politicians and contractors to do shoddy work and rob us of our tax dollars!

    Posted by maddawg2020 September 23, 09 05:26 PM
  1. Nice idea, Mr. Lt.Gov. And plans for a T extension to TF Green in Providence? Worcester has a nice airport, which I have enjoyed using, but needs a few more carriers for a traveler to choose. It seems that everywhere I go, ads for Logan, Manchester, and TF Green are in my face. How about spending some time, energy, and funding for promoting the Worcester Airport. Maybe a commuter rail or monorail to the airport from a downtown location? Would an expressway be asking too much? I get the impression that Massport is thinking that overcrowding at Logan is a good thing.

    Posted by Flyer September 23, 09 07:25 PM
  1. How is it that a corporation can dictate terms of an agreement with the government? Complete immunity from liability? Non-negotiable? Sounds like the good old days of robber barrons and monopolies. Anti-trust regulations could use a good dusting off I think!

    Posted by JoeMamma September 23, 09 07:47 PM
  1. Squandering yet more on New Bedford and Fall River are we? Most of the degenerates living in those communities couldn't find Boston on a map let alone have any legitimate reason for being here.

    Posted by Peter Sperling September 23, 09 07:48 PM
  1. ah, finally...let's just hope that this dosent turn into another grossly-overbudget project like the Alewife ext. (it likely will, as with any large T project of the last 25 years), but at least it will finally get done! :)

    Posted by A. Dullia September 23, 09 07:55 PM
  1. On a cost-per-rider basis, the FR/NB line is going to be a total waste. Would love to see this money funnelled to maintenance or common-sense expansions such as the Somerville green line extension, Fairmount rapid transit conversion or blue line to Lynn.

    Posted by YuppieScum September 23, 09 09:07 PM
  1. how about the MBTA stop spending big money on projects and actually spend money on repairing tracks. For instance the old colony middleboro line is falling apart and i believe the kingston line is to.

    Posted by John Nelson September 23, 09 09:42 PM
  1. So, why didn't imminent domain apply here? If a state can seize private property for a commercial development and claim it's for the greater good, why can't it be seized for a much needed addition to the public transit system?

    Posted by Brendan September 23, 09 11:01 PM
  1. How about more money for bike paths through and around Boston so we
    can avoid the T. Oh yeah, I forgot, why spend money effectively when you
    can keep people obligated to use the T with no viable alternatives.

    Posted by Jenn September 23, 09 11:50 PM