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The Boston Globe

Metro

Commuter rail company plans two new facilities

In its bid to win a second term running the state’s commuter rail service, the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co. has promised to build a $65 million train maintenance facility on the south side of South Station, an endeavor the company says would allow for quicker, more efficient train repairs and serve as a job training center.

The facility would be at the site of a former Stop & Shop supply facility in Hyde Park. That proposal, plus a plan to move MBCR’s downtown headquarters to Roxbury, was included in documents submitted to the T as part of the bidding for the commuter rail contract. MBCR is competing against Keolis Commuter Services, which operates commuter rail service in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.

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The T, which has a policy to refrain from commenting on the commuter rail proposals, is expected to make a recommendation for the winning bidder in January to the board of directors of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

“If selected, MBCR will move forward with innovative infrastructure solutions, while ensuring that diversity and inclusion continue to be fostered on the commuter rail,” MBCR spokesman Scott Farmelant said in a statement when asked about the project outlined in the documents, which are not public, but were provided to the Globe.

When asked about elements of MBCR’s proposal, Keolis spokesman Alan Eisner said the transit company planned to adhere to the “cone of silence” called for in the T’s procurement guidelines, accusing MBCR of leaking the information to build momentum for its proposal and sway decisionmakers.

“This not only represents a blatant disregard for the procurement process, but is yet another attempt by the incumbent to unduly influence the outcome,” Eisner said. “Keolis will continue to honor the integrity of the procurement process by not disclosing any information contained in its proposal to any entity other than the MBTA.”

In the past, Keolis has provided only a few general hints of what the company’s proposal contains, including a planned partnership with local community colleges to provide first-in-the-nation, specialized degrees in transportation.

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“When the MBTA makes its final decision and releases the information to the public,” Eisner continued, “the merits of the Keolis proposal will become abundantly clear.”

MBCR’s planned facility would be located at 100 Meadow Road in Hyde Park, a 200,000-square-foot site adjacent to rail tracks.

The new maintenance facility would fill a vital role, as trains must currently be taken to a maintenance center in Somerville for inspections and significant repairs. adding time, fuel costs, and labor expenses to routine maintenance. A facility on the south side of the train system would allow staff to more quickly and efficiently make repairs on train lines that radiate south from Boston.

“This new maintenance facility will provide MBCR with the ability to effectively maintain all locomotives and coaches . . . a critical step toward achieving our goal of enhanced operation efficiency,” the document said.

The $65 million facility, which would be LEED-
certified and include a $3 million green power system, would train locomotive engineers, with two locomotive simulators.

“This new facility will become MBCR’s cornerstone of organization-wide training and workforce development,” the company’s proposal said.

MBCR, which is currently based at 89 South Street, close to South Station, would also move its offices to a location close to Roxbury Community College and Ruggles Station. Both construction projects would be in partnership with Richard Taylor, Massachusetts’ first black state transportation secretary and one of the partners of Tubman Transit, a real estate development company.

Taylor said that though officials have not pinned down an exact site, they would probably erect a building larger than their needs, serving as an anchor tenant and renting the remainder of the space.

It would be an attractive deal for Roxbury, which was recently passed over for a real estate deal by Partners HealthCare System.

Taylor said it would be a symbolic move to bring commuter rail facilities to historically underserved neighborhoods, but would also provide job opportunities and encourage further development in the Ruggles area.

“You think commuter rail, and you’re thinking that it’s just trains running up and down,” Taylor said. “But we have the potential to have two real estate opportunities that could be used to spread broad community equity.”

Darnell L. Williams, chief executive of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, said he has been in talks with MBCR on the project and thinks it would be a good idea, though the competing bidder has also expressed interest in helping the underserved community: Keolis, too, contacted him about working with the Urban League.

“This community is in dire, desperate need of meaningful jobs,” Williams said. MBCR’s two planned facilities, he said, could be “a very, very strong catalyst for employment.”

Martine Powers can be reached at martine.powers@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @martinepowers.

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