I commend the Globe for sounding the alarm about the staggering cost of expanding South Station and the need to consider alternatives, including the North-South Rail Link (“An expanded South Station is possible — without help from the Post Office”). Unfortunately, the most important benefits of linking our downtown stations went unmentioned.
Yes, a rail link would resolve capacity constraints at South Station, and far into the future. It would do the same for North Station, which is also nearing capacity, and would drastically reduce layover requirements, unlocking valuable land at Fort Point Channel, Widett Circle, Beacon Yards, and North Station for more productive uses.
But most important, it would transform our hodgepodge of 19th-century rail systems into a fully integrated regional rail network, linked more effectively to our rapid transit systems, improving both efficiency and service, and fostering sustainable growth far beyond Boston and Cambridge.
While we have dithered, other cities have not. Zurich, hardly an inexpensive place to build, recently completed a two-track rail link below its downtown for roughly the cost of our proposed terminal expansions, turning acres of rail yards into a vibrant new urban district, with minimal surface disruption. Stockholm and London are building similar downtown rail links. We can too, and well before 2030.
The writer is an architect, and was a member of the North-South Rail Link Citizens Advisory Committee from 1994 to 2002.