theBlueLine

theBlueLine

Images from around the Blue Line

The Blue Line is the shortest of all the rapid transit lines in Boston. It mainly serves the north shore and Logan Airport, however it does not go directly to Logan but there is a free shuttle in-between.

Revere BeachThe Blue Line was the first subway in the world to go under a major body of water, Boston Harbor. It goes from Bowdoin Square near Government Center to Wonderland dog track in Revere. It is fast and relatively clean (it has some of the newest stations and cars). The MBTA had been rebuilding the stations along the Blue Line to make them handicap accessible so the stations are nice and new. Also the platforms are being lengthened to allow for 6 car trains. This, however, will be the death for Bowdoin stop; There is a tight loop which will make it impossible to extend the platform. Bowdoin will be permanently closed when the upgrade is complete. The new terminus will be Government Center, just a few blocks away. Government Center is one of the busiest and most oddly designed stations in the system. Formerly Scollay Square, Government Center is a result of urban renal and 1960’s architecture. Plans have been in the works to replace the station with a much nicer and brighter one for about a decade but so far no work has begun. Unfortunately it probably won’t make the rest of Government Center much nicer.

Orient HeightsThe original Blue Line ran from Court St at Scollay Sq to Maverick Sq in East Boston and was used by trolleys (like the Green Line). The tunnel was soon extended to Bowdoin Sq where a portal was built to allow trolleys to continue to Harvard, though this service was stopped when the short line was upgraded to heavy rail in 1924. The portal remained open until the 1950s to allow cars to access the Elliot Shops in Harvard Sq. When the Blue Line shops at Orient Heights opened the portal was closed.

The second section of the Blue Line started out as a narrow gauge railroad from East Boston to Lynn, connecting to downtown Boston via a ferry. Narrow gauge means that the distance between the two steel tracts is narrower than standard track. This makes it cheaper as the right-of-ways don’t need to be as wide. The railroad, the Boston, Revere Beach, & Lynn, was built to serve the amusement parks on Revere Beach, as well as connect Lynn and Winthrop to Boston. The railroad folded in 1940 and the right-of-way was soon purchased by the MTA, the predecessor to the MBTA. The MTA extended the Blue Line from Maverick to Orient Heights and then on to Wonderland. The right-of-way existed to continue the line to Lynn but funding problems have sidelined the project to this day.

Northeast Extensions

Blue Line Northeast Routes
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Blue Line Northeast Routes

I am going to break up the possible extensions geographically, those that head northeast from Maverick, and those that head south and west from Government Center. There are 6 total proposals A few of these proposals are taken from BERt, MTA, or MBTA records and a few are of my own imagination.

1. Wonderland to Lynn

The first extension is the original legend. New York has the Second Ave. Subway, Boston has the Blue Line to Lynn. Proposed as far back as the 1940’s, the Blue Line would be extended from Wonderland to Lynn along a viaduct connecting to the Newburyport Branch Commuter Rail right-of-way. The line would continue into Lynn terminating at the large train station and parking garage in Lynn center. This extension is a high priority for the MBTA but it seems that every time funding appears it is siphoned off into other projects. The line was to be extended in the 1970s and 1980s but funding went instead to the Red Line and Orange Line extensions. Funding has appeared again but it looks like it will go towards the Green Line extension to West Medford and commuter rail expansion to New Bedford and Fall River.

2. Wonderland to Lynn via Point-of-Pines

The second proposal is the same as number 1 but differs as it is rerouted through the Point-of-Pines section of Revere. This is the original right-of-way of the Boston, Revere Beach, & Lynn railroad and would serve more people but it would also require taking of private property and the introduction of frequent trains through a residential area accustomed to peace and quiet.

3. Lynn to Salem

This would further extend the Blue Line to Salem via Swampscott. This route would parallel the Newburyport Branch Commuter Rail, terminating right before the train tunnel under downtown Salem. There would be new stations in Swampscott and South Salem to serve Salem State College. The line could be extended even further to Danvers via an old freight train line or to Beverly but this would require a new tunnel under downtown Salem and new bridges.

4. Government Center to Logan Airport Terminals

This would extend the Blue Line to the Logan Airport terminals. This is probably the best possible extension of the Blue Line in terms of ridership to distance. It would also connect Downtown to the airport which is only accessible via buses or cars. This should have been built at the same time as the Big Dig but service to the airport was instead routed through the Silver Line, which for some reason doesn’t connect to the Airport station on the Blue Line.

5. Government Center to Malden via Chelsea

This extension would connect Chelsea and Revere to downtown Boston. The line would just off the current Blue Line after Maverick Sq in East Boston and head to Chelsea in a tunnel under the Chelsea River. The line would then head north, connecting to Route 1. Here the median/middle two lanes would be converted to track for the Blue Line which would then head to Linden Sq where a large park-and-ride would be constructed to collect the car traffic that eliminating a lane of traffic on Route 1 would displace.

6. Government Center to Everett via Chelsea

The last extension would connect to Chelsea and Everett. After Airport Station on the Blue Line the line would travel over the Chelsea River using an abandoned rail right-of-way, connecting to Chelsea along the Newburyport Branch Railroad. Heading west the line would then turn north into central Everett. Most of the traffic from Everett reaches Boston via Sullivan Sq so this line would take pressure off Sullivan, both the T stop and Rutherford Ave.

South and West Extensions

Blue Line South and West Routes
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Blue Line South and West Routes

The second set of extensions are those that would extend from the other end of the Blue Line. Currently there is only one proposal, to extend the Blue Line from Government Center to Charles/MGH. This extension was part of the law suit against the state mitigating the Big Dig. Currently there is enough money to study the proposal but no firm funding to build it. The other extensions are variations of BERy or MTA proposals, and one is my original.

1. Government Center to Charles/MGH

This extension would connect Government Center with Charles/MGH. Bowdoin Station, the current terminal for the Blue Line, is going to be closed because of low ridership and the fact that it cannot be expanded to handle the 6 car trains. Bowdoin is also only a few blocks away from a new Government Center headhouse currently under construction. The Blue Line and the Red Line are currently the only two lines that do not intersect. This would connect these two lines as well as take pressure off the Green and Orange Lines between Park St, Downtown Crossing and Government Center, State St.

2. Government Center to Allston via Harvard

This would further extend the Blue Line under the Charles River into Cambridge. The purpose of this line is to take pressure off of the Red Line in central Cambridge. A new station would serve northern Kendall Sq as well as southern Lechmere (and the Cambridge Side Galleria Mall) as well as Inman Sq and southern Union Sq in Somerville. The line would connect to Harvard and then continue under the Charles River again into Allston, serving Harvard’s new campus as well as the college/residential area of Allston Center. This would allow transportation between Allston and Cambridge without having to construct a costly new Urban Ring transit line further away from the central city than planned.

3. Government Center to Riverside/Needham via Kenmore Sq

This extension would continue from Charles/MGH to Kenmore Sq under Embankment Road and Beacon St. From here the line would connect to the D branch of the Green Line to Riverside and possibly a new branch to Needham. This would take pressure off the central Green Line subway but it would cut off the Green Line from the Riverside Yards.

4. Government Center to Riverside/Needham via Huntington Ave

Extension 4 would extend from Government Center but head to Park St instead of Charles/MGH. From here the line would head to Stuart St and then connect with the Huntington Ave subway (E branch). The Huntington Ave subway would then be extended to Brookline Village and connect with the D branch to Riverside or Needham. This would be a better alternative to the previous extension as it would serve the commercial section of the Back Bay rather than the residential section. It would also utilize existing subway tunnels so it would be cheaper. This extension would get rid of the bottle neck in the central Green Line subway created by the Huntington Ave subway.

5. Government Center to Watertown/Waltham via Cambridgeport and Allston

The last extension would create a short spur off of the Huntington Ave subway at Brigham Circle that would dive under Mission Hill and into Jamaica Plain. This would try to serve what the current E line would stop serving if the Blue Line were to use the Huntington Ave subway. Only a few stations would be needed but the population might not justify the expense. The 39 bus took over for the E branch when it was truncated in the 1980s due to the extension of the Orange Line through the area.

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