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MBTA Control Board Approves Project to Upgrade North Station Signal System

Posted on May 21, 2019

Commuter Rail at North Station platform

Project will improve Commuter Rail reliability and safety with modern, resilient design


The MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board voted to award a $26.5 million contract to Fischbach and Moore Electric to rebuild the signal system that controls the movement of Commuter Rail and Amtrak trains in and out of North Station with a state-of-the-art system that will improve efficiency and safety.

The signal project, which has been designed to locate critical system equipment above the 500-year flood plain, is part of a larger effort to enhance train capacity at North Station.  

"Upgrading the signal system at North Station will result in a significant improvement in service for all of our north side Commuter Rail customers," said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. "As we continue to rebuild our core system infrastructure, we’re improving service while also accounting for potential changes in climate."

The existing antiquated signaling equipment that controls all tracks in and around North Station will be replaced with microprocessor technology contained within 9 new signal houses. The project will also result in the installation of 2 new crossovers to allow for more train routing options. In addition to increasing train reliability, the new system will provide the flexibility required to adjust to future operational needs at North Station.

Aerial map showing zones along the track leading into North Station. Counts of signal instrument houses (SIHs) are outlined per zone. Zone FX has 4 SIHs. Zones 3A, 4, 3, 2, and 1 all have 1 SIGH each.

Although the project limits span approximately 1 linear mile, this area consists of a complex network of tracks and switches that serves to connect the station tracks at North Station, 5 major Commuter Rail lines, and Boston Engine Terminal, the area’s principal maintenance and train storage facility.

Separately, the MBTA has also initiated a project to replace the drawbridge that carries the Commuter Rail across the Charles River. Combined with the signals upgrade, both projects will allow for the use of all 12 station tracks at North Station.

Because of the project’s complexities, initial work will be focused on long-lead items such as the procurement and fabrication of the signal instrumentation houses and its components. Field work is expected to get underway next spring. Overall, the project is expected to take three and a half years to complete.

Learn more about North Station Terminal Area Signal System Improvements

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