Trains to make comeback — of sorts — next Monday | News
You’ve heard of “Return of the Jedi,” but for riders who’ve been catching shuttle buses to get to and from the Gloucester and Rockport stations for the past two years, May marks the return of the trains.
For the first time in two years, MBTA Commuter Rail trains are scheduled to start rumbling across the Gloucester Drawbridge over the Annisquam River, only this time they will do so on the new $100 million span. Supply chain delays and construction complexities meant service was not restored as planned in September 2021, according to the T’s project website (https://www.mbta.com/projects/gloucester-drawbridge-replacement).
The MBTA has announced that single-track service over the new drawbridge will resume May 23. But test trains will make an appearance starting as early as the second week of May.
“In anticipation of the resumption of service,” the MBTA said in a statement, “test trains will run over the drawbridge and abutting stations as early as Monday, May 9. (Check out https://www.mbta.com/schedules/CR-Newburyport/alerts for the most up-to-date information on service changes.)
“Test trains will operate daily on most days from May 9 to May 23,” said Lisa Battiston, the MBTA’s deputy press secretary in a recent email. “The purpose of the early train traffic is to remove rust from the rail heads so we can bring all of the requisite signal and grade crossing testing up to date (tests expired while the track was shut down). Cleaning the rail head allows the signal circuits to operate properly.”
According to a service change alert, buses will replace all Rockport Line service from May 9 to May 22.
Shuttle buses have been serving the Gloucester and Rockport stations, the last on the line, since the T suspended service over the bridge in April 2020 “due to unforeseen site conditions.”
Work has been ongoing to replace the drawbridge that carries the Rockport Line over the Annisquam. The former bridge “was built in 1911, reconstructed in 1932 and updated in 1984,” according to the project’s website.
One of the latest major milestones came on March 22 and 23 when the bascule span was installed on the northern side of the drawbridge, according to the project’s website. The span had been shipped to the construction site and assembled there before it was moved into its pier, first using self-propelled modular transporters and then a large gantry crane.
The T said in a press release the extended line closure allowed it to catch up on some much needed track and other work.
“Significant progress was made during this extended closure, allowing the MBTA to accelerate multiple projects that would have required service interruptions at a later date,” the statement said. “The MBTA appreciates its customers’ patience and understanding as workers complete critical upgrades to infrastructure and improve safety and reliability for decades to come.”
Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-675-2714, or firstname.lastname@example.org.