Greenbush
  
This section was removed from my Hingham page after the train was restored.

July 15, 2003 - Romney: No money for Greenbush - Patriot Ledger 1
Feb. 14, 2003 - Cost derails Greenbush: Overruns prompt six-month delay - Patriot Ledger 1
May 9, 2000 - The Hingham board of selectmen has signed an agreement with the MBTA on building the Greenbush line with a tunnel under Hingham Square.

  In the first several years I had the Hingham page on my website, I abstained from taking a public stance on the restoration of heavy diesel rail service through the center of town. This controversial issue has arisen because the MBTA is re-activating the Greenbush branch of the Old Colony Railroad which was abandoned in 1959. I was trying to avoid the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) label that is being applied to residents of Hingham who oppose the train, but whether I said anything or not, I was forced to defend Hingham in discussions of the train with non-Hingham residents. So let me go on the record here and say that I am opposed to the Greenbush line restoration.  
 

This photo from The Boston Globe (click to enlarge) shows the close proximity of the train to a house as it approaches Hersey Street during testing.
Besides being a source of noise, this looks like a concern for safety.
Houses in this neighborhood will definitely loose property value.

 
  The primary reason the MBTA wants to activate this railroad line is to remove cars from the highway and thus reduce pollution and traffic congestion. That is a very noble purpose and I agree that something needs to be done about these problems. However, Hingham (which is not the only town on the Greenbush route to oppose the train) has been accused of standing in the way of progress because of its opposition to the restoration of the Greenbush line, but let me list some reasons why I don't view implementing 1800's railroad technology as "progress".
  • Public health / air pollution
    A 1997 EPA study declared that toxic emissions from diesel locomotives can cause cancer and premature death, and that pollution from locomotives "causes serious respiratory illness and exacerbates asthma attacks in children." The study further states that "a typical locomotive can produce as much nitrogen oxide in one year as 3,000 passenger cars." The MBTA estimates that 1,331 vehicles will be removed from the road as drivers switch to the train. In other words, each train will cause even more pollution.

  • Public safety
    There is a high risk of accidents at the 43 grade-level crossings (17 in Hingham alone) that will be produced by the train tracks. There have already been fatal accidents at crossings on the other two branches of the Old Colony since they were activated in 1997. The Federal Grade Crossing Act of 1994 attempts to eliminate grade level street crossings because of their inherent dangers, but the MBTA chooses to ignore this.

  • Noise pollution
    With the average distance between grade crossings being less than mile (in many instances only a block) along the 17 mile Greenbush route, and with trains required by law to blow whistles far in advance of these crossings, there will be almost continuous whistle-blowing from each train on the entire route. With the 24 trains the MBTA plans to run each day through densely populated residential neighborhoods, there won't be many extended periods of silence. According to a study issued by the Federal Railroad Administration in December 1999, titled, "Proposed Rule for the Use of Locomotive Horns at Highway-Rail Grade Crossings", a corridor more than one mile in width will be adversely affected should a heavy diesel rail line be built.
    (Since I wrote this I have learned that Greenbush is a whistle-free zone, and whistles would be sounded only for emergencies.)

  • Environmental harm
    Some of the Greenbush line goes though wetlands, which are nature's great nurseries. It is well documented how development and pollution around wetlands can increase local water pollution and flooding. In Hingham almost the entire route of the train is in the Lincoln National Register Historic District, and all the emissions and vibrations from the trains will certainly have harmful effects on the historical buildings surrounding the tracks, some as close as a few feet. The wetlands and historic districts are federally protected areas, but rather than complying with this the MBTA is trying to find a way around the laws.

  • Restricted access for emergency vehicles
    When a train is going through a crossing, traffic is temporarily blocked. If a fire truck or ambulance needs to cross the tracks at this time, it will have to wait like any other vehicle on the road for the train to pass and the arms to raise back up. What will be the result of that? Will someone die? Will a house burn down?

  • Harm to the Hingham business district
    The Greenbush tracks go right through the center of Hingham Square, within feet of some of the buildings. In this view of Main Street looking South (this is a July 4th picture, not a typical day in town), the tracks would slice through the intersection immediately behind the car approaching the crosswalk. cal business owners can remember the noise and shaking from the trains as they came through before the line was closed in 1959, and they know that a return to the conditions of that era would certainly have a negative impact on business.
    (Since I wrote this Hingham and the MBTA have reached an agreement that if the train is built a tunnel must be created under the business district.)

  • Traffic congestion
    In addition to traffic jams at railroad crossings, there will be greater pollution from idling cars at the crossings waiting for the trains to pass, and increased tension and anxiety levels of the drivers of these cars, which can lead to heart problems and even road rage or other harmful driving behavior. Some cars will try to avoid the congestion by driving through neighborhoods on roads that were not designed for excessive traffic.

  • Reduced property values
    It has been said that more people will move to the South Shore as a result of increased public transportation (yeah, like we will really benefit from more development and congestion...) but I think in reality, for those who live in the vicinity of this noisy, polluting train the value will go down. OK, call me a NIMBY, but we bought our house in Hingham in 1982 because we loved the town, and it just won't be the nice, peaceful town we chose to raise our family in if the train comes roaring through.

  • Huge cost
    There have been cost estimates by the MBTA of building the Greenbush line ranging from $285 million to $400 million. Are we, the state taxpayers, really willing to pay that much for a system with so many harmful effects and so few benefits? I like the suggestion of taking the money and applying it to the Big Dig, which in a March, 2000, Federal Highway Administration audit, was already $1.4 billion over-budget, and has gone way beyond that now.
I also really resent the MBTA's arrogant behavior in this project, and its treatment of the towns who opposed the railway (including Cohasset and Scituate). Originally, the state applied for 80% federal funding for the Old Colony Railroad project to be applied to all three branches, and it sold this concept to the voters to get project approval and tax dollars, but when confronted with the fact that the Hingham Historic District and wetlands were federally protected areas (meaning strict environmental laws) it announced that it would build Greenbush exclusively with "state" money to avoid complying with those laws. Now that's pretty sleazy. This "segmentation" of the financing was the basis of a lawsuit the town of Hingham brought against the MBTA in the U.S. District Court.

As I stated above (this used to be a section on my Hingham page), I take the commuter boat into Boston every workday as do many others, and I will continue to do this even if the train does come. There are many alternatives to heavy diesel rail service to get cars off the road, including increased boat service. One of my favorite suggestions is a mono-rail down the center of Route 3. All of the proposals I have seen cost less than building the train. I once read that it would be cheaper to hire a private limousine to pick up each of the 1,331 drivers whose cars each train would purportedly remove from the highway and take them to existing public transportation each day than to go forward with the Greenbush project. Now there's an idea!

 

1 Some newspaper articles have links that expire too quickly so I save them offline.