State asks for bids in $2 million North-South rail link study

The Boston Globe | By Nicole Dungca
March 1, 2017

State transportation officials began soliciting bids Wednesday to study a proposed rail tunnel connecting North and South stations, a long-discussed project that would create an unbroken rail route from Maine to Washington, D.C.

The start of the bidding process marked an incremental but important step for the project, known as the North-South rail link. The state’s transportation secretary, Stephanie Pollack, said the study “will help determine if further technical and financial analysis for the project is warranted.”

The study, expected to take about eight months after a consulting firm is chosen, will cost as much as $2 million and will provide updated cost estimates and outline the benefits to riders.

Discussions about the nearly 3-mile tunnel go back decades, but the cost has been seen as prohibitive. Previous estimates placed the cost of the project at $8 billion, but supporters say that advances in construction technology would lower the cost to between $2 billion and $3 billion.

In 2003, governor Mitt Romney shelved the project as too expensive, and its fate seemed sealed. But aggressive lobbying from supporters, including US Representative Seth Moulton and former governors Michael Dukakis and Bill Weld, has brought the proposal back into the public conversation.

Critics call the project a pipe dream, and its future seems doubtful. Governor Charlie Baker has made it clear that he isn’t a big fan and favors a proposed $1.6 billion expansion of South Station that would add seven tracks to the congested hub.

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