Questions and answers flow as T gives neighbors a look at Codman Yard work

A slide shown during a virtual meeting convened by the MBTA last week shows proposed changes to the Codman Yard next to Ashmont. MBTA image

Codman Yard, located at 375 Gallivan Blvd. just south of Ashmont Station, is a storage and maintenance site for the MBTA’s Red Line that is set to undergo renovations next year — and into 2024— to accommodate a new fleet of Red Line vehicles with additional capacity and reliability for riders.

With that in mind, the agency provided an updated summary of the project last Thursday to about 50 community members who joined the virtual call.

The yard currently houses 16 storage tracks, a loop track, a car wash, and a vehicle inspection pit.  The T plans to add six new storage tracks, all of them sited within the existing property and fence line with an upgraded crossover track to improve traffic flow. Other features would include upgraded LED lighting and enhanced track and signal components in the yard and the crossover approaching Ashmont station.

The MBTA-led team expects to complete a final design plan by next March, present a bid package in April, and begin construction in the fall of the same year.

“These investments will improve the frequency and reliability of our service, the liability and capacity which has certainly been a concern, and, in general, bring the Red Line and others to a state of good repair,” said Ellen DeNooyer, senior director of the MBTA’s Red Line/Orange Line Transformation Program. “A major portion of the project initially is new vehicles, and a lot of things behind the scenes that will support those new vehicles include infrastructure improvements. That’s what we’re here to talk about this evening.” 

The yard was last rebuilt in the 1980s, according to MBTA project manager Adam Booth, who said the team is also planning to make improvements to two connection tracks located in the yard: the Mattapan High Speed Line Connection track and the Ashmont Crossover; and push the entrance at Hillsdale Street back into the yard itself. 

“One of the biggest things we want to look at early on is to move the Hillsdale Street entrance further into the yard and away from the adjacent residences. We’ve heard from people that trucks idle in front of the gate and can be a noise issue,” said Douglas Woodbury, a design consultant from HNTB Engineers (HNTB). 

He added that “more geometry within the yard” would result in less “wheel spill noise” for residents living nearby and increase service reliability. 

“Replacing crossover at the end of the rail line service by the Ashmont rail station will let us go faster though the crossover supporting faster and more reliable service,” he said. 

Woodbury displayed images of crumbling concrete and decrepit tracks, saying current yard conditions have created safety hazards for employees and must be repaired.  He added that a new electrically efficient lighting system would provide low-level lighting at night while still maintaining safety and security, and that improvements would not impact any wetlands or waterways. 

“Most of the construction will be done in the daytime hours and can be done within the yard itself,” said Woodbury.

The only exception could be when improvements are made over the course of two weekends to the Mattapan High Speed Line, during which time the team said they would provide public notice and a bus diversion route. 

Several residents of the adjacent Hillsdale Street asked how the T would address noise, rodent control, and debris fallout that they said would come with construction. Others asked how the project might affect service on the Mattapan line; and many were curious about how the team would continue to engage with the surrounding community and conduct outreach. 

Jessie Correia asked if an alternative route, separate from pushing back the gate entrance on Hillsdale Street, had been considered off Gallivan Boulevard to limit noise, dust, and disruption for Hillsdale residents. 

“An alternative route is being looked into, but there are no definite plans to do that. There are some issues that affect that such as getting the equipment across the tracks but that’s something we are exploring so that not all traffic is coming through Hillsdale,” replied Booth. 

“Historically, we have used the yard as a construction phasing yard for the improvements at Ashmont and up on the Red Line,” added Joe Nolan, director of public outreach at City Point Partners and former MBTA employee.  “We learned a lot in that process and worked very closely with the neighbors. We will continue to work closely with the neighbors if there are issues. It’s another reason that the new gate would be helpful and installed early in the process.”

Correia also asked about what kind of reporting features would be available to Hillsdale residents to voice any complaints. 

Erica Blonde, a planner at HNTB, said the team is working on a spatial mapping tool that they will track daily. “It will be categorized by topic and feature a spatial component so that they can track any trends that might develop,” he said.

Another attendee, Stefan Weunsch, asked if the project might impact service on the Mattapan Line. Booth replied that none of the improvements would impact that service, except for scheduled weekend work on the connection line located in the yard.  

Virginia Ward said she generally approved of the project, but asked the team how they would enforce rodent control once digging starts.  

“In every project that’s been a noted concern for the MBTA,” answered Woodbury.  “It starts out with an observation of existing conditions and then they will pre-treat certain areas and put out bait boxes if necessary. It requires regular removal and reporting on a bi-weekly basis to make sure the work is being completed and the issue is adequately addressed. We certainly encourage public outreach during the process if the community sees anything.”

Janet Clancy-Cadigan, a lifelong resident of Hillsdale Street, said she was not looking forward to the project. “The dust, dirt, and air quality on that street for the next three years is going to be horrendous. What are you going to do about it, and how far will the gate be moved away from Hillsdale?” she asked. 

“We’re coming into this project knowing the concerns on Hillsdale Street, particularly with traffic and dust mitigation. We’re going to have very strict stuff written in the contract. This is very early in the design process, so those plans will evolve,” said Nolan. 

Booth explained that the T will write specific dust control measures into the contract, “whether it be wheel-washes or watering down the site as needed.” 

Added Woodbury: “The exact number could change but we are looking at moving the gate at Hillsdale St. some 20 to 30 feet into the yard, completely away from residents. Trucks should be able to park in front of the gate without being close to residents.”

The construction specifications that we’re developing right now will also require daily reporting by the superintendent contractor on site on any dust conditions that do occur and mitigation measures will be developed right then and there if something unexpected happens.” 

As the virtual meeting came to an end, a few attendees asked if the project team would be open to a future in-person meetings with the residents of Hillsdale Street. 

“Currently we’re not allowed to host in-person meetings because of state restrictions, but it is definitely something we can look into in the future,” said Nolan. “A smaller abutters meeting where everybody wears masks and spreads out could be possible in the future. I’ll have to check the rules, but I will get back to you.” 

The rehab of the yard is part of the MBTA’s $8 billion, 5-year capital investment plan to renovate stations, modernize fare collection systems, upgrade services for our buses, subways, and ferries, and improve overall accessibility.