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State Delays West Station Until 2040, Pending Harvard Allston Development

The shuttered Beacon Park Rail Yard is poised to eventually house West Station and 50 acres of developable land for Harvard once the Massachusetts Turnpike is realigned.

While a costly infrastructure project to straighten the Massachusetts Turnpike in Allston will open the neighborhood up to more commercial development, residents and visitors will have to rely on automobiles to get them there for the next 23 years. 

Massachusetts transportation officials say the rail and bus portion of a $1B highway straightening project in abandoned rail yards in Allston will be delayed. The reason: unknown ridership demand in the area while Harvard finalizes its development plans.

The university owns most of the land opened up by the straightening of the Mass Pike, and many have speculated it could become Greater Boston’s next innovation district. But speculation is not enough for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the Boston Globe reports.

“Before new jobs and new residents arrive in the immediate vicinity of a future station, travel demand for the proposed West Station is unknown,” Massachusetts Department of Transportation spokesman Patrick Marvin said to the Globe.

The setback comes as transit advocates are pushing for better rail connectivity throughout the city, including an enhanced commuter rail network, dubbed the Indigo Line, that would run trains at increased intervals within Boston city limits at stations like the infill Boston Landing station in Brighton and a potential West Station at the Allston property. 

The project's transformation from a simple commuter rail station to one with multiple rail lines and a bus concourse increased the expected cost to $95M. Harvard had committed funds for one-third of the project, with the state taking one-third and nearby Boston University considering picking up the tab on the other third. The rising cost has led BU to say the project is an "entirely new conversation."