North Station

North Station is a commuter rail and intercity rail terminal station in Boston, Massachusetts. It is served by four MBTA Commuter Rail lines - the Fitchburg Line, Haverhill Line, Lowell Line, and Newburyport/Rockport Line - and the Amtrak Downeaster intercity service. The concourse is located under the TD Garden arena, with the platforms extending north towards drawbridges over the Charles River. The eponymous subway station, served by the Green Line and Orange Line, is connected to the concourse with an underground passageway.

The concourse of the station, named for longtime Boston Celtics coach and executive Red Auerbach, is located under the TD Garden arena, with two entrances from Causeway Street, as well as entrances from Nashua Street to the west. Five island platforms serving ten tracks run north from the concourse. Just north of the platforms, a pair of two-track drawbridges cross the Charles River. Eight commuter rail lines and three Amtrak services terminate at South Station about 1 mile (1.6 km) to the south, with no direct rail link between the two stations. The proposed North–South Rail Link would link the two halves of the commuter rail system, with new underground platforms at both stations.

North Station is accessible on all modes. MBTA bus route 4 runs on Causeway Street, with stops near Canal Street. The EZRide Shuttle loops on Red Auerbach Way with a stop near the secondary entrance to North Station.[3]

Lovejoy Wharf, located off Beverly Street northeast of North Station, is the head of navigation of the Charles River due to the adjacent Charles River Dam.[3] It is served by water taxi services to Logan Airport and the Boston waterfront by two private companies, and a Lovejoy Wharf - Fan Pier ferry route.[4]

Two MBTA Boat routes - the F3 Lovejoy Wharf - Boston Navy Yard and F5 Lovejoy Wharf - World Trade Center via Moakley Courthouse - began operation in 1997 during Big Dig construction.[5] They were discontinued on January 21, 2005 due to low ridership.[5][6] The F5X Lovejoy Wharf - World Trade Center Express route, which did not rely on MBTA funding, was run until February 24, 2006.[6] A one-year pilot of the privately funded Fan Pier route, intended mostly as a private employee shuttle, began in January 2019.[7]

The four major northside railroads originally built separate terminal stations in Boston. The Boston and Lowell Railroad (B&L) was the first to open, with service beginning on June 24, 1835.[8]:26 The first station was built later in 1835 along Lowell Street (now Lomasney Way) and was several blocks north of Causeway Street. A new station was built at Causeway Street east of Nashua Street in 1857, with the original depot converted to a freight house.[8]:33 An even larger third station on the Causeway Street site, constructed of brick with towers at the front corners, was opened on November 24, 1873.[8]:33

The Boston and Maine Railroad (B&M) opened in July 1845, with a temporary station at Canal and Traverse streets. The permanent station, opened on October 20, was between Canal and Haverhill streets and fronted on Haymarket Square. Trains had to cross busy Causeway Street to reach the station; at first, a city ordinance caused the railroad to pull cars across the street with oxen rather than locomotives. In 1867, the station was extended northwards from Market Street to Traverse Street.[8]:38

The 1843-opened Fitchburg Railroad originally terminated in Charlestown, near the north end of the Warren Bridge. On August 9, 1848, the railroad opened a new station with large Norman style towers at Causeway Street, just east of the B&M tracks.[8]:5 The second floor was the largest auditorium in New England at the time; it was the site of two performances by Jenny Lind in October 1850 during her tour of the United States.[8]:9

The Eastern Railroad opened in 1838 with an East Boston terminal; ferries carried passengers between there and Lewis Wharf in Boston.[8]:17 On April 10, 1854, the railroad opened its Boston terminal on Causeway Street opposite Friend Street - west of the B&M tracks and east of the soon-to-be-built B&L station.[8]:18 This "temporary" station was destroyed by fire on June 21, 1862.[8]:22 The brick replacement station, completed the next year, "had a reputation of being dirty, unattractive, and uninviting."[8]:23

The B&M leased the Eastern in 1884, though it continued to use its own terminal.[8]:23 As a condition of the B&M's 1887 lease of the B&L, the state required the B&M to construct a union station for use by the combined B&M system plus the Fitchburg.[8]:43 After years of resistance by the B&M, construction on North Union Station began in 1893.[8]:47 The station was built as an eastward expansion of the B&L station, with a total frontage of 568 feet (173 m) on Causeway Street. The center of the new facade was an 80-foot (24 m)-high granite triumphal arch flanked by four massive columns.[8]:50 The east side was formed by a five-story baggage and express building.[8]:53 The station was designed by the firm of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, which designed South Station several years later.[9]:129

The new station was opened in stages from August 1893 to June 1894.[8]:50 The Eastern depot had been demolished in 1893 to allow construction to proceed.[8]:23 The B&M depot was demolished in 1897, with the site used for the Canal Street incline of the Tremont Street subway.[8]:42 The Fitchburg was leased by the B&M in 1900, after which the former Fitchburg depot was used as the B&M offices.[8]:10 By that time, the station was popularly known as "North Station".[10] The former Fitchburg depot burned on January 17, 1925; it was demolished in 1926-28.[8]:12

In 1926, the B&M began work on an expansion and modernization of the freight yards north of North Station in Somerville.[11] The next November, the railroad announced plans for a new North Station complex.[12] Demolition of the old station began the next month.[8]:65 The partially-complete station was opened on August 19, 1928; it was formally opened on November 14, 1928 - one year after the original announcement.[8]:74

The new station had 22 tracks paired around island platforms, largely similar to its previous configuration.[8]:72 The concourse was topped with the Boston Garden arena, with a 14-story office building to the east and a hotel to the west. (Early plans had called for these to be integrated into the station like the arena.[9]:156) The complex fronted on Causeway Street for 700 feet (210 m) from Nashua Street to Beverly Street.[13] A project lasting from August 26, 1930 to mid-1931 rebuilt the approach to the station, with four new drawbridges crossing a relocated Charles River channel.[8]:76

Until the 1960s, the station was the hub for long-distance B&M service to multiple locales north and west of Boston, usually in conjunction with other railroads.[14][15][16] Service cutbacks began in the 1950s, and service soon dwindled down to commuter rail operations. The last intercity service to Portland, Maine and to north of Concord, New Hampshire ended on January 4, 1965.[17] By this point, the intercity train itineraries consisted of self-propelled Budd Rail Diesel Cars, often just one or two cars for the trip. Single commuter-oriented daily round trips on these routes to Concord and Dover, New Hampshire lasted until June 30, 1967.[17] (Limited MBTA Commuter Rail service to Concord was run from January 28, 1980 to March 1, 1981 as part of a federally funded experiment.[17]) In the 1960s, the B&M removed two drawbridges and cut the station to ten tracks. The south end of the platforms were removed to make room for a parking lot.[8]:79

Trains at North Station in 1988, viewed from the north end of the island platforms

On January 20, 1984, a fire destroyed the wooden trestles leading to the North Station drawbridges. Temporary terminals were soon established: Haverhill/Reading trains terminated at Oak Grove, Rockport/Ipswich trains at a temporary platform at Sullivan, and Lowell and Gardner trains at a temporary station near Lechmere.[17] On June 28, 1984, the MBTA awarded a $11.3 million contract for construction of replacement trestles plus new tracks and platforms.[18] The rebuilt station opened on April 20, 1985.[17] On March 29, 1989, the MBTA awarded a $13.7 million construction contract to raise the five commuter rail platforms for accessibility.[18] (Until then, a modified forklift was used as a mobile lift.)[19] Groundbreaking was held for the underground garage on June 25, 1990, followed by the platform project on July 12.[18] However, the nearest accessible subway transfer was State station over half a mile away; not until 2001 were the North Station and Haymarket subway stations made accessible.[19]

In February 1993, the state reached a deal with a developer for the replacement of the aging Boston Garden. In exchange for the land and easements to construct the FleetCenter, the developer would construct a new train shed and waiting area on the ground floor of the new arena. The MBTA would also be granted easements for a Green Line tunnel under the arena to replace the Causeway Street Elevated, for a combined underground "superstation" for the Green and Orange lines, and for pedestrian access to North Station.[20] The FleetCenter, North Station concourse, and garage opened in 1995.[21][22]

In 2001, intercity service returned to North Station with Amtrak's Downeaster to Portland, Maine (later extended to Brunswick), using the Lowell and Haverhill lines to the New Hampshire border. It has become one of the more popular routes in New England.[17] Due in part to this, North Station was the 24th busiest Amtrak station in the country in fiscal 2019, and the sixth busiest in New England (behind South Station, Providence, New Haven Union, Back Bay and Route 128).[23]

In April 2006, the MBTA announced plans for an enlargement of the waiting area at North Station.[24] The project covered over the southern 80 feet (24 m) of the platforms, adding 20,000 square feet (1,900 m2) of waiting and retail space. The $5 million project was completed in February 2007.[25][26] Two large train information displays, with electronic noises to imitate Solari boards, were added in November 2007.[27]

Beginning in early 2016, Boston Properties built 'The Hub On Causeway', a mixed-use development including two towers, on the former Boston Garden site. The development included a new entrance to the rail station from Causeway Street opposite Canal Street, plus an underground passageway from the rail station to the subway station.[28][29] The passageway opened on January 6, 2019.[30]

The two aging two-track drawbridges at North Station are planned to be replaced by two new three-track spans, which will be more reliable and have higher capacity. The unfinished sixth platform will be completed to serve long out-of-service tracks 11 and 12, the Fitchburg mainline will be slightly relocated to provide more layover space near the maintenance facility, and FX interlocking will be reconfigured.[31] By December 2019, the signals contract associated with the new drawbridges had been awarded, but bidding on the physical drawbridge construction had not.[32] As of January 2021, signal work is expected to be completed in December 2022.[33]