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Fitchburg Commuter Rail service suspended for maintenance for second year

The MBTA suspended weekend operations for the Fitchburg Line of the commuter rail beginning April 25 and is projected to continue work until Nov. 2. Normal weekday service will continue to run throughout this period, while Saturday and Sunday operations have been suspended for track improvements and renovation projects. As a result of this weekend closure, many students and faculty members have had trouble getting in and out of the city from campus.

According to the MBTA’s Fitchburg Line Improvement Project Suspension of Weekend Train Service fact sheet, this $277 million dollar investment in the Fitchburg Line will include the construction of a second track between Acton and Ayer stations, a new Littleton Station with additional parking, a new South Acton station, an upgraded signal system and track improvements (allowing maximum train speed to increase from 60 mph to 80 mph), and improvements to seven bridges.

“It’s a nightmare,” said Assistant Professor of Fine Arts Todd Pavlisko about the situation with the commuter rail. “It makes professionals impossible to be able to do their work, and it makes students think it’s impossible for anybody to traverse the city.”

Students have been forced to find alternative routes into the city, such as hitching rides from friends, taking the T, using on-campus shuttle services, or even hiring Uber drivers and taxi services.

“This weekend, for example, I had to get into Boston College to do the Jimmy Fund Walk and instead of just being able to get into Boston, I had to get a ride to the Riverside station to go into Boston and then back out into Boston College,” said Brandeis student Alison Tassone ’18. “It would have just been a lot easier to not have that extra drive in there.”

Other students, including Eric Pilchowski ’19, have been relying on the Joseph’s shuttle services provided by the university to get from campus into Boston.

“I typically go through the shuttle that runs Thursdays through Sunday,” said Pilchowski. “The thing is that the shuttle starts at noon so if I want to get into Boston before 1, there’s no way to do it besides taking an Uber, which is expensive.”

Rachel Qin ’16 has had such a hard time commuting into Boston from Waltham that she “took a position in Waltham [over the summer] in order to avoid difficult travel.”

“I stayed here during the summer and I needed to commute to Boston,” said Qin. “It’s really difficult because the bus, 553 I think, doesn’t operate during the weekend so it’s difficult to find a way into Boston.”

The Brandeis/Roberts and Waltham commuter rail stations have been affected by the Fitchburg Line Improvement Project for two consecutive years. Last year, weekend operations were closed from July to November while work was done to the track.

“The commuter rail is an absolute joke. In the winter it’s always delayed, so it keeps people out in an unheated area for upwards of 40 minutes,” said Pavlisko. “It was never on time. The whole winter … Whoever is in charge should absolutely lose their job.”

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