The Northend Electrification Project was part of Amtrak’s $2.5 billion development program to bring high-speed rail to the Northeast Corridor. Electrification of the track along the section from New Haven, CT to Boston, MA allowed trains to travel up to 150 MPH, cutting the Boston-to-New York travel time to a little over three hours. The project required a complete 2x25kv-60HZ single phase 150 mile overhead catenary system – the first of its kind ever to be installed in the United States.
After Amtrak terminated its contract with the previous team, it turned to Balfour Beatty, in joint venture, as sponsor to audit, verify and complete the incomplete design and for the complete construction of the electrification system suitable for high speed rail (150 MPH) to the Northeast Corridor from New Haven, Connecticut to South Station Boston in Massachusetts. When the team arrived on the job, the project was 12 months behind schedule with an incomplete design and no construction engagement. The designs proved to be significantly deficient and required extensive revision. Relying on Balfour Beatty’s experience with design-build delivery and its integrated systems design and installation resources, the team turned the project around and achieved revenue service within four years.
Balfour Beatty’s scope included approximately 150 route miles of overhead contact system (OCS) to twin and multiple tracks including all foundations and support cantilevers and trusses, complete OCS to the Dorchester Yard stabling and maintenance facility of Amtrak and the MBTA, installation of the support system to 212 bridge structures en route and protective barriers to many of these structures, a significant design and construction interface with the then-ongoing Tunnels to Central Artery project in Boston including accommodating the ground freeze required to drive bored tunnels, complete integration of the OCS with Amtrak/MBTA CTEC in Boston and operator training. The project, which was constructed through a mix of rural and congested urban environments, also involved outreach and assistance to those communities that were affected by construction which was 24/7 for a significant part of the contract period.
Rail elements included the complete installation of 14,000 pole foundations constructed mostly from on-track equipment operating on a live railroad; the electrification of 360 line track miles, 322 main track miles, 12-miles of sidings and 26-miles of yard track; and the provision of a complete power supply system through four pre-packaged power substations connected to the local power sources for four 35Kv substations and 22 feeder and paralleling substations. The project also included the electrification of five moveable bridges – three bascule and two swing bridges – the first time this has ever been done to a high-speed rail system.
Large span gantries, up to 50-meters wide, carry the electrification wires and conductors on a multi-track junction through the heavily congested South Station Boston area. The gantries had to be designed to accommodate the “heave” caused by ground-freezing that was being used to construct the then-ongoing Tunnels to Central Artery Project. The team also developed an entirely new mechanism for the catenary systems for the swing and bascule-type lift bridges. When the bridge opens, the main power is disconnected while maintaining smooth power delivery to trains traveling on either side of the bridge.