Drivers and train commuters in Andover will get better travel conditions, thanks to $70 million from the state.
The money will improve train tracks and roads in the town as part of a $16.5 billion state transportation bill.
In that bill, the state has allocated $60 million for construction of a double-track railway at and near the Ballardvale commuter station in Andover, $3 million for infrastructure improvements in Andover’s Historic Mill District, and $7 million for a noise barrier at the intersection of Interstate 93 and Interstate 95 in Andover.
“This legislation makes crucial investments in our public transportation system and will help support local businesses, commuters and other residents,” said state Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover. “The Haverhill Commuter Rail Line serves thousands of commuters in the Merrimack Valley, but is often delayed and unreliable. The construction of a double-track railway at Ballardvale Station will provide commuters with the direct and efficient service they deserve."
The double-track railway has been a decade in the making since the MBTA set out to complete eight miles of double-track on the Haverhill line between Lawrence and Wilmington. It is called the Haverhill line because it connects Boston with Haverhill, the farthest stop to the north.
Work on the double-track project began at one point, but stopped after two miles of improvements were completed. Andover and other communities along the remaining six miles of the commuter rail line have continued to receive slow service.
The money is part of the state's plan to complete the project on the remaining six miles.
"Double tracking at Ballardvale Station would significantly improve the commute for Andover residents who depend on the Haverhill line to get to work,” said Andover Town Manager Andrew Flanagan. “This project would help resolve the delays and unreliability that make utilizing the Haverhill line challenging for residents. This project would support our efforts to attract both residents and businesses that depend on public transit.”
The state is also providing $25 million to build platforms to provide level boarding areas for commuters at all stations along the Haverhill line, including Andover's Ballardvale Station.
"Adding level boarding will make the line more accessible and allow wheelchair users to board trains safely," Finegold said. "These much-needed improvements will help support transit-oriented development and increase rail ridership as residents begin to return to their commutes.”
The $3 million for Andover's Mill District will go to improving roads and intersections along Essex Street that connect the district to the downtown. These improvements come as Andover is working to redevelop the Town Yard in the Mill District
“This project will better connect the Mill District to downtown Andover,'' Finegold said,'' and help create safer conditions for vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians."