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Rail News: Maintenance Of Way

MassDOT acquires remote-operated ballast cars

MassDOT Secretary and Chief Executive Officer Stephanie Pollack views remote control for a ballast rail car.
Photo – Massachusetts Department of Transportation


The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has purchased 20 steel hopper cars with gates used to dispense ballast, which the department will use for rail infrastructure repair and maintenance projects.

Purchased by the MassDOT Rail and Transit Division, the new steel ballast cars arrived last week.

"With this investment, MassDOT is continuing to take steps to improve its rail infrastructure and ensure that our customers can count on reliable service and our freight partners can use our system for their transportation needs," said Rail and Transit Division Administrator Astrid Glynn said in a press release.

The cars are notable for their movable gates operated by remote control. The feature will make the process of pouring ballast speedier, more efficient and safer than traditional ballast cars, which typically require personnel to crank the gates open and closed by hand, MassDOT officials said.

Previously, MassDOT rented ballast cars, which was more costly than owning the vehicles. In fiscal-year 2017, MassDOT spent $109,000 to lease ballast cars. By purchasing the new cars at a cost of $3.2 million, the department expects to save $2.25 million over the cars' 50-year lifespan.