Charles/MGH station

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Charles/MGH station is a rapid transit station on the MBTA Red Line, elevated above Charles Circle on the east end of the Longfellow Bridge in the West End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. The station is named for Charles Circle and the adjacent Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) campus. It has two side platforms, with a glass-walled headhouse structure inside Charles Circle. Charles/MGH station is fully accessible.

Inbound train leaving Charles MGH station, April 2018.jpg
An inbound train leaving Charles/MGH station in April 2018
Location170 Charles Street, Boston, Massachusetts
Coordinates42°21′41″N 71°04′17″W / 42.3613°N 71.0714°W / 42.3613; -71.0714Coordinates: 42°21′41″N 71°04′17″W / 42.3613°N 71.0714°W / 42.3613; -71.0714
Platforms2 side platforms
Disabled accessYes
OpenedFebruary 27, 1932[1]
RebuiltJune 2003 – February 17, 2007
FY201910,515 (weekday average boardings)[2]
Preceding station MBTA.svg MBTA Following station
toward Alewife
Red Line Park Street
toward Ashmont or Braintree
Proposed services
Preceding station MBTA.svg MBTA Following station
Terminus Blue Line Government Center
toward Wonderland

The Cambridge subway opened in 1912; planning for an infill station at Charles Street began in 1924. After several false starts, construction of Charles station began in 1931. The Art Deco station, with cast stone headhouse and copper-sheathed platforms, opened on February 27, 1932. A pedestrian tunnel that provided station access was replaced by footbridges in 1961. The station was renamed Charles/MGH in 1973. From 2003 to 2007, the station was renovated for accessibility; a new glass entrance replaced the original structure. The proposed Red–Blue connector would extend the Blue Line to Charles/MGH, with a new underground platform level.

Station designEdit

The platforms (left) and headhouse

Charles/MGH station is located at Charles Circle at the west end of the West End and Beacon Hill neighborhoods. The station is on a short elevated segment that connects tracks in the median of the Longfellow Bridge to the west with an incline into the Beacon Hill Tunnel to the east.[3]: 1–7  The two elevated side platforms, 22 feet (6.7 m) above ground level, run west from Charles Circle onto the east end of the Longfellow Bridge.[4]

At their east ends, the platforms widen into passageways that lead to elevators, escalators, and stairs to the surface-level fare lobby in the center of Charles Circle. The station entrance is on the west side of the fare lobby under the tracks, with crosswalks connecting to the sidewalks on both sides of Cambridge Street.[5]: 3–6  The fare lobby and passageways are wrapped in a teardrop-shaped curved glass facade, while most of the platforms have a patinaed copper windscreen.[6]: 66 



The station under construction in 1931

The Boston Elevated Railway (BERy) opened its Cambridge Subway from Park Street Under to Harvard on March 23, 1912. The line ran in the median of the Longfellow Bridge to cross the Charles River. Like the Lechmere extension opened the same year and the Boylston Street subway opened in 1914, the Cambridge Subway originally had no station serving the area just outside downtown Boston, to speed travel time from farther stations.[1][7]: 41  Although Bowdoin opened on an extension of the East Boston Tunnel in 1916, much of the West End and Beacon Hill neighborhoods were poorly served by the subway system.[8]

On June 2, 1924, the Massachusetts General Court passed legislation authorizing the state Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to construct an infill station at Charles Street. Following a 1924 study by the Boston Transit Department (BTD), the DPU delegated the project to the BTD on January 12, 1925.[9] That study also considered an extension of the East Boston Tunnel to Charles Street to provide a transfer between the lines.[10] The project stalled in 1926 as the $600,000 appropriated by the legislature was only sufficient for four-car platforms, while the BERy insisted on six-car platforms at a cost of $850,000 to accommodate its future plans.[11][12][13]

Despite pressure from the Massachusetts General Hospital, located adjacent to the proposed station site, the legislature again refused additional funding in 1927.[14][15] Uncertainty over whether the station would be built delayed plans to construct a traffic circle at the intersection.[16]

No further progress was made until 1930, when the BERy and BTD reached an agreement for a $350,000 station with four-car platforms.[8] The cost reduction was achieved by having the platforms on the straight track west of Charles Street, rather than the curve to the east. Plans for the station were completed in July 1930.[17] Bidding on the station opened in early July 1931, and a construction contract was awarded later that month.[18][19] Charles Circle was completed in November 1931, by which time the steel structure of the station was in place in the center of the traffic circle.[20] Charles station opened on February 27, 1932.[1][21] The station was served by Bowdoin SquarePark Square and Charles station–Massachusetts station bus routes, though a Kendall Square–Bowdoin Square route was closed with the station's opening.[22]

Charles station was designed by H. Parker from the office of Richard Clipston Sturgis.[6]: 65  The three-story headhouse structure, 42 by 70 feet (13 m × 21 m), was framed with steel and clad in cast stone.[23]: 14 [6]: 65  The first story had a rough finish, while the double-height second story and the third story (divided into two by the tracks) were smooth. The structure was Art Deco/Art Moderne in style, with decorative pilasters and a chevron panel.[3]: 1–6  The platforms had copper windscreens, also in Art Deco style.[6]: 65 [3]: 1–6  A north-south pedestrian underpass crossed the traffic circle, with stairs leading from the underpass to the station entrance.[21][24] Only the north half of the underpass was originally planned; public pressure resulted in the addition of the south half.[25] A 14-story Art Deco tower over the station, designed by H. F. Kellogg, was proposed but never built.[26]

Modifications and the MBTAEdit

The station in 1986

In 1961, the pedestrian underpass was replaced by a pair of footbridges, with the south footbridge forked to reach both sides of Charles Street. The second story was modified to serve as a fare mezzanine, with a low ceiling under the trackway. Openings were cut in the walls to accommodate the footbridges.[3]: 1–6  Around half of pedestrian traffic on the footbridges was crossing the circle rather than using the station, which caused congestion in the mezzanine area.[23]: 14  In 1964, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) replaced the Metropolitan Transit Authority, which had replaced the BERy in 1947. The MBTA designated the line as the Red Line in 1965.[1]

In December 1973, the station was renamed Charles/MGH after the nearby Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).[1] Three southbound trains collided inside the Beacon Hill Tunnel just south of the station on August 1, 1975, injuring 132 passengers.[27][28] In 1982, the platforms were extended 120 feet (37 m) west to allow for use of six-car trains, which began operation in 1988.[29][1][23]: 15  Surveys in 1984 and 1987 found that the station was not eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.[6]: 66 


The new headhouse in 2018

The MBTA renovated most Red Line stations for accessibility in the 1980s and 1990s. Planning began for modifications to Charles/MGH in the late 1990s.[3]: 1–4  Although the station was determined to be eligible for inclusion on the National Register, it was in poor condition: the cast stone cladding was spalled and cracked, water infiltration had rusted steel and damaged plaster, and the mezzanine level was overcrowded.[23]: 14 [3]: 1–7  The platforms were pitted, columns were rusted, and paint was peeling.[23]: 15  Three options were developed in a 2000 design report: rehabilitation of the existing station with added elevators, a new surface-level station entrance slightly to the east inside the traffic circle, and a surface-level entrance at Cedar Street with a footbridge above the tracks and ramps down to the platforms. The second option was recommended.[23]: 63 

In June 2003, the MBTA began its $34.4 million reconstruction of the station – part of a $48.6 million project that also realigned Charles Circle.[30][31] Temporary staircases directly to the platforms were opened in May 2004.[32] The pedestrian bridges were removed, and the original headhouses were demolished in July 2004.[33] The new glass headhouse was built slightly to the east of the former headhouse location.[6]: 66  The copper platform enclosures were restored with new interior cladding to preserve some of the historic station architecture.[34]

The new entrance opened on February 17, 2007, making the station fully accessible.[33] Public art created by the community from recycled materials was installed in the fare lobby in June 2007.[35] The renovations made the station no longer eligible for National Register inclusion.[6]: 66  The renovation received the "Honor Award" from the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board in 2009.[4]

Design begin in October 2019 for rehabilitation of the viaduct spans around the station, as well as the station platforms. Design is expected to be complete in October 2023, with construction from 2024 to 2026.[36]

Proposed Blue Line connectionEdit

Plan of the two-platform scheme for the Blue Line level from the 1986 study

The Red–Blue connector is a proposed 0.4-mile (0.6 km) extension of the Blue Line from Bowdoin west under Cambridge Street, providing a direct transfer between the Red and Blue lines. The project was first proposed in 1924, and was returned to consideration in the 1978 update to the Program for Mass Transportation.[10][37] In 1991, the state agreed to build the project by 2011 as part of the settlement of a lawsuit over auto emissions from the Big Dig project.[38] This commitment was changed to design only in 2007–08 and lifted entirely in 2015.[39][40][41]

Original plans for the connector in 1986 called for a cut-and-cover tunnel extension west from Bowdoin, with an underground stub-end terminal connected to the existing Charles/MGH station. Three configurations for the Blue Line level at Charles/MGH were considered: a three-track terminal with two island platforms, a two-track terminal with one island platform and pocket tracks to the east, and a three-track terminal with one island platform (one track not used for passenger service) and pocket tracks to the east.[42] The 2010 Draft Environmental Impact Report instead called for a pair of deeper tunnels bored by a tunnel boring machine (TBM); the Charles/MGH terminal would have a single island platform with tail tracks extended to the west.[43]

A 2018 update which analyzed multiple tunneling methods maintained this station configuration.[44] In April 2019, the MBTA indicated plans to spend $15 million to design the connector in a five-year spending plan.[45] In April 2021, MGH released the Draft Project Impact Report for their expansion plans, which include space reserved for a new headhouse on the north side of Cambridge Street near North Anderson Street.[46] MBTA conceptual designs created in 2020 and released in 2021 also maintained the station configuration, with the new MGH entrance incorporated.[47]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Belcher, Jonathan. "Changes to Transit Service in the MBTA district" (PDF). Boston Street Railway Association.
  2. ^ "A Guide to Ridership Data". MassDOT/MBTA Office of Performance Management and Innovation. June 22, 2020. p. 7.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Elkus-Manfredi/HDR Engineering; Epsilon Associates, Inc (February 2002). Draft Environmental Assessment (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 19, 2020.
  4. ^ a b "2009 Architectural Access Board Design Awards - Category A". Massachusetts Architectural Access Board. 2009.
  5. ^ Red Line/Blue Line Connector Project: Draft Alternatives Analysis Technical Report (PDF). Massachusetts Department of Transportation. March 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 16, 2010.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Public Archaeology Laboratory (March 2010). "Appendix L: Historic Resources Reconnaissance Survey and Archaeological Resources Assessment". Red Line/Blue Line Connector Project: Draft Alternatives Analysis Technical Report (PDF). Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 16, 2010.
  7. ^ Cudahy, Brian J. (1972). Change at Park Street Under; the story of Boston's subways. Brattleboro, Vt.: S. Greene Press. ISBN 978-0-8289-0173-4.
  8. ^ a b Report of the Transit Department for the Year Ending January 31, 1930. Boston Transit Department. 1931. p. 10 – via Internet Archive.
  9. ^ Annual Report of the Transit Department for the Year Ending January 31, 1925. Boston Transit Department. 1925. p. 7 – via HathiTrust.
  10. ^ a b "Plans For New Tunnel Station". Boston Globe. December 9, 1924. p. 1 – via  
  11. ^ Report of the Transit Department for the Year Ending December 31, 1926. Boston Transit Department. 1927. p. 8 – via Internet Archive.
  12. ^ "No Opposition to Boost in Subway Appropriation". Boston Globe. February 12, 1926. p. 28 – via  
  13. ^ "Ask More Money For Station". Boston Globe. February 11, 1926. p. 14 – via  
  14. ^ "Charles-St Station of Tunnel Rejected". Boston Globe. February 25, 1927. p. 1 – via  
  15. ^ "Hospital Asks More For Subway Station". Boston Globe. January 28, 1927. p. 15 – via  
  16. ^ "Shows Plan of Lodge Memorial". Boston Globe. December 21, 1927. p. 11 – via  
  17. ^ "Plans are Completed for New Tunnel Station at Charles and Cambridge Sts". Boston Globe. July 12, 1930. p. 12 – via  
  18. ^ "New Station on Cambridge St". Boston Globe. July 3, 1931. p. 10 – via  
  19. ^ "Contract Awarded for Elevated Station". Boston Globe. July 24, 1931. p. 15 – via  
  20. ^ "New Traffic Circle at Charles and Cambridge Sts in Full Operation to Prevent Jam at City's Gate". Boston Globe. November 13, 1931. p. 46 – via  
  21. ^ a b "New Charles-St Station Open". Boston Globe. February 27, 1932. p. 16 – via  
  22. ^ "New 'L' Station at Charles St to Open for Service Saturday". Boston Globe. February 24, 1932 – via  
  23. ^ a b c d e f Elkus / Manfredi Architects Ltd – HDR (August 31, 2000). Charles/MGH Station Design Summary Report (PDF) (Report). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 2, 2010.
  24. ^ "Plate 3". Atlas of the city of Boston : Boston proper and Back Bay : from actual surveys and official plans. G.W. Bromley & Co. 1938 – via Norman B. Leventhal Map Center.
  25. ^ "Second Underpass for Station Urged". Boston Globe. July 25, 1930. p. 9 – via  
  26. ^ Cheney, Frank (2002). Boston's Red Line: Bridging the Charles from Alewife to Braintree. Arcadia Publishing. p. 50. ISBN 9780738510477.
  27. ^ Clarke, Bradley H. (1981). The Boston Rapid Transit Album. Cambridge, Mass.: Boston Street Railway Association. p. 16.
  28. ^ Claffey, Charles E.; Richwine, David (August 2, 1975). "132 hurt in rush-hour crash of 3 MBTA trains". Boston Globe. p. 1 – via  
  29. ^ "MBTA Contract No. B43PS02: Longfellow Approach Architecture and Engineering Services" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. April 29, 2019.
  30. ^ "New Charles/MGH Station Opens" (Press release). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. March 27, 2007.
  31. ^ "Charles/MGH Station to Begin Modernization Project" (Press release). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. June 19, 2003. Archived from the original on August 3, 2003.
  32. ^ "Charles/MGH Red Line Station Rehabilitation Project Update" (Press release). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. May 11, 2004. Archived from the original on August 5, 2004.
  33. ^ a b "Charles MGH Renovation". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Archived from the original on April 6, 2008.
  34. ^ "Historic Preservation". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Archived from the original on February 8, 2017.
  35. ^ "Community Art Unveiled at Charles MGH Station" (Press release). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. June 5, 2007.
  36. ^ "Longfellow Approach Viaduct Rehabilitation". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. August 18, 2021. Archived from the original on August 18, 2021.
  37. ^ Central Transportation Planning Staff (November 15, 1993). "The Transportation Plan for the Boston Region - Volume 2". National Transportation Library. Archived from the original on October 21, 2008.
  38. ^ United States Environmental Protection Agency (October 4, 1994). "Approval and Promulgation of Air Quality Implementation Plans; Massachusetts—Amendment to Massachusetts' SIP (for Ozone and for Carbon Monoxide) for Transit Systems Improvements and High Occupancy Vehicle Facilities in the Metropolitan Boston Air Pollution Control District)". Federal Register. 59 FR 50498.
  39. ^ United States Environmental Protection Agency (July 31, 2008). "Approval and Promulgation of Air Quality Implementation Plans; Massachusetts; Amendment to Massachusetts' State Implementation Plan for Transit System Improvements". Federal Register. 73 FR 44654.
  40. ^ "State Implementation Plan – Transit Commitments: Status Report" (PDF). Executive Office of Transportation. July 2, 2007. pp. 5–6. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 10, 2015.
  41. ^ United States Environmental Protection Agency (December 8, 2015). "Approval and Promulgation of Air Quality Implementation Plans; Massachusetts; Transit System Improvements". Federal Register. 80 FR 76225.
  42. ^ Seelye Stevenson Value & Knecht (December 1986). Bowdoin Station and Charles Street Station Connector Project Feasibility Study (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 16, 2010.
  43. ^ Red Line/Blue Line Connector Project: Draft Environmental Impact Report (PDF). Massachusetts Department of Transportation. March 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 8, 2011.
  44. ^ "Summary Memorandum: Tunnel Constructibility Study: Update to the 2010 DEIR for the Red Line/Blue Line Connector". Massachusetts Department of Transportation. October 2018.
  45. ^ Mohl, Bruce (April 10, 2019). "T makes quick fix on Red-Blue connector". Commonwealth Magazine.
  46. ^ "Appendix B: Floor Plans and Architectural Information". Draft Project Impact Report/Draft Environmental Impact Report. Massachusetts General Hospital. April 22, 2021.
  47. ^ Stoothoff, Erik (June 7, 2021). "Red Blue Connector" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

External linksEdit

External images
  Charles station in 1970
  Charles/MGH station in 1979
  Temporary stairs in 2004

  Media related to Charles/MGH station at Wikimedia Commons