Residents call for Green Line Extension through Somerville, Cambridge and Medford
by Mike Connolly
Hundreds of local residents crowded into the Somerville Armory March 2, to voice support for the Green Line Extension project. It was the first of five meetings that have been scheduled this spring to update the public on what is being done to get the 4.3-mile project back on track.
The meeting featured presentations from MassDOT staff, followed by comments from State Senator Pat Jehlen, state Reps. Denise Provost and Christine Barber, many members of the Somerville Board of Aldermen, and a long list of over 50 speakers at public comment.
Governor Deval Patrick celebrated the start of Phase 1 construction of the project in 2012, following a commitment from the federal government for "New Starts" funding earlier that year. Some preliminary work has since been completed, but the overall project was thrust back into a state of limbo when it was determined that costs could run up to $1 billion more than originally predicted.
"I know this is not where anybody wanted to be tonight," quipped Kate Fichter of MassDOT as she explained the format of the meeting to the 300 or so people in attendance, many of whom showed up early and waited in line for a seat.
And yet, the meeting was generally positive — with broad consensus that we all want the Green Line Extension to happen, mixed with resolve among residents and advocates that important elements of the project should not be sacrificed, including the community path, service to Union Square, and completion of the project through Rt. 16 in Medford.
That said, interim project manager Jack Wright has indicated that cuts to the project will be "brutal," and he made it clear that his presentation was "not a commitment" and that further cuts will be required; his team is currently focused on the following areas:
- Station Redesign
- Vehicle Maintenance Facility Redesign
- Community Path Reconsideration
- Construction Worker Hour Limitations
- Retaining and Sound Walls
- Power and Signals
I was able to speak fairly early during public comment and made a few brief points:
First of all, Somerville deserves the Green Line Extension—including the community path and full service to Union Square—because Somerville, in particular, has sacrificed greatly for the sake of everyone else's transit convenience. Consider: I-93 (which cuts Somerville off from the Mystic River and impacts local air quality), the McCarthy Overpass and McGrath Highway (which cuts East Somerville off from the rest of the city), and multiple rail lines that cut through the city (but don't actually service local residents).
In 1990, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts agreed to complete the Green Line Extension as mitigation for the Big Dig / Central Artery Tunnel project pursuant to the Clean Air Act. Now, some 26 years later, it is time for the state to honor this commitment to our public transportation system and the environment.
Another point to be made: the state legislature should be more willing to raise revenue. Despite a $7 billion maintenance backlog at the MBTA, House Speaker Robert DeLeo has vowed that there will be no legislative efforts to raise revenue this session. Clearly, we need to do a lot more to fund our entire transit system, including the Green Line Extension. Yes, managing costs is important, but at the end of the day, we cannot cut our way to a sustainable future — we need to make big investments, too.
MassDOT and the MBTA will host an open house and public meeting to further discuss the future of the Green Line Extension project on Wednesday, April 27th, starting at 5:30 pm, at Saint Anthony’s Parish Hall, 400 Cardinal Medeiros Avenue. This will be an excellent opportunity for Cambridge residents to make their voices heard while discussing the inherent challenges and opportunities of this long-overdue project.
These comments were taken from Mike’s blog of 3-3-16 which can be found at http://www.mikeconnolly.org/green_line_meeting
Mike Connolly is a licensed attorney and lives in the Wellington-Harrington neighborhood with his wife, Kacy. He is currently seeking the Democratic nomination for State Representative for the 26th Middlesex District of Cambridge and Somerville.
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