Hundreds of local residents crowded into the Somerville Armory last night, all to voice support for the Green Line Extension project. It was the first of five meetings scheduled for the next two months to update the public on what is being done to get the 4.3-mile project back on track.
It has been some 26 years since the state agreed to complete the extension of the Green Line through Somerville as mitigation for the added traffic and pollution caused by the Big Dig. Governor Patrick celebrated the start of Phase 1 construction in 2012, but the project was thrust into limbo once again last year when it was revealed that costs could run up to $1B more that originally projected.
Last night's 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 Alderman, and a long list of over 50 speakers at public comment.
"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 (such as 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 last night, he made it clear that the presentation was "not a commitment" and that further cuts will be required; his team is currently focused on the following options:
- 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 (e.g. I-93, McGrath Overpass, and multiple rail lines that cut through the city without actually making any stops, etc.). Now it is time for the state to live up to the commitment that was made to Somerville some 25 years ago for mitigation pursuant to the Clean Air Act.
Another point to be made: the state legislature should be more willing to raise revenue (in a progressive fashion) to fund projects like the Green Line Extension, while also making transportation/infrastructure investments that will serve all residents of the Commonwealth. Despite a $7B maintenance backlog at the MBTA, Speaker DeLeo has pledged "no new taxes" during the 2015-16 legislative session. Clearly, we need to do a lot more to fund the entire system, including the Green Line Extension. Cutting costs might be part of the equation, but we should also recognize that we cannot cut our way to a sustainable future — we must be willing to make big investments, too.