Tag Archives: Brickbottom

Transfer Station to Leave Brickbottom Next Year

As was reported in the Somerville Journal earlier this week, Waste Management, which operates a waste transfer station in the Brickbottom area of Somerville, will be required to vacate its location on Poplar Street by October 1st, 2012. The eviction of the transfer station was a goal that Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone articulated in his 2011 State of the City address:

“We aim to reclaim the Brickbottom and this is an essential step to making that happen,” said Curtatone in a press release. “This represents an opportunity to build a new gateway to the city.”


The old Somerville municipal trash incinerator was built in 1907, according to “Beyond the Neck: The Architecture and Development of Somerville, Massachusetts,” and the tan-brick building survived the demolition that occurred all around it. Sometime in the 1990s, the building was converted into a trash transfer station, basically a depot on the way to dumps or incinerators. Read the rest of Andy Metzger’s October 4th, 2011 article on the removal of the transfer station.

This is exciting news for an area that has seen decades of stunted growth after most of the neighborhood was demolished to make way for the Inner Belt Expressway, a highway transportation project which was never completed. It is my hope that the future completion of the Washington Street station as a component of the Green Line Extension will pave the way for strong, mass-transit based redevelopment of the transfer station and surrounding areas.

As can be seen in the photo above, the close proximity of the transfer station to the planned Washington Street station makes it a prime area for mixed-use or residential development with excellent access to the Green Line and local bus service, and a short walk to shops, bars, and restaurants in Union Square. I am looking forward to seeing how this space will grow and change for the better in the coming years.

Positive Steps Forward for Green Line Extension

East Cambridge & East Somerville – map

After years of countless meetings, public hearings, letters and tireless advocacy from so many involved community members, I’m pleased to announce that the Commonwealth has reached a major milestone in the extension of the Green Line through Cambridge, Somerville and Medford with the release of the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA).

The Green Line Extension will vastly improve the state of public transportation in the City of Somerville, making our community easier to access for residents and visitors. As this project moves forward, however, we need to make sure it is done in a way that is right for the people who live near it and the people who will use it when it is completed.

Before a project of this magnitude can be undertaken, it is important that we study the potential impact on the environment, the safety of the community, and the quality of life for the Green Line Extension’s immediate neighbors. Last year, EOEEA released a Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment (DEIR/EA) detailing the effects of the proposed extension.

In January, I sent a letter with my comments regarding the DEIR/EA to Secretary Ian Bowles of EOEEA. I used my comments to express many of the concerns that members of the community had voiced to me. On June 15th, the FEIR was released, and I am happy to say that many of the changes to the DEIR/EA that our community advocated for have been included in the final report.

First and foremost of these changes is the decision about the location of the new Green Line maintenance facility. In the letter that I sent to the Secretary in January, I expressed my concern that the use of Yard 8 for the maintenance facility (which was at that time the favored option) would negatively impact the residents of the Brickbottom area, and would potentially stifle future economic development within the Inner Belt. In my comments, I stressed that Option L, one of the two alternatives presented in the report, was a far better choice for the location of the maintenance facility. Thanks to the active participation among members of the community, including elected officials, the Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership (STEP) and the residents of Brickbottom, I am pleased to report that MassDOT has chosen Option L as the preferred site for the maintenance facility.

This is a victory for the residents of East Somerville and East Cambridge for a number of reasons:

• Option L will create more separation between residential areas and the maintenance yard.

• It will not preclude road construction between Brickbottom and the Inner Belt, meaning that future economic development in the area will not be hindered.

• The Brickbottom Artist Building, Hampton Inn Hotel, Glass Factory Condominiums, and future developments on Water St. will experience no more than one decibel of additional noise from the Option L maintenance yard.

• The placement of the facility in an existing industrial area will mean that the local environment will not be substantially altered.

• The yard will comply with all state and federal air quality regulations, and will reduce the amount of storm water drainage at the site.

Option L (center in blue) would produce less noise for Brickbottom residents than Yard 8 (bottom left in blue).

In my January letter, I also expressed concerns over the design of the proposed Lechmere station overhaul. These concerns were echoed by the East Cambridge Planning Team (ECPT), and I am pleased to see that the redesign includes better door access from the north and south sides of the station, as well as fare collection and other amenities that are now fully inside the station, shielded from the elements. The bus drop-off/pick-up area will now be directly connected to the station by a door, and the station will be fully handicap accessible.

One of my most pressing concerns about the Green Line Extension project is that it will move Lechmere station to the opposite side of the Monsignor O’Brien Highway, creating a potentially dangerous situation for the thousands of commuters that will now need to cross a wide, busy street to access Lechmere from East Cambridge. The layout that has been proposed since the DEIR includes accommodations for a wider pedestrian crosswalk, and the FEIR makes the recommendation that a median no less than 20 feet wide be constructed on the O’Brien Highway in order to shield pedestrians from turning traffic. Although this is not an ideal solution for the commuters travelling to the station from East Cambridge, it is a vast improvement over earlier proposals. I will continue to fight both in the State House and City Hall to make pedestrian safety a top priority as the project moves forward.

The proposed Lechmere station layout found in the June 15th FEIR.

Finally, I want to share with you my excitement at seeing the Green Line Extension moving closer to becoming a reality. The release of the Final Environmental Impact Report marks a significant step forward for a project that will be crucial to the future of East Somerville. Affordable and efficient transportation is critical to any urban area, and the latest numbers indicate that the Green Line Extension will increase daily ridership by 52,000 people by 2030. That means that each day, 25,000 fewer miles will be travelled by cars through our communities! Now that, my friends, is a breath of fresh air.

Green Line Environmental Impact Report Comments

This past Thursday I submitted my letter with official comments regarding the Green Line Extension Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment (DEIR/EA) to Secretary Ian Bowles of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Over the course of this public comment period, I have heard from hundreds of constituents in the 26th Middlesex District. I have also been consulting with MassDOT, Mayor Curtatone’s office, The Cambridge City Manager’s office, my colleagues, and a variety of community and environmental organizations to determine the best way to bring the Green Line Extension to Cambridge and Somerville.

The important points:

  • Option L for the maintenance facility, not Yard 8 – As I have put forward in a previous post, the decision of where to place a maintenance facility is extremely important to the future development in East Somerville. Yard 8, the current preferred alternative from MassDOT, is an unacceptable option. Instead of placing the facility next to the Brickbottom Artists residence, the facility should be placed next to the existing Boston Engine Terminal as described in Option L.
  • Increased pedestrian access – Both the new Lechmere station and Brickbottom should have safe alternatives for pedestrian access. “The relocation of Lechmere station across the McGrath/O’Brien Highway to the Northpoint parcel means that thousands of commuters from East Cambridge will now be required to cross a major, multi-lane highway to access the Green Line. It is imperative that the protection of these commuters is a top priority for the Commonwealth, and that we ensure that pedestrian access from the south of McGrath is consistently and reliably safe.”
  • Additional mitigation for Glass Factory residents“Additional planning and mitigation also needs to be considered for the residents of the Glass Factory Condos, where the elevated track will run within feet of their windows.”

Full letter below.

Click for full pdf

Green Line Extension Maintenance Facility – Option L is best for Brickbottom and Somerville

For more detail see:
Cambridge Chronicle article 12/21/09 “Proposed Green Line garage has some worried”
Somerville News Blog 12/23/09 Residents air views on Yard 8 alternatives

Over the last year one thing has become clear: of the three options currently under study by the MBTA to expand the Green Line and site a maintenance facility, Option L is the best long-term solution for Somerville.

About 18 months ago, the EOT released a study describing around a dozen alternatives for the maintenance facility in Somerville. None of the original options were acceptable, so we asked EOT to go back to the table. As the result of pressure from state and local leaders and active community members, we have been presented with the best option yet: Option L.

The extension of the Green Line has the potential to turn the Inner Belt and Washington Street into a focal point for economic vibrancy and community development in Somerville. My goal has been, and continues to be, bringing transportation officials together with economic development leaders to ensure that the siting of the maintenance facility does not have a detrimental impact on the existing neighborhood or the potential for future mixed use development.

The current preferred alternative from MassDOT, Yard 8, could actually have a negative impact on the economic development of the inner belt region. The long-term cost to the city, in lost economic development opportunities, of building at Yard 8 is likely to be greater than the short-term additional cost of Option L (see below).

MassDOT (formerly EOT) recently released a document called the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) to discuss the project and the current alternatives for a maintenance facility.

*full pdf here, options diagram on page 27

All the options, in a nutshell:

Option #1: Yard 8
Although this has been labeled the ‘preferred alternative’ by the MBTA, I believe it is the worst of the options. Put simply, it is too close to a large residential building that houses hundreds of people. The land would be better served as part of accessible mixed-use development that would serve the new riders of the T and the current residents. Locating the maintenance facility at Yard 8 would have substantial negative consequences for both the abutters (primarily the residents of Brickbottom) and the future development of the area.

Option #2: Mirror Scheme H
Initially a promising site, further examination revealed some unexpected difficulties. Mirror Scheme H has potential to become entangled in jurisdictional issues. Although the vast majority of the site is in Somerville, it is on the line between Cambridge and Somerville. This introduces a slew of zoning and regulatory concerns that threaten to complicate the discussion, increase costs, and significantly slow progress.

Option #3: Option L
Option L would place the facility adjacent to the existing Boston Engine Terminal, farther from residents and commercial property and with a similar terminal. This would be more compatible with Somerville’s vision for revitalization of the Inner Belt area. The problem here is the price: current estimates place this at about $50 million more expensive than Yard 8. I think it is more important to do this the right way and incur the extra expense now to build on the optimal site. This site factors in the long-term development and renewal plans of East Somerville and lessens the impact on the residents in the neighborhood.

The Somerville legislative delegation has voiced its opposition to Yard 8 and support for Option L. I have made my position clear to Secretary Bowles at the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, to the Governor’s office, and to MassDOT.

Thank you to all the residents who have come forward privately and at public events to share your opinion. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions or comments about the maintenance facility or the Green Line Extension project.

We are still in the public comment listening period of the project, so I would encourage everyone who feels strongly on the issue to submit comments on the DEIR by January 8th. If you would like to contact Secretary Bowles’ office directly on this issue, please mail:

Secretary Ian Bowles
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental
MEPA Office
Attn: Holly Johnson, MEPA Analyst
EEA #13886
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114