Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership (STEP)

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MBTA Takes Important Step Forward on Green Line Extension

Today, at Somerville City Hall, the MBTA Board of Directors approved a contract for the final design of the Green Line Extension. The Board’s decision follows a critical piece of federal environmental approval from earlier this summer.

MBTA Board of Directors approve the Green Line Extension
The MBTA Board of Directors approves the first phase of Green Line Extension construction.

This means the long-promised Green Line Extension is one big step closer to becoming a reality, and that construction will “begin next month,” according to MassDOT Secretary Richard Davey.

As my friends and neighbors in Somerville are well aware, East Somerville is one of the most densely populated areas in the country to not be served by light rail. The Green Line Extension project will improve both air quality and traffic by making it easier to get around without a car, spur economic development throughout Somerville, and create new green space along a corridor from Davis Square to the Charles River. It’s a win-win-win for all of us, and that’s why I’ve been fighting for it since I first got to the State House.

The process of extending the Green Line from Lechmere into Somerville has been long and painstaking, and at times, I’ve shared my neighbors’ frustration over the project’s delays. But today’s meeting marks a major milestone and is cause for celebration. With this decision, the MBTA Board of Directors has made good on promises it made to Somerville and Cambridge years ago. Now, the hard work of construction begins, starting with the rehabilitation of three critical sites along the proposed Green Line Extension tracks.

As always, I’ll be pushing for the rapid construction of the Green Line Extension, and I’ll let you know about important developments here and on Twitter.

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.

Assembly Sq. Development Receives $65 Million, Breaks Ground

Assembly Sq., Somerville map
WBZ article (with video)
Boston Business Journal: “Somerville development gets $65M boost”
Somerville Journal: Somerville’s Assembly on the Mystic to move ahead with $65M from state
Somerville News: Assembly Square vision more clearly revealed in press conference Monday

SOMERVILLE – I joined local and state officials along with community leaders and the Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRIT) to formally announce the groundbreaking and the $65 million dollar federal commitment to the exciting upcoming development. The money to redevelop Assembly Square comes from federal stimulus funds, and I-Cubed Funding (Infrastructure Investment Incentive Program), which are state funds allocated to go to programs that will result in new jobs and tax revenue for the Commonwealth.

Congressman Capuano, Governor Patrick, and Senator Kerry all spoke about the importance of getting these shovel-ready projects underway to stimulate the economy by making full use of President Obama’s stimulus package funds to put people to work immediately.

Congressman Capuano: “I don’t want to come to anymore groundbreakings; I want to come to some ribbon-cuttings.”

On hand were Senator John Kerry, Congressman Michael Capuano, Governor Deval Patrick, Mayor Joe Curtatone, Senator Patricia Jehlen, Senator Anthony Galluccio, Representative Carl Sciortino, Representative Denise Provost, Alderman-at-large Jack Connolly, Alderman Walter Pero, School Committee member Maureen Bastardi, and myself.

This project is the shared vision for a vibrant, eco-friendly and modern riverfront development along the Mystic. The success of this project to date is a testament to the hard work and collaboration of a wide spectrum of public and private interests, along with the tireless work and advocacy of local community groups such as the Mystic View Task Force, Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership and East Somerville Main Streets.

Governor Patrick flanked by elected officials and local community leaders.