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
Affairs
MEPA Office
Attn: Holly Johnson, MEPA Analyst
EEA #13886
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

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