Filing the necessary environmental reports is next stop in the process

July 20, 2010
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The state’s environmental secretary has approved the MBTA’s Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the Red Line/Blue Line connector project.

However, the MBTA’s DEIR will not satisfy all environmental studies and it must file a Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) according to Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles’ decision.

There’s been a great deal of debate as to whether the state should finally connect the MBTA Blue Line with the Red Line’s Charles/MGH station–making the commute a whole lot easier for East Boston residents traveling to that area.

At several community meetings over the past year, transportation officials have given an overview of the Red Line/Blue Line project before getting feedback from residents and those impacted by the project.

For the most part, the proposed plans to expand the Blue Line to Red Line were favorable. The biggest concerns voiced by residents were possible streets closures, traffic concerns and construction impacts on the surrounding area.

MBTA officials said if the project was given the green light, there would be comprehensive traffic study before construction and street closures were even considered.

The proposed project would once and for all link the only two lines that do not currently intersect within the MBTA’s rapid transit system. The Blue Line, which is the shortest line in the system, runs from Bowdoin Station in downtown Boston to Wonderland Station in Revere, a distance of approximately seven miles. This project would extend the Blue Line approximately 1,500 feet underneath Cambridge Street to make a connection with Charles/MGH Station on the Red Line.

The Red Line/Blue Line Connector was a crucial MBTA project promised to the neighborhood that would make the commute easier for East Boston residents who travel to jobs in Cambridge or doctors appointments at Mass General from Blue Line stops.

However, the Romney administration tried to renege on the commitment the state made to the city for its support of the Big Dig. The commitment to extend the Blue Line to the Charles/MGH stop on the Red Line was all but abandoned by Romney until the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) sued the state.

In 2006, while Romney was still governor, his administration had a change of heart and signed an agreement to move forward on long-standing projects like the Red/Blue Connector, providing interim deadlines for existing projects, and by bolstering the public participation and oversight process agreement.

In March 2005, CLF sued the Commonwealth saying that the state had fallen substantially behind on a number of the transit projects promised to communities to offset the increased traffic and pollution from the Big Dig.

The settlement obligates the Commonwealth to prepare a final design of the Red-Blue connector, linking the Blue Line at Government Center with the Red Line’s Charles/MGH station.

The state has set aside $29 million to design the subway tunnel and recently the MBTA and Department of Transportation held another meeting of a project-working group for the connector.

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