By John Lynds
As the MBTA begins revising and updating its Capital Investment Plan (CIP) and the State Transportation Investment Program (STIP), State Representative Adrian Madaro gave testimony last week urging the ‘T’ to incorporate the Blue-Line/Red-Line Connector, a major transportation initiative promised years ago to the East Boston community as part of Big Dig mitigation.
“It is with deep concern that I must note the complete lack of progress into the realization of the Connector project, which was committed as part of the Big Dig mitigation plan in 1990,” said Madaro. “This portion of the mitigation package would directly benefit the residents of East Boston, Revere, Winthrop, and surrounding communities, yet after nearly three decades of repeated delay in the face of numerous public overtures, there has still been no progress.
According to sources, the MBTA, instead of focusing on how to get the project done, has been focusing on ‘alternatives’ to a Blue-Line/Red-Line Connector.
The project would extend the Blue Line approximately 1,500 feet to make a connection with the Charles/MGH Station on the Red Line.
However, alternatives for the project are under investigation and include options with the existing Bowdoin Station eliminated or reconfigured. By ‘alternatives’ Eastie residents and Madaro are hoping it doesn’t mean scratching the entire project due to its expense and trying to find a cheaper way, perhaps through shuttle bus lines, to connect the Blue and Red Lines.
“The previous administration’s abandonment of its commitment to this project was not only an economic injustice, but also likely undertaken in violation of Environmental Justice policies, ignoring and undermining populations served by the Blue and Red Lines, which include some of the lowest-income residents in the Boston area,” said Madaro. “To continuously ignore this long-promised and much-needed project is tantamount to the highest disservice to those who rely on public transportation, primarily residents of the North Shore, who have repeatedly been denied this most basic and sensible of updates to the transit system.”
Blue-Line/Red-Line Connector was a key piece of Big Dig mitigation that would make life a lot easier for Eastie residents commuting to doctor’s appointments at Mass General or to jobs in Cambridge.
However, under Governor Mitt Romney’s administration in early 2000’s, the state tried to renege on the commitment that the state made to Eastie 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 former Governor Romney until the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) sued the state. 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 called for 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.
“As described in the Memorandum of Understanding of 1990, the commitment to build this direct connection was a smart, forward-looking measure meant to encourage the use of public transportation, and mitigate any increased automobile use caused by the Big Dig,” said Madaro. “The communities of the North Shore, including my neighborhood of East Boston, have long anticipated the improved access to the Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as the job-rich,economic hubs of Cambridge and South Boston. These expectations have been stymied by the Commonwealth’s lack of action. To this day, the Blue and Red Lines are the only two train lines which do not intersect, forcing passengers either to undertake a complicated and time-consuming process of switching trains or to leave the subway system and walk from one station to another, a difficult walk especially in inclement weather, and for some, requiring the payment of an additional gate fare.”