STEP Op Ed: Governor Patrick thinks Somerville can wait a few more years for the Green Line. We can’t wait and want to make sure that the Governor knows we won’t!
Last week, Governor Deval Patrick met with Somerville’s legislators and let them know that, for now, extending the Green Line is not on his priority list. In a stunning and unfortunate move, Governor Patrick and his Transportation Secretary, Bernard Cohen, propose delaying completion of the Green Line until at least December, 2016.
Worse, the Governor’s team suggested that the state will renege on its commitment to fully fund the $800 million to construct the Green Line from state funds. Instead they are hoping to get half of the money from highly competitive federal programs for the Green Line. The Governor plans to hit the same federal funds for the Silver Line Phase Three project in Boston and the Urban Ring; which could sink the Green Line application, putting it at the bottom of the list. In short, the future of the entire Green Line extension is in jeopardy.
This is completely unacceptable, especially when, at the same time, the Governor has given the green light — and critical funding — for immediate progress on many other construction projects around the state, even though they are not federal Clean Air Act priorities. The Governor released his $12 billion capital investment plan on Monday, August 6. It included $20 million in FY08 to begin addressing the so-called State Implementation Plan, or âSIPâ commitments, which are the legally mandated projects. These projects include improvements to the Fairmount commuter rail, the Green Line extension to Medford, a Red-Blue Line connector study, and the creation of 1,000 new parking spaces at transit nodes.â If you do the math, you can see that the $20 million to be spent on the four SIP projects is only 2.5% of the funding needed just to construct the Green Line.
Somerville deserves better.
The Governor and the Executive Office of Transportation and Public Works must believe that Somerville residents have very short memories or do not really care about the promised Green Line extensions. They also must think that they really do not need to honor the legal commitment made by the Commonwealth in the revised SIP in November, 2006. They are wrong on both counts.
Somerville residents overwhelmingly want the Green Line extensions to be built ON TIME. We also voted overwhelmingly to elect Governor Patrick, confident that he would want to finally address Somerville’s transportation and environmental health burdens by honoring the SIP legal commitment to complete the Green Line extensions by 2014. Many Somerville elected officials were early supporters of the governor, and many worked very hard on his behalf.
Everyone in Somerville knows that the facts are clearly on our side: there is no area in Massachusetts with a stronger claim to invest in improving public transportation than Somerville, and no other project can achieve better results per dollar, in terms of economic development, reduced traffic, improved quality of life, and reduced air-pollution-linked health problems.
The governor has a clear responsibility to address the transportation and environmental burdens that we have endured for years. Somerville is the most densely populated city in New England. 250,000 vehicles and 200 diesel commuter and freight trains drive through our small city every day. Our median household incomes are approximately $35,000. We have the second highest concentration of immigrants after Chelsea. We have about 5,000 carless residents per square mile seeking convenient transportation to jobs. 29% percent of city residents rely on public transportation âmostly provided by unreliable diesel buses.
We have been very patient up to now âaccepting a delay for the Green Line until 2014 despite an original agreement in 1990 that was revised in 2000 promising completion by 2011. Now, enough is enough. Wishing for federal funding that may allow completion of the Green Line in 2016 is not acceptable.
There is still time for the Governor to change his mind and act swiftly to get the Green Line project fully funded and back on track — but only if Somerville residents let the Governor know that he must.
Please join us in calling the Governor’s office at 617-725-1100 and ask for Richard Chacon’s office. Say what feels right for you. For example I’m going to say: “Hello, my name is Ellin Reisner. I am a Somerville resident. I voted and volunteered in the last election for Governor Patrick, and I will vote in the next election. I was shocked and saddened to hear that the Governor is not planning to live up to the commitment to fully fund the Green Line with state funds and that he is planning to push the project back to 2016. Can you tell him this is absolutely unacceptable? You can also make your feelings known.
Governor Patrick thinks Somerville can wait a few more years for the Green Line â If you disagree call the Governor’s office and give them a piece of mind like we plan to do. If we all make calls and send letters, there is still time to change his mind. Remember, TOGETHER, WE CAN.
Ellin Reisner, President of Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership
Karen Molloy, Secretary of STEP
Andrea Yakovakis, Treasurer of STEP