The Romney administration has revised a list of transit projects that were among commitments made by the state back in 1991 to begin construction of the depressed Central Artery. If, as the state asserts, the new projects offer better transportation and better air quality, they should be included in a revised legal agreement and quickly advanced.
The Conservation Law Foundation originally pressured the state to make the transit commitments for fear that, otherwise the Artery project would encourage cars and worsen pollution. Douglas Foy, who was then the foundation’s president, has revised the list in his capacity as chief of the state’s Commonwealth Development Office. The foundation wants the state to honor the original commitments.
Foy, however, believes the state should drop its plan to restore Arborway light rail service in Jamaica Plain. This page backed restoration in the 1980s, but passage of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act means that curbs and sidewalks would have to be radically reconfigured. Mayor Menino and local merchants make a convincing argument that it is not feasible.
Foy wants to put off indefinitely a plan to connect the Blue and Red MBTA lines at Charles Street. That link made sense in the ’80s, to speed Red Line riders to Logan Airport. But starting next month, these passengers will be able to make a direct connection to airline terminals via the Silver Line at South Station. The connector still has value to get Blue Line riders to Massachusetts General Hospital and Cambridge, but the case for construction is not as strong as first envisioned.
While the original plan called for a Green Line extension to Tufts University, Foy wants to extend it farther, to West Medford, with a spur to Union Square in Somerville. By his calculation, this would forestall the release of 83 kilograms of hydrocarbons a day, compared with 45.34 kilograms, combined, for the Red-Blue connector, Arborway restoration, and the shorter Green Line extension. If these figures hold up, they are a compelling reason for the Conservation Law Foundation to support the revisions and press to get the projects completed.
Foy also wants to improve the Fairmount commuter line to Readville, build 1,000 more parking spaces for MBTA riders, and increase commuter rail service to Worcester. These are all worthwhile, but the key to his proposal is getting started on transit improvements promised 14 years ago.