To T or not to T, that is the question.
As the state mulls whether a Green Line extension through Somerville makes sense, residents are getting restless, saying the question should not be a matter of yes or no, but when.
The Romney administration, however, has recently released a 400-plus-page, 20-year statewide transportation plan containing language that seems to wave off commitments made to the city on the eve of the Big Dig more than 15 years ago.
A hearing last week, in a Somerville High School auditorium three-quarters full, brought about 600 residents and city officials out to scold the state. Many lit up the dark seats with green glow-stick necklaces (to represent the Green Line), distributed by the advocacy group Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership.
Referring to the environmental impact study that is partly to blame for the delay in extending the Green Line through Somerville to West Medford, Alderman William A. White pleaded with the state to cut through the red tape.
”Abandon this process and live up to your commitments,” he shouted at the state’s representatives, including Robert Gollege, commissioner of the State Department of Environmental Protection, and Transportation Secretary Daniel A. Grabauskas.
Earlier this year, White drafted the resolution that last week led to the Conservation Law Foundation filing suit against the state for violating portions of the Clean Air Act and inaction on the extension.
In a statement explaining the suit, Peter Shelley, the foundation vice president, said the transit commitments resulting from the Big Dig are too important to allow further delay. ”We have concluded that we need federal judicial oversight to ensure these projects will happen,” he said.
Democratic US Representative Michael E. Capuano also took a firm stance against the state at the hearing. ”I am here to state very clearly that the Green Line will be extended through Somerville,” he said to thunderous applause. ”This Green Line is long overdue. The city of Somerville has been underserved and overcharged by the MBTA for as long as I can remember, if not my whole life.”
Four rail lines run through Somerville, but the crowded city only has one stop, a Red Line station in Davis Square.
Among the 75 people who spoke, Democratic state Senator Jarrett T. Barrios said the environmental bonuses are obvious, and there would be no reason for any engineering problems unless ”somehow the Alps have grown between the Green Line end of Lechmere and Suffolk University.”
Democratic state Representative Carl Sciortino drew hisses from the audience when he quoted page 276 from the Romney administration’s plan. The passage reads that while the Executive Office of Transportation has asked that this project should be reevaluated and that more effective substitutes should be considered, ”the air quality commitment stands and will be honored, but not necessarily through [this project] selected 15 years ago.”
Sciortino then asked audience members who opposed the Green Line extension to raise their hands. When not a single hand was raised, he said, ”By a show of hands or standing and clapping, how many people want to see this commitment move forward on the promise they made?”
A neon wave moved through the auditorium, as audience members, donning their light-stick necklaces, stood up and cheered.
Grabauskas told the crowd earlier that he had ”never seen such outpouring on behalf of a single project.”