Keep reading for the full statement given by Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone at the public hearing today.
The Mayor and Aldermen stand united for the Green Line
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Thank you for the opportunity to make a few comments on this issue, which is of great importance not only to the citizens of Somerville but to people throughout the region who are depending on the state to live up to its commitment to public transit and clean air.
Let me start by describing my journey here today.
When I look out my window at Somerville City Hall, I can almost see the State House. I can clearly see most of the Boston skyline. That’s because my office is just a little less than three miles from here. Three miles.
Here’s how long it took me to get here via public transportation: just a little under one hour. In the middle of the day.
Here’s what I had to do: I left my office and walked to the bus stop, where I waited for the 88 bus to Lechmere.
I boarded the bus, paid my fair and we wove through traffic to Lechmere.
At Lechmere, I got off and waited for the shuttle to Haymarket. And waited.
Finally, the shuttle arrived, I boarded and we wove through traffic to Haymarket.
At Haymarket, I walked to Government Center, took the stairs to the subway, paid another fare, and proceeded to the platform. Where I waited for the Green Line. And waited.
Finally, I got on the Green Line and took it to the Park Street station. Decamped at Park Street, walked up the stairs to the Common, and walked up the hill to the State House.
Three miles. Two buses. One train. One hour.
Now that’s not a great, great hardship. It’s just totally unnecessary. Somerville – a city of almost 80,000 people that is closer to downtown Boston than most neighborhoods in Boston – has four rail lines cutting through the city, carrying eight different commuter or subway lines. But we have just one stop – the Davis Square T Stop.
If I were driving today, it would have taken 20 minutes. Tops. Which is why I or anyone else would make the logical choice to forgo public transportation.
Never mind whether this is an injustice for Somerville residents. This is just poor transportation planning. Plain and simple.
Not only do our residents not have rail options, they also have to endure the congestion and pollution caused by the almost three quarters of a million commuters – nearly 700,000 – who cut through Somerville everyday to get downtown or to Cambridge and other destinations.
Long after everyone has stopped worrying about leaky tunnels and under-funded greenways, the people of Somerville will still be breathing the fumes and bearing the traffic congestion of the Central Artery. These neighborhoods already experience the worst air quality in the region, including a number of areas specially designated as “environmental justice” zones by the State.
That’s why so many Somerville residents are here today. To register our outrage at the state for trying to renege on the commitments they made.
Commitments without which they could not have been able to proceed with the Big Dig.
Commitments that would ensure that East Cambridge and Somerville and Medford would finally get the rail service they deserve.
Commitments that would ensure that our air quality would improve and that our children would be safe from the potentially deadly toxins spilled into our air by the endless lines of traffic in our city.
Apparently, commitments from the state are like promises from Pedro Martinez – not worth much in the end.
But here’s the difference. Pedro made a verbal commitment to stay in Boston. The state signed on the dotted line.
Somerville needs a full Green Line extension.
We need it for the convenience of our citizens, who have put up with rail lines slicing through the city all these years but providing no service.
We need it for economic growth in Union Square and the eastern part of our city, where old industrial sites now sit underutilized and the state continues to pay lip service to the importance of T-stops but then does little.
We need it to make the future safe for ourselves and our children, not just in Somerville but throughout the Cambridge-Medford-Everett-Charlestown area.
Our forefathers made some fateful decisions back in the 40’s and 50’s. They uprooted streetcars from the Somerville streets and built massive highways through our neighborhoods. The result: congestion and pollution throughout. Economic blight in some areas. And most disturbing, rising cancer and respiratory disease rates.
We cannot afford to keep adding cars to the Somerville roadways or the Metropolitan Boston streets. That’s the deal the environmentalists and the state struck in order to build the Big Dig: we’ll build a better central artery but we’ll also extend public transit lines to make sure our streets are clearer, our air is cleaner, and our people are healthier.
It was an ironclad commitment then. And it should remain so now.
Somerville is here today to send a simple message: a deal is a deal.
Now – after years of waiting – is not the time for “revisiting” the legal commitments; it is the time to honor them.
Now – after billions of dollars in overruns and major investment in other less beneficial projects elsewhere – is not the time to claim lack of funding and the need for fiscal austerity; it is the time to put your money where your mouth is.
Now – after decades of pollution and cut-through traffic, after thousands of residents have suffered shortened and impaired lives – is not the time to question the data or propose solutions elsewhere; it is the time to finish the job you started.
Let’s stop talking and start moving on the Green Line extension.