Opinion from the Somerville Journal
There is strong support for and interest in the coming Green Line extension throughout Somerville. With service scheduled to start at the end of December 2014, recommendations for station locations, the best route to Union Square and the location of the Green Line maintenance facility are under way as part of the Draft Environmental Impact Review conducted by the Executive Office of Transportation. The DEIR process includes opportunities for the public to participate in making recommendations. Fortunately, Somerville has many residents who are both very interested and knowledgeable about transportation and land use planning.
EOT has demonstrated openness to recommendations from the community regarding station siting and the Union Square rail alignment. Yet, we are very concerned that EOT has been less willing to consider the community’s concerns about siting an 11-acre maintenance facility and storage for 80 cars in Inner Belt next to the Brickbottom Artists Building, a vibrant, active artists’ community of 155 live/work units and 200 full-time residents. The location they are recommending is at the MBTA’s Yard 8 and adjacent land permitted for commercial development.
Two years ago, the âBeyond Lechmereâ feasibility study cited the need for construction of a light maintenance facility and car storage in Somerville. Now, EOT has announced that rather than a light maintenance facility, the MBTA will require 11 acres for a full maintenance facility and car storage where they will do inspections, perform maintenance and repair cars, and maintain and repair track, power and signal systems.
If Somerville was not already the most densely populated city in New England and burdened by substantial untaxed public infrastructure, including seven commuter rail lines and the 30-acre Boston Engine Terminal, this might not be seen as a big deal. But it is a big deal. Yard 8 is in the middle of the Inner Belt and Brickbottom districts, an area the city needs for commercial development to bring in much-needed tax revenue.
The proposed facility would operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, immediately adjacent to the Brickbottom Artists Building, and is close by the Cobble Hill Apartments. This location would subject residents to constant noise, light and vibration. The facility and storage yard would block future pedestrian and road connections between the Brickbottom and Inner Belt districts and from McGrath Highway and Washington Street, which would discourage opportunities for much-needed economic development. Taking this highly developable land for tax-free use will deprive the city and its residents of millions of dollars of potential tax income.
The Somerville Chamber of Commerce, the Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership and Brickbottom residents recommend that EOT aggressively consider three alternatives in Inner Belt:
– Co-location of the Green Line maintenance facility within the 30-acre BET complex; or
– Siting the Green Line maintenance facility alongside the BET facility in the 23-acre Yard 7.
– Using a combination of the above two parcels to accommodate the Green Line maintenance facility.
The Boston Engine Terminal services all trains on the commuter rail lines going through Somerville and those serving communities south and west of Boston. This highly inefficient situation could be remedied with a commuter rail maintenance facility on the south side of the Charles River. Such a facility would reduce maintenance of South Station commuter rail vehicles in Somerville, which could create additional capacity for the Green Line maintenance facility at or adjacent to the BET.
We also recommend that the city of Somerville press immediately for needed interagency collaboration among the EOT, the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Development, the MBTA and the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail Company to come up with a solution that will efficiently serve regional transportation needs without overburdening our city.
Somerville is not opposed to having a maintenance facility for the Green Line, but its size and impact on our community should mirror the extension’s proportion to the full Green Line. The agreement to mitigate the Central Artery and Tunnel project did not require that Somerville absorb any more regional infrastructure.
What is needed is imaginative and resourceful thinking about how the site can beneficially serve regional transportation needs without overburdening Somerville and preventing the much-needed economic benefits that development of Inner Belt can provide the city.
Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership
Stephen V. Mackey
Somerville Chamber of Commerce
Brickbottom Artists Building
Brickbottom Artists Building