Plans for transit projects to offset the Big Dig’s environmental consequences drew criticism Wednesday from elected officials and advocates who faulted the proposals for not addressing the needs of some communities, and for allowing maneuverability around existing commitments. Several environmental and community groups told the Department of Environmental Protection that the state’s plans – which call for extending Green Line service to West Medford and Somerville, fortifying the Fairmount Line commuter rail with additional stations and creating 1,000 parking spaces at commuter rail stations – should continue on schedule, but should be joined by other projects.
The public comment period for the plans the state announced last month, which has already been prolonged from Jan. 3 to Jan. 17, should be pushed back again, some said, to allow for maximum participation.
Proponents of the Green Line build-out urged the state not to hedge on its previous plans to finish the project by 2011; the revised plans would delay that until 2014.
State Sen. Jarrett Barrios ticked off a list of governors back to Michael Dukakis who had assured residents in Medford and Somerville, where environmentalists say highway emissions have harmed the quality of life, that they would enjoy Green Line service.
“We think five’s enough. We’d like to see the commitment made by five governors go forward,” Barrios said, adding that activists in the area were worried the extension could suffer more delays or tweaks to the blueprints. “Pardon us if we’re a little suspicious, but we don’t want to see any changes to the plan.”
State Sen. Patricia Jehlen, D-Somerville, said the state’s willingness to bankroll the Big Dig shouldn’t have come at the cost of public transit investments.
“We way under-spent on public transportation, and now we’re … reaping the results,” Jehlen told the News Service after testifying. “When the Big Dig started to see cost overruns, they didn’t say, ‘Ooh, we should stop it right now.’ They just paid for it. They paid whatever the contractor sent in a bill. This is a bill from the people.”