– Mayor Curtatone
“Green Line extension gets another boost from state”
State environmental officials announced their support for a Green Line extension through Somerville and into Union Square this week.
The state Department of Environmental Protection announced Monday that it will accept a plan by the Executive Office of Transportation that includes a $450 million Green Line extension through Somerville by 2014.
The Green Line extension and two other transportation projects in the plan are expected to counter some of the air pollution caused by Big Dig traffic.
“A broad range of important Big Dig air-quality mitigation measures have already been successfully implemented,” said Robert Golledge Jr., the DEP commissioner. “We are proposing these transit changes which will ensure equal or greater air quality benefits.”
Although Gov. Willard Mitt Romney’s Executive Office of Transportation signed off on the Green Line extension into Somerville in May, the plan needed approval from the DEP to be included in the state’s Transit System Improvement Regulations. The regulations were created in the early 1990s as part of the state’s efforts to secure federal money for the Big Dig.
Mayor Joe Curtatone said the DEP announcement is “excellent news,” and said the city is so confident in the Green Line extension that it is already working to identify where T stops can be located near Brickbottom, Washington Street as well as Gilman, Magoun, Ball and Union squares.
“All that is left is approval from the [federal Environmental Protection Agency], which we don’t expect to be a problem,” Curtatone said.
Wig Zamore, a leader of grassroots group Somerville Transit Equity Project which fought for the Green Line extension, said the DEP announcement is good news. But Zamore said the feds are allowing the state a three-year extension from 2011 to 2014 to build the Green Line extension. Under the transit improvement regulations outlined in the 1990s, the extension was to be completed by 2011.
But Zamore said the original plan did not include the Green Line branch into Union Square.
“I guess anyone would be willing to give them some leeway if … the project was expanded,” Zamore said.
The DEP-backed plan also makes substitutions for two other transit projects. Instead of building a Green Line extension into Jamaica Plain and building an Red Line/Blue line connector stop in Boston, the state will now expand commuter rail service along the Fairmount Line and add 1,000 parking spaces at commuter rail stops around Boston.
DEP said the revised transit improvements will reduce smog-causing pollutants by “more than twice as much” as the original plan.
Comments on DEP’s proposed changes to the transportation improvement regulations are being accepted until Jan. 3. and can be sent to Christine Kirby, Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Waste Prevention, 1 Winter St., 10th floor, Boston, MA, 02108.