“Zamore: Green Line extension meeting may seal the deal”
by Wig Zamore
There will be another important public hearing on the Green Line extension through Somerville on Monday, Feb. 28, at 6:30 p.m. at the Somerville High School Auditorium, 81 Highland Ave. It will be a strain to turn out a large crowd of residents for the third time in four months. But we must do so.
The large turnouts of Somerville citizens on Oct. 27, the night the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series, and the afternoon of Dec.14 at the State House have twice stunned state officials. The unanimous message from our own elected officials and from local advocacy groups has been both hard-hitting and refreshing. But the real strength of these meetings has been the voice of ordinary citizens coming together in extraordinary numbers to demand our fair share of clean and long-overdue rail-based transit. A similar showing of community commitment on Feb. 28 may be just the spark required to get the Green Line extension back on the fast track.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and Executive Office of Transportation have agreed to hold the additional Somerville meeting in order to give more the opportunity to speak about the transit commitments that were made a legally binding part of the Big Dig and our state’s Clean Air Act in 1990. The Green Line extension is the largest of the transit commitments. It is required to be delivered by the end of 2011, but state action has been lacking and funding nearly non-existent. Substitute projects are allowed only if the Green Line cannot be extended and another project would make our air cleaner. But it is Somerville’s turn. The state needs to honor its commitment without further delay.
While many of the reasons a Green Line extension is necessary and desirable have been stated before, it remains crucial that those points continue to be expressed by our most important spokespersons – you. I-93 was extended through Somerville a generation ago even though our air pollution already far exceeded federal and state guidelines. The environmental studies done for the I-93 extension showed lead levels, carbon monoxide, soot and noise would all grow at the expense of Somerville’s health and quality of life. We continue to be hurt by 300,000 vehicles per day on I-93, routes 28 and 38. And we are damaged further by 198 diesel commuter trains which pass through each weekday, serving 60 other Massachusetts communities without bothering to stop here. We have unsafe levels of ozone, which aggravates and causes asthma. We are attacked by unsafe levels of particulate matter – fine soot – which causes excess lung cancer and heart attack deaths. The growth of our children and the happy longevity of our seniors are both put at risk unfairly.
Cities can be among the healthiest places on earth. Thankfully the Clean Air Act has reduced lead concentrations to much safer levels here and across the nation. Extending clean rail transit to Somerville will help more. It will allow us, and some of those passing through, to get out of our cars. It will support growth of economic opportunity and mixed-income housing. It will allow convenient travel options for all and reduce the necessity of car ownership for many, including our poorest citizens. The Green Line extension will bring many pedestrian improvements along as well. These “enhancements” are typically 10 percent of the total investment in transit projects, and worth every penny. Good transit encourages great streets and sidewalks. Non-polluting transportation and an environment which encourages us all to walk or bike whenever possible is a major step in the right direction. Please join in and add your voice to the chorus on Monday, Feb. 28.
Wig Zamore is a Somerville citizen and member of STEP and MVTF.