As printed in the Somerville Journal…
In short, we are back on track. There will be an important public meeting next Monday, Oct. 16, at 6 p.m. in the Somerville High School auditorium at 93 Highland Ave.
At this meeting, the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act office will collect comments to be used in helping them determine what should be in the Single Environmental Impact Report for the Green Line extensions that will be prepared over the next two years. The SEIR will become the full and official description of this long-awaited transit project. Simply put, Monday’s MEPA “Scoping Session” will determine what is studied and then presented in the Single EIR for the project and what is not.
For months, people have been asking what is happening with the planned extensions of the Green Line to Union Square and along the Lowell line through Somerville to Medford. The good news is that the project is now moving to its next phase. We want to work closely with the Executive Office of Transportation, the MBTA and the MEPA office to make the Green Line extensions a reality as soon as feasible. We also need to assure that the extensions will serve the community well for generations to come.
We should first express thanks to EOT and the MBTA that the project is again moving forward. More substantively, all relevant project issues should be raised at the scoping session and in written comments (directions below at end) in order to ensure that they are considered by MEPA in the environmental review. It is important to make sure that critical concerns that were raised by Somerville residents, elected officials and members of the citizen advisory committee during the Beyond Lechmere Study (completed in August 2005) are addressed thoroughly in the environmental review.
For example, the Expanded Environmental Notification Form that was submitted by EOT assumes that the alignment of the Union Square extension will be along the Fitchburg line. However, it was agreed at the termination of the Beyond Lechmere feasibility study that alternate routes would be considered that would bring the Green Line directly into Union Square. Also, diagrams in the EENF reveal a large gap between the Lechmere, Washington Street and Union Square stations because there is no station near Brickbottom or Twin Cities. Yet such a station would increase access to these commercial establishments and the neighborhoods just beyond.
The Fitchburg line alignment will require “extensive reconfiguration of the existing commuter rail and freight rail tracks;” reconstruction of three bridges along the right of way; and property takings from McGrath Highway to Prospect Street. The EENF does not address the need for coordination with the redesign and reconstruction of McGrath and O’Brien Highway which must happen soon because of failing columns.
The SEIR must include full investigation of the land use and urban design context of the Green Line extensions. At its best, regional transportation fully serves people and land uses, current and future. At its worst, transportation planning is a narrow consideration of infrastructure efficiency without careful regard for those it serves.
It is also critically important that the environmental review carefully consider the environmental justice issues identified in the Beyond Lechmere study. East Cambridge and eastern Somerville are designated environmental justice areas. By federal regulation, EOT is, therefore, required to seek full participation of the affected communities in the Lechmere Station relocation decisions and Green Line extension planning and implementation. To this end, we strongly urge appointment of a citizen advisory committee to work with EOT and MEPA to ensure that this happens during the corridor planning and environmental permitting process over the next two years.
STEP will make additional information available on the STEP Web site and will also e-mail this information to interested groups and individuals. The full EENF has been posted on the STEP Web site at Somervillestep.org.
If you cannot participate next Monday, written comments will be accepted until Nov. 9. They should be sent to Secretary Robert W. Golledge Jr., EOEA, Attention MEPA Analyst Deidre Buckley, Regarding EOEA Project No. 13886, 100 Cambridge St., Suite 900, Boston MA 02114. Ms. Buckley can be reached at 617-626-1044. Written comments may also be e-mailed to email@example.com.
Ellin Reisner is a member of STEP, Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership.