Stations bridge gap to downtown
Stops in Mattapan, Dorchester coming
Commuter rail trains rumble through Dorchester’s Four Corners, a choppy patch of the city now in the middle of a turnaround.
But the trains don’t stop there - yet.
As the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority steps up construction on a $135 million state project to build four stations in Mattapan and Dorchester, bus-weary residents in Four Corners are preparing for their first speedy, direct access to downtown.
This side of Dorchester has never had train service, but construction on the Four Corners/Geneva station on the Fairmount Line is expected to wrap up early next year, MBTA officials said. Merchants are already banking on the hope that a new station will bring them more customers and an economic bridge to the rest of the city.
“We have been waiting for this,’’ said Donald Arnold, a tailor who has a small shop on Erie Street nearby. “Everyone is anticipating that once the station opens our stores will all benefit.’’
A casual driver would hardly notice where Erie and Washington streets connect. It’s a dot on a broad Dorchester thoroughfare. But along the block near Columbia Road, a healer reads spiritual cards to paying customers in Spanish. The fruit vendor sells sugar cane and ripe mangoes from a van. And a pest exterminator keeps watch in his store, where soulful romantic music plays on the stereo.
Inside the kitchen at his take-out, Vaughan Fish and Chips, owner Clarence Rowell empties a handful of frozen chicken into a container of seasoned flour. He, like other shop owners, said a train station would attract more people who would help keep his business afloat.
“The commuter rail will be right here,’’ Rowell said, pointing outside to the train tracks. “I’m hoping it will bring me more customers. It will be good not just for me, but for the community.’’
The 9-mile Fairmount Line, which runs from Readville to South Station, is the only commuter rail that solely serves the City of Boston. But it carries the fewest number of passengers and is the shortest commuter rail ride, officials said.
The MBTA said that adding stations is aimed at providing better transportation to low-income people who are overwhelmingly dependent on public transit.
Workers are building stations at Four Corners/Geneva; Talbot Avenue; and Newmarket Station (at South Bay).
A fourth station planned for Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan is being designed. The state has completed major reconstruction at stations in Uphams Corner and on Morton Street.
Passengers along the route can expect to pay $1.70 per ride, while fares on other commuter rail lines can be as high as $8.25.
Advocates who have long pushed for train access in these neighborhoods say residents are beginning to see the potential for growth in the neighborhood, where a mixed-income housing development is also being built.
“It’ll put us on the map,’’ said Marvin Martin, whose Greater Four Corners Action Coalition has been advocating for the rail line for nearly a decade. “You don’t see stuff by just driving by here. Maybe the people here might see something new, too.’’
Shaina Haley, a 26-year-old who has lived in the neighborhood for four years, said that a train will get her to her job in East Boston quicker and that the train brings other benefits, too.
“It’s always so crowded on the bus,’’ she said. “Plus people may want to move here to live because it’s going to be much more convenient to get to downtown by train.’’