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Commuter rail stop to be built in Allston-Brighton near proposed New Balance development

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  June 7, 2012 06:00 AM

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Elected leaders representing the Allston-Brighton area announced Wednesday night that the state and New Balance have agreed to build a long-awaited commuter rail station in conjunction with the shoe company’s proposed $500 million development there.

The station along the Framingham/Worcester commuter rail line is expected to cost about $16 million, state Representative Michael J. Moran said during a public meeting at WGBH headquarters in Brighton Wednesday night. Allston-Brighton currently has no commuter rail stops.

As part of the agreement, New Balance will fund all permitting, design, construction and annual maintenance costs, according to the state transportation department. It was not clear whether any public funding would be involved in building the station.

Richard A. Davey, secretary of the state transportation department, said in a statement Thursday that the agreement "benefits transit customers without additional up front or ongoing public costs." He called the public-private partnership "historic."

"MassDOT and New Balance will now proceed with a Memorandum of Agreement that specifies in detail the commitments of each party in designing and building the commuter rail station," the state transportation department said Thursday.

The station would be located near Everett Street and near where New Balance plans to build a new headquarters, sports complex, hotel, and up to three office buildings, as well as retail, restaurant, parking, and green space.

The stop would be called New Brighton Landing and would be built according to state transportation department specifications and with federal, state, and local approval, officials said.

State officials said a timetable for when the station’s construction would begin and end has not yet been determined. But Moran said the plan is for the station to be built in conjunction with New Balance’s proposed development on a nearby 14-acre stretch.

It would be completed “as soon as possible,” he said.

The athletic apparel company has said it hopes to start work on its development as soon as this fall and complete the six-phase, 1.45 million square foot project by 2017.

Moran said the state transportation secretary and James S. Davis, New Balance chairman and former chief executive, recently co-signed a letter of intent committing to build the station.

Moran made the announcement along with State Representative Kevin G. Honan and Boston City Councilor Mark Ciommo, all of whom represent the Allston-Brighton area, during a city-hosted public hearing about New Balance’s development plans. The news was met with applause from more than 50 people at the meeting.

“It’s going to be transformative. I don’t think there will be anything that’s more important that we do as a delegation [of the Allston-Brighton community] than helping to bring this commuter rail stop,” Moran said.

In 2009, the state’s transportation department studied the potential for a new commuter rail station in Allston-Brighton, but officials said, even as recently as a few months ago, that plans for a station were not being pursued and one would not be built in the area for decades.

There were once three commuter rail stops in Allston-Brighton along the Framingham/Worcester line. Those stations closed about five decades ago when the Massachusetts Turnpike was built. The neighborhoods also once had additional rail access on the A Branch of the MBTA's Green Line, which was shut down about three decades ago. Today, the Green Line's B Branch serves parts of Allston and Brighton.

The three elected officials each said Wednesday that committing to build the commuter rail stop now would not have been possible without New Balance and, particularly, the company's chairman.

“I cannot underscore the importance of Jim Davis, the person, not just New Balance, the company, in this,” Moran said.

“This is a public-private partnership of extraordinary proportions,” Honan added.

In statements released Thursday, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, State Senator Sal DiDomenico, State Senator William Brownsberger, Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray and Governor Deval Patrick also commended Davis and New Balance. Patrick said the company's "commitment to Brighton and their extraordinary investment in the future are game-changing developments for Boston and the entire region."

Davis issued a statement responding by thanking those elected leaders, along with former Senator Steve Tolman, in return.

Without their support, he said, "this partnership would not have been possible."

Sal Pinchera, a longtime Allston resident said the development and commuter rail stop will be “great” additions.

“The Pike cut us off years ago, and a commuter rail stop can reconnect us, but only if we can get to it easily,” he said.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at mjrochele@gmail.com.
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