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Medford, Somerville officials urge Route 16 stop for Green Line

Posted by Travis Andersen  January 8, 2010 09:00 AM

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aerial_mystic.jpg

Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership.


An aerial view of the area near Route 16 the state is considering for a T stop.

As the public comment period on a Green Line Extension report draws to a close, officials in Medford and Somerville say the state must address several issues before breaking ground on the project, including potential land takings, the opening date for the Route 16 stop, and the location of a maintenance facility.

The state Department of Transportation (DOT) released a draft environmental impact report on the extension in November.

A spokesperson for the state Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs - which must sign off on the report before the project can move forward - said the agency has received about 225 comments so far. The comment period ends today at 5 p.m.

Ian Bowles, the state environmental secretary, will review the comments and the report before deciding on Jan. 15 to either let the project move forward or request a second draft report, his spokesperson Lisa Capone said.

Stations are slated to open in 2014 at Ball Square and College Avenue in Medford, and in the Brickbottom/Innerbelt area, Gilman Square, Lowell Street, and Union Square in Somerville.

A seventh station at Route 16 on the Medford-Somerville line is scheduled to open in 2016, delayed because of funding issues. Several lawmakers told Bowles in their comments that the station should open in 2014 instead.

"The entire project is premised on idea of reducing pollution and getting cars off of the road," said Democratic state Representative Carl Sciortino, who represents Medford and Somerville and serves as vice chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation. "The Route 16 stop provides us with the best opportunity to add new riders [to the subway]."

While Sciortino was putting the finishing touches on his letter on Thursday, state Senator Patricia Jehlen, also a Democrat representing both cities, said in her letter dated Dec. 10 that the state must reaffirm its commitment to building the Route 16 stop.

"I...would like to see a commitment to extending the Green Line to Rte. 16 put into writing," Jehlen wrote. "[Stopping] at College Ave does not meet the requirements of providing service to the 'Medford Hillside' neighborhood. Therefore, a firm commitment to complete the extension to Rte 16 is imperative."

It's also imperative that the state limit land takings to build the stop, Medford Mayor Michael McGlynn wrote in his letter dated Jan. 6.

The draft report includes a plan for Route 16 - which state officials have repeatedly called a "worst-case scenario" - that could require the leveling of an office complex in Medford that employs more than 200 workers and brings in roughly $160,000 in tax revenue each year.

McGlynn wrote that he could only back the stop if the state released a plan to limit land takings in the area, and minimize noise and air pollution, among other concerns.

"[State transit officials] have stated that such a plan exists but have not shown it," McGlynn wrote.

They did show an early preference for putting a maintenance facility in the Yard 8 section of Somerville - located near the Brickbottom area - and lawmakers representing the All-America City are crying foul in their letters.

"I would argue that the Yard 8 proposal should simply be thrown out with no further time wasted talking about it," said state Representative Denise Provost, a Somerville Democrat who was finishing her letter on Thursday afternoon.

Activists say putting the shop in Yard 8 would destroy local businesses, limit opportunities for new development, and introduce noise and light pollution to the neighborhood, among other pitfalls.

That's why Provost favors an option known as Mirror Scheme H, which would which would place the facility near the Boston Engine Terminal on the Cambridge-Somerville line.

She opposes a third location known as Option L, which would put the shop between the terminal and Yard 8.

"We have very sketchy information about [Option] L," she said. "But one thing that is certain is that it would eliminate two very large [property] tax parcels in Somerville, which the city can ill afford."

That thinking puts her at odds with state Representative Timothy Toomey, a Democrat representing Somerville who backs Option L.

He wrote in his letter dated Jan. 7 that the Mirror H proposal would "shift the potential noise pollution, detrimental effects on economic development and growth, and other harmful byproducts of the facility" to Cambridge, which he also represents.

But, Toomey wrote, Option L would protect the business and environmental interests of the Brickbottom community without harming Cambridge.

"While I still have reservations about Somerville bearing the burden of another MBTA industrial use, Option L should receive serious consideration as the maintenance facility site," he wrote.

Meanwhile, Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone is on record supporting Mirror H, and city spokesperson Tom Champion told the Globe in November that Curtatone and other officials have pushed for that option "behind the scenes."

City spokesperson Jaclyn Rossetti said in an e-mail that Curtatone would send his letter by the end of the week.

The most recent cost estimate for the entire project runs to about $932 million, or $804.8 million in 2008 dollars, a DOT spokesperson said, adding that the state expects to fund up to 60 percent of the project with federal money.


Got a last-minute thought on the report? Residents can submit comments to Holly Johnson of the state environmental policy office at holly.s.johnson@state.ma.us, and to Kate Fichter of the state Department of Transportation at katherine.fichter@eot.state.ma.us.

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