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Medford residents fear impact of Route 16 T stop

Posted by Marcia Dick  November 3, 2011 10:04 AM

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In 25 years, urban planners foresee a West Medford revitalized by surging commercial and retail development, boosted property values, and access to easy transportation to downtown Boston -- all clustered around the proposed extension of the Green Line to Route 16.

But as Medford residents turned out last night to hear the pitch by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, some expressed concern that the station would draw unwanted vehicular traffic, jack up property taxes, and push out longtime residents of the African American community in the area.

“There will be gentrification, we know that,” said Gwen Blackburn, who for 48 years has lived on Arlington Street, steps from the proposed station site. She was among a small chorus of doubters who questioned whether the station would irreversibly change the fabric of the neighborhood.

“We have some concerns about what that Route 16 station will do for us,” Blackburn said.

The meeting was the final installment in a series of five listening sessions commissioned by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to gauge residents’ wants and needs as agency officials plan the $1.2 billion project. The discussion will not dictate changes in the look, design, or scope of the station, but was intended to hear residents’ reactions to the plan.

Those comments will become part of recommendations made to the state, which are set for release next month. A two-week public comment period will follow, according to the planning council.

“I think there is more support now than there was at the beginning,” said Kate Fichter, project manager for the extension.

During an extended question and answer session attended by more than 100 Medford residents, some expressed fear that Boston-bound T riders from surrounding towns will treat residential streets near the new terminus as a de-facto commuter parking lot. Others called for the preservation of open space, and some speakers said the project should included greater bicycle and pedestrian access.

During about an hour of questioning, only one resident spoke up in praise of the project, calling it a boon to the entire city.

Some of the features would require extensive rezoning and coordination by Medford officials, but Doug Carr, a resident of Boston Avevue, said he doubted the city could pull it off.

“I see a lot of things here that need to be put on Medford’s plate,” Carr said. “I don’t see the capacity here to do it.”

Matt Byrne can be reached at mbyrne.globe@gmail.com.

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