Urban Ring: WHO’S BEING RAILROADED?
Archie Mazmanian reports:
Before addressing this question, allow me to report on yesterday’s (7/28/09) Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting on Phase 2 of the Urban Ring. The major item of interest since the Executive Office of Transportation (EOT) filed its Notice of Project Change (NPC) on June 30, 2009, concerns the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization’’s (MPO) upcoming Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) that it is anticipated will not provide for the Urban Ring Phase 2 (or Phase 3 of the Silver Line) because of lack of non-federal funding. This means there will be no New Starts submittal this year for Phase 2’s Northern Tier (that may be otherwise ready to go). Ned Codd of EOT is aiming for a New Starts submission in 2011. This is as a result of the Federal Transit Agency’s (FTA) requirement that New Starts submittals seeking federal funds must identity the non-federal funding portion.
[Ed: The “northern tier” is the Urban Ring Phase 2 bus/highways proposal north of Cambridge and Boston harbor, with service into Cambridge as far as Kendall Square. The “southern tier” is the balance of the Phase 2 bus proposal.]
With respect to the Southern Tier described in the NPC, it continues to face major infrastructure impediments with the Charles River crossing, the LMA/Fenway/Academies area tunnel and the Allston (read: Harvard) connection. While the Northern Tier costs are estimated at $486 million (in 2009 dollars), costs for the Southern Tier are estimated at $2,220 million (in 2009 dollars) Based upon public transit projects with higher priorities than Phase 2 of the Urban Ring (as well as Phase 3 of the Silver Line), it appears quite clear that the LMA/Fenway/Academies area tunnel estimated to cost $1,850 million (in 2009 dollars) will be changed to surface routes through that area.
The Charles River crossing remains, in my view, the most critical aspect of the Southern Tier since it serves as the keystone for connections to the LMA/Fenway/Academies area and Allston (read: Harvard). The costs for the Charles River crossing are estimated at $130 million and at $82 million for the Allston connection (again in 2009 dollars). No estimated costs were provided for the surface routes through the LMA/Fenway/Academies area since a great deal has to be worked out with stakeholders in that area.
The Commonwealth has a deal with CSX, the details of which have yet to be worked out, to acquire the Grand Junction Rail Line (GJRL) in Cambridge to and under the BU Bridge and the rail lines on the Boston side of the River. CSX would continue freight operations on that line such that the two buslanes to be installed for Phase 2’s 60-foot articulated BRT buses along the GJRL would not interfere with CSX’s freight operations.
In addition to CSX, the Charles River crossing must come to terms with BU to accommodate a tunnel under the Boston side of the BU Bridge from the west to the east surfacing on BU land that includes its Academy that would be demolished and relocated elsewhere. Ned Codd referenced BU’s Master Plan. I pointed out that I have long served as a member of the City of Boston’s BU Master Plan Task Force (as a representative of a Brookline residential neighborhood) and that BU has not as yet presented a proposal to that Task Force regarding this tunnel or the establishment of a “beach” from Commonwealth Avenue at the Bridge down to the Charles River over Storrow Drive that might include the closing of University Road which provides convenient access to and from Storrow Drive east for auto commuters.
As for the LMA/Fenway/Academies area, stakeholders there can speak effectively for themselves about “suitable” surface routes through that area for Phase 2’s 60-foot articulated BRT buses. In fact, more than one such stakeholder spoke up at yesterday’s CAC meeting.
So who’’s being railroaded and by whom? Think about the major players involved: EOT, BU, Harvard and CSX. Who’’s got leverage? Surely not the residential communities impacted by the Charles River crossing, the Allston connection and the LMA/Fenway/Academies area. Being railroaded in this matter is not good public transit policy.
Near the close of yesterday’s meeting, I noted that Las Vegas provides betting odds for just about anything and I wondered what odds it might set for Phase 2 - probably longer than MA Lotteries.
Reminder: Public comments on the NPC are due by August 7, 2009. Go to EOT’’s website: www.theurbanring.com for details.