Monday, March 07, 2011

Urban Ring Citizens’ Advisory Committee Meeting, March 3, 2011, part 1.

1. Introduction.

I passed a short notice on this meeting on facebook, passed to me by Archie, who could not make it.

The meeting was in the Boston Redevelopment Authority board room on the ninth floor of Boston City Hall, a striking change from the conference rooms on the main floor of the State Transportation Building on the far side of Boston Common from Boston City Hall.

Marilyn attended. The following are the first segments of her notes:

UR2 refers to Urban Ring “Phase 2,” the silly buses rather than the full scale Orange Line subway needed in the core part of the Boston region to connect the Orange Line north, Green Line north, Red Line, commuter rail west, Green Line west and Orange Line south, with a key stop at the Longwood Medical Area.

2. Marilyn’s report.

I was able to attend and took lots of notes but as you may know the acoustics are not good in that room. Please take this report with that in mind.

Very few people attended. The Chair remarked that the change of time and venue may have cut down on attendance. He started the meeting around 20 past 3.

I have an extra copy of the DOT UR Planning Progress Report dated February 28,2011. It indicates deadlines and tasks for UR2 advocates.

UR2 has not been included in the Regional Transportation Plan, hence is not eligible for federal transportation funds. There will be a Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) vote on a new RTP in June, 2011.

The MPO draft Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) is available for public review at The workshops for it were held in Feb. The Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) is the implementing arm of the LRTP and is financially constrained. That is, funding needs to be identified for a project to make it to the TIP.

Upcoming work in the Progress Report matrix is for Central Transportation Planning Staff and Transportation Planning and Programming Committee (TPPC) to develop a universe of projects for radial and circumferential corridors by the winter of 2011; for TPPC to vote on [LRTP?] recommended projects in May; public comment on that to end ca. 30 June; MPO final vote to be in August 2011.

Notable for us are the Northern Tier entries for the CSX ROW acquisition that as we know includes the Grand Junction between Beacon Park Terminal in Allston and Chelsea.

The first closing to include that was last June. DOT has begun a "study to evaluate transit service opportunities on right of way" that will "continue through Spring and Summer2011"; and it "has conducted preliminary outreach targeted at key stakeholders in Cambridge and Somerville" that will continue through the end of the study.

[I was alarmed to learn after the meeting from Wig Zamore that light rail trolleys can run on the same gauge tracks as heavy rail, i.e., both commuter and Orange Line trains. (If I ever knew that I dismissed it because I believe federal safety regulations prohibit the use of Green or even Orange line cars on the same tracks as truly heavy, i.e., commuter rail. But of course if freight on the Grand Junction goes away, so would that problem.)

[BU rep responded to Zamore that Harvard wants DMUs, not Green Line, on the Grand Junction. It occurred to me later that Green Line would need electrification along the route, and as we know electro-magnetic emissions and presumably moving metal from any of the above would affect MIT's instruments (and LMA's in the Southern Tier).

CTPS pointed out that advocates may work to get UR2 included in the TIP as an Illustrative, i.e., unfinanced, Project. The BU rep kept asking what the financial plan for it is, and kept getting the answer that there isn't any. He asked where such a plan would come from; answer is from MA DOT for the whole thing, but for individual segments? At this point Chair Tom Malley said they needed a price tag for each.

In the past segments could be entered into the TIP if they stood alone and were financed as such.

Richard Garver said individual segments may or may not trip thresholds for listing in the TIP (increase capacity or >$10M). The important thing is not to lose capacity, to take a strategic approach. If in the past ones that could stand alone got built, that may be too ambitious in hard times.

There was some discussion of a different way to rank TIP projects so UR2 could make it back into the list: qualitative, sustainability, emissions reductions? They discussed needs assessment in each corridor.

As for UR2 segments, CTPS said that Massport will design,construct, and maintain a grade-separated haul road between Logan Airport and the Chelsea Street Bridge. UR2's LPA would use this roadway. EOEA Secretary issued a MEPA Certificate for the haul road 1 December 2011 requiring no EIR. Construction is to start this spring and go 14-18 months.

Whether this is the same haul road that CTPS is studying a Silver Line extension I don't know without further checking, but it looks like it: "CTPS is conducting a study [begun in May 2010] to evaluate transit improvements in the Logan Airport/Chelsea area that would make use of the proposed East Boston Haul Road." [Silver Line, UR2, which is which in this case and does it matter? This is like the Mass Pike U-turn and the Cambridgeport Roads Project, both elements of UR2 done outside any comprehensive review.]

The draft report on the Silver Line extension shows "various options would increase system-wide linked trips between 240 and 620 per day in 2010." I don't know how that compares to data for this segment in the various phases of UR in the MIS. The Silver Line report is to have been finished last month.

Chelsea Street Bridge is underway, to be finished January 2012. Boston Transportation Department is "overseeing the redesign of Sullivan Square"; "[w]orking through the MPO TIP process to identify funding for 25% design."

At Assembly Square the project is in final design. MBTA Board has an MOA with Federal Realty, the developer, to work with the same, MA, and the FTA to get funding. MBTA wants to put out an RFP for construction this year. Opening would be spring 2015. [This week the Cambridge Chronicle reported agreement to move the Lechmere station east of the highway and that PanAm railway will help pay for it.]

Southern Tier:

Charles River crossing/Cwlth Ave. bridge/Turnpike viaduct: "Major infrastructure projects in the . . . basin will create construction-related congestion which would negatively impact transit service."
Accelerated Bridge Program has created a . . . Basin Traffic Management Group which meets bi-weekly. . . . focused on maintaining traffic flow . . . and includes [cities and the MBTA].
MBTA has "explored" increased Green Line and No. 47 bus service but funding not available for that. "ABP/CTPS analysis of these measures showed modest results."
MBTA doesn't see re-routing BU Bridge bus routes would improve service.

Mountfort Street: Boston and MA DOT are working to reconfigure "Mountfort St., Carlton St, Comm. Ave., BU Bridge intersection" prompted by "Comm Ave reconstruction over the MassPike and Comm Ave Phase 2 Streetscape Plan."

"Stakeholder conversations beginning on conceptual designs. Working cooperatively with MassDOT to preserve the UR ROW." "Full public review will follow review by key stakeholders."

Parcel 7/Yawkey: design for Parcel 7 ongoing, including reconfiguration of local roads and improvement of Yawkey station, for which design/build groundbreaking was in Nov. 2010. "Project to include full length platforms that are fully accessible with elevators/access to Brookline Ave and Beacon Street." Work for UR2 advocates is "preservation of surface routing alignments for future Urban Ring and related bus service." Also, "Rosenthal is permitting the first phase of overbuild (building deck and office). Goal is to start construction Spring 2011."

LMA tunnel. DOT is standing by the tunnel technical memo that was part of the RDEIR despite "concerns" about a tunnel here. MASCO is conducting "[a]dditional evaluation of alternative tunnel routing" and Boston is also involved but apparently not paying.
Ruggles: MBTA's 2011-2015 Capital Improvement Plan included up to $2.5M for completed assessment of the additional Ruggles platform and that CIP has been approved. The draft 2012-2016 CIP includes $2.5M for same. Preliminary engineering to begin this spring.

Melnea Cass: Boston Trans. Dept. designing bus priority lanes and a segment of the South Bay Harbor Tunnel; selecting a contractor. The design "calls for a busway element as outlined" in UR2 RDEIR. Value of RFP to bring project to 100% design is $600K. $6M federal earmark for construction.

I'll stop for now. Section on Grand Junction discussion to follow.