Red/Blue Line Connector Still Up for Consideration

A Blue Line train heads out of Maverick Station to Downtown Boston. The state is hearing testimony on whether to fund the Red Line/.Blue Line connector project that was promised to East Bostonians as part of Big Dig mitigation.

Rumors have been floating around that the Mass Executive Office of Transportation (EOT) is looking to scrap the Red Line/Blue Line Connector, a major transportation initiative that was the subject of a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) in 2010.

Last Wednesday the EOT held a public hearing on the matter and will accept written testimony until September 23.

At the hearing, John Vitagliano, former Boston Transportation Secretary and Massport Board member who worked on Big Dig mitigation, urged the EOT not to renege on the state’s commitment to get the project done.

Vitagliano also submitted letters from Senator Anthony Petruccelli, Representative Carlo Basile and Speaker of the House Bob DeLeo.

In a joint letter, the three elected officials wrote it would be a great ‘travesty if the connector were eliminated from the state’s transit improvement commitment’.

The tone of the meeting had some people in Eastie concerned that the state may again try to renege on its commitment to a connector.

According to sources, the EOT, instead of focusing on how to get the project done, has been focusing on ‘alternatives’ to a Red Line/Blue Line Connector.

The project would extend the Blue Line approximately 1,500 feet to make a connection with the Charles/MGH Station on the Red Line.

However, alternatives for the project are under investigation and include options with the existing Bowdoin Station eliminated or reconfigured.

By ‘alternatives’ Eastie residents are hoping it doesn’t mean scratching the entire project due to its expense and trying to find a cheaper way, perhaps through shuttle bus lines, to connect the Blue and Red Lines.

The Red Line/Blue Line Connector was a crucial MBTA project promised to Eastie that would make the commute easier for those who travel to jobs in Cambridge or doctors appointments at Mass General.

The state has set aside $29 million to design the subway tunnel and recently the EOT held another meeting of a working group for the connector. Last year the EOT officially kicked off the public involvement process that included several public meetings as the project advanced.

The meetings in Boston discussed how the Red Line/Blue Line Connector would link the only two lines that do not intersect in the MBTA’s rapid transit system. The Blue Line runs from Bowdoin Station in downtown Boston to Wonderland Station in Revere, a distance of approximately seven miles.

The Red Line/Blue Line Connector was a key piece of Big Dig mitigation that will make life a lot easier for Eastie residents commuting to doctor’s appointments at Mass General or to jobs in Cambridge.

However, under the Romney administration the state tried to renege on the commitment the state made to Eastie for its support of the Big Dig. The commitment to extend the Blue Line to the Charles/MGH stop on the Red Line was all but abandoned by former Governor Mitt Romney until the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) sued the state.

In March 2005, CLF sued the Commonwealth saying that the state had fallen substantially behind on a number of the transit projects promised to communities to offset the increased traffic and pollution from the Big Dig.

The settlement obligates the Commonwealth to prepare a final design of the Red-Blue connector–linking the Blue Line at Government Center with the Red Line’s Charles/MGH station.

In 2006 while Romney was still governor, his administration had a change of heart and signed an agreement to move forward on long-standing projects like the Red-Blue Connector. The administration also provided interim deadlines for existing projects and bolstered the public participation and oversight process agreement.

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