MBTA Project Manager Scott Hamwey was at Monday night’s Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association meeting to brief residents on the proposed plan to bring direct Silver Line service to East Boston.
“We are not looking to change the existing route but add a new route that would connect the Silver Line at Airport Station to the South Boston waterfront,” said Hamwey.
The new proposed route would then head over to Chelsea via the Marty Coughlin Bypass Road.
Hamwey explained that the project is currently not funded as part of the state’s transportation bond bill but the MBTA argues that there are some line items in the bill that can be interpreted as a potential funding source.
In the state’s transportation bill there is a $200 million line item to improve bus services, like extending the Silver Line, in the Commonwealth. However, the price tag of the state-of-the-art environmentally friendly Silver Line buses that run on a combination of electricity and diesel is hefty.
“The one problem we are facing is the cost of the buses,” said Hamwey. “There are currently 32 buses in the fleet and they are very expensive. To make the project work we would try not to disrupt the current fleet and the routes those buses run and add new buses to the Silver Line system to make the new routes in East Boston and Chelsea work.”
Hamwey also said the MBTA is taking into account the capacity constraints that adding a new route might have on the existing fleet and whether or not adding more buses would be necessary in the future. Hamwey added that 4 to 5 of the buses in the current fleet would have to begin undergoing upgrades in the very near future so this would cut down the buses servicing current Silver Line routes and any potential new routes.
While a good chunk of the proposed new bus route and funding would be primarily on the Chelsea side of the Chelsea Creek, some at JPNA wondered if it made sense to add the less expensive Eastie route first.
JPNA member Mary Ellen Welch argued that the infrastructure here in Eastie already exists with the Logan Airport MBTA station and Ted Williams tunnel so why not get that Silver Line route up and running to make the commute easier for thousands of Blue Line riders.
Currently Eastie commuters wanting to take the Silver Line to the Seaport have to board a bus at one of Logan Airport’s five terminals, and endure stops at all terminals before heading through the Ted Williams Tunnel to Southie.
The new route would be part and partial of the current route and give Eastie commuters direct access to the Silver Line at Airport T station on the Blue Line. The Silver Line would then head directly to the Seaport District via the Ted Williams Tunnel.
The next stop would be the World Trade Center so it would be a benefit to Eastie residents in Eagle Hill and residents living further north on the Blue Line because they could transfer to the Silver Line at Airport and head directly to the Seaport.
Hamwey said the MBTA is remaining optimistic that they can get the whole Eastie and Chelsea route up and running without adding new routes in phases.
Hamwey’s appearance at the JPNA meeting is part of a nine-month transportation analysis program designed to identify preferred routes to extend Silver Line service in Eastie and Chelsea.