Guest Op-Ed: In Response to “Guest Op-Ed: Parks Over Pavement”

By Mariellen Dalton

In response to last week’s opinion piece in the East Boston Times-Free Press, penned by Jamie McGonagill, espousing the dire consequences of the proposed Coughlin Bypass Extension, it is imperative to clarify the facts and dispel any misconceptions, misinformation or fear mongering from the Media and Press Relations Director of Extinction Rebellion, the radical climate activists responsible for “mooning” the Massachusetts Legislature in protest of fossil fuels.

The claims made by Ms. McGonagill, who is not a resident of East Boston, while passionate, lack a factual basis and understanding of the local context. As a lifelong resident of this community, I thought it essential to present an accurate depiction of the proposed haul road’s impact and the mountain of support behind its construction!

Ms. McGonagill’s tone would imply that the City of Boston, Mayor Michelle Wu, and her administration have sided with the handful of East Boston residents (and non-residents) who are pushing the false narrative of a park along Chelsea Creek, inserting themselves into a decision regarding a stretch of state-owned land and a MassDOT process in which they have no say. This could be true, seeing as the alternative view for Chelsea Creek, backed by the Haul Road Committee and the 3,000 plus supporters has not received a real hearing amongst administration officials, while the same officials found time to meet with these other groups as early as last March. This is the same administration that suggested traffic and infrastructure improvements in PLAN:East Boston without even conducting a traffic study.

Logan Community Clean Air Coalition suggests that the Haul Road would burden low-income communities with negative environmental and health burdens. But what Ms. McGonagill, her coalition, AIR Inc. and its affiliates have failed to convey to their members and the community is that their solution – putting a park on this small section of Chelsea Creek that is 100 feet wide at its widest portion – would ultimately make traffic worse, make streets even more unsafe and dump more emissions on local East Boston streets. Because without the Haul Road, trucks will continue to use our residential streets to access the airport and idle in Route 1A traffic, even more so now due to the growth in airport related services north of the city line. Further, any decision made for the abandoned railway parcels, will be subject to meticulous planning and rigorous assessment by local climate resiliency experts, whose mission is to make sure no one is adversely impacted by environmental or health burdens. The haul road would also include and increase access to the waterfront via walking and biking paths. Hardly a burden! This is only possible because the public Haul Road creates a commercial interest that will help fund public access to the waterfront with climate resiliency measures, while finding funds from the city or state to pay solely for a park on this stretch of land is just simply unrealistic.

Lastly, AIR Inc. continues to describe the haul road as “airport expansion.” A trigger phrase for some East Bostonians. However, this fear tactic is ineffective on us residents who live near the airport and must deal with truck traffic and disruptions daily. At the end of the day, MassPort is not relying on this small piece of land between Route 1A and Chelsea Creek. If they want to expand terminals or cargo or anything, they will do so just as they have in the past. Nearly every cargo company that once occupied buildings at Logan and was displaced by the commuter runway now resides in Chelsea or points north of the City – yet, the traffic from these businesses remains HERE in East Boston! Doesn’t Eastie deserve these jobs and investment? An investment that can be harnessed to improve our waterfront and neighborhood streets at the same time.

That’s a win for Eastie and all my neighbors! Don’t be swayed by scare tactics; get the facts and support the Haul Road.Mariellen Dalton resides in East Boston and is co-founder of the Committee in Support of the East Boston Haul Road

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