Rental Car Project is Moving Forward

The Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association voted in June to send a letter to state and federal officials urging them to force Massport to test the ultra-fine particulate matter that may spew from the proposed five-level, 2.8 million square foot, 9,000 parking space garage that will serve as Logan Airport’s Consolidated Rental Car Facility or CONRAC before construction starts this month.

Apparently the appeals of the community against the construction of the CONRAC without further environmental studies have seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Massport this week announced that major construction on the CONRAC is expected to begin on October 17. When the work is finished, in about two years, Massport said the $300 million garage, customer service center and support facilities will enhance customer service, ease airport curb and roadway congestion, reduce rental car traffic on area roads and replace more than 90 older buses with clean, alternative fuel ones. As a result, Massport argues that those airport-related emissions are expected to decrease by more than 35 percent.

Massport’s Lowell Richards has repeatedly said that Massport has complied with every state and federal regulations concerning environmental impacts for the garage. Richards said these regulations do not require the Port Authority to test ultra-fine particulate matter.

JPNA members in the past have accused Massport of doing the bare minimum and that the size and scope of the project and its relation to a residential neighborhood should warrant further health studies.

“We have repeatedly asked for a study on the ultra fine particulate matter and each time Massport has refused,” said JPNA Vice Chair Mary Ellen Welch.

Welch, a longtime Massport opponent, has long argued that the proposed garage is too big and will pose too much of an environmental impact on the neighborhood.

Ultra fine particulate matter (PM) from car exhaust has been shown to cause a wide array of adverse health impacts.

The large number of deaths and other health problems associated with particulate pollution was first demonstrated in the early 1970s and has been reproduced many times since. PM pollution is estimated to cause 22,000-52,000 deaths per year in the United States and 200,000 deaths per year in Europe.

The effects of inhaling particulate matter that have been widely studied in humans and animals now include asthma, lung cancer, cardiovascular issues, birth defects, and premature death. The size of the particle is a main determinant of where in the respiratory tract the particle will come to rest when inhaled. Because of their small size, particles on the order of 10 micrometers or less (PM10) can penetrate the deepest part of the lungs such as the bronchioles or alveoli. Larger particles are generally filtered in the nose and throat via cilia and mucus, but particulate matter smaller than about 10 micrometers, PM10, can settle in the bronchi and lungs and cause health problems.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that inhaling PM2.5 leads to high plaque deposits in the arteries causing cardiovascular problems.  Researchers suggest that even short-term exposure at elevated concentrations could significantly contribute to heart disease and concluded that traffic exhaust is the single most serious preventable cause of heart attack in the general public and is the cause of 7.4 percent of all heart attacks in the world.

“The issue for many is the garage’s size and proximity to the neighborhood,” said Welch. “Also, there has been no talk about how Massport will measure the ultra-fine particular matter that will be spewed from the 9,000 cars that will parked there when they start up. All that will be blown into the neighborhood.”

In past meetings with JPNA, the group requested that the Port Authority show how it has exhausted studies that would either place the garage elsewhere on the airport further away from a residential area or break it up in several smaller garages.

In the past Senator Anthony Petruccelli agreed with JPNA and wondered if Massport has exhausted studying other location on the airport that JPNA members have suggested.

Petruccelli has been on the record as opposed to this project based on it size, scope and proximity to the neighborhood.

Some have long suggested that the consolidated rental car facility be spread around the South West Service Area (SWSA) and adjacent Massport owned properties on Harborside Drive.

Former Massport board member and Secretary of Transportation under Governor Michael Dukakis, Fred Salvucci, during the public comment period on the garage suggested a different location for the consolidated rental car facility closer to existing public transportation sites.

“There may also be better locations within Logan for whatever car rental support services make sense to remain at Logan,” said Salvucci. “For example, if the car rental area were located adjacent to the airport station of the Blue Line in the old Robie property, it should be possible to integrate the shuttle bus services into the Airport Station. The Scope should therefore require the analysis of alternative sites and sizes of rental car facilities at Logan.”

Salvucci added that the site of the proposed garage in the SWSA is an area that was to become a friendly edge between the Jeffries Point and the airport where airport-related businesses such as office and conference centers along a beautifully landscaped Jeffries Point Cove would serve as a commercially useful buffer between the community and noisy and harsh airfield uses.

“By the thoughtful location of the pedestrian-friendly and aesthetically attractive Logan uses, a friendly and mutually beneficial interface was initiated,” said Salvucci. “The only remnant of that concept in the current Massport proposal is a too-narrow landscaped area, blighted by a service road and blank walls. Along the southern Maverick Street edge, a more generous and interactive passive park area should be provided to link to the Harbor Walk, unencumbered by service roads. “

Salvucci in the past as a Massport board member and transportation secretary envisioned a high-quality park buffer along Maverick and other part of Jeffries Point.

“This was committed to the East Boston community in the process of expanding the Logan terminal complex, and the current Massport proposal falls far short of what was committed,” said Salvucci. “In particular, at the edge of the Jeffries Point cove, the large car rental service area proposed by Massport represents a major missed opportunity.”

However, Massport claims the garage is a continuation of the Port Authority’s ongoing commitment to create customer efficient facilities at Logan Airport in an environmentally responsible manner while reducing impacts to Eastie.

“The new facility will reduce the number of shuttle buses driving on airport roadways from nearly 100 at peak times to 28 at peak times, which in turn will decrease the impact of our ground transportation operations on nearby neighborhoods,” said Ed Freni, Director of Aviation for Massport. “The garage will allow rental car companies to store cars on airport rather than in off-site lots, and that will reduce traffic on East Boston streets.”

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