MBTA Revisits Blue-Line/Red-Line Connector

By John Lynds

Significant development in East Boston, Revere and along the MBTA Blue Line corridor has the MBTA re-examining the stalled Blue-Line/Red-Line Connector.

At an October 30 MBTA board meeting, board chairman Joseph Aiello asked agency staff for an update on what building the connector would entail.

According to Boston Globe, at the meeting Aiello specifically asked for, “an analysis of how development along the Red and Blue lines over the past decade may impact the need for the project, noting growth in Kendall Square and at Logan Airport. He also called for a review of different tunneling methods and how they could impact the project’s price.”

While there is no commitment from Gov. Charlie Baker on funding the long awaited connector, the possibility of Amazon landing at Suffolk Downs, as well as hundreds of new housing units being proposed in Eastie and Revere, has at least sparked renewed interest in the project by the MBTA.

The Blue-Line/Red-Line Connector, a major transportation initiative promised years ago to the East Boston community as part of Big Dig mitigation, has been a significant bone of contention between Eastie’s elected officials and the MBTA. The project would extend the Blue Line approximately 1,500 feet to make a connection with the Charles/MGH Station on the Red Line.

“It is with deep concern that I must note the complete lack of progress into the realization of the Connector project, which was committed as part of the Big Dig mitigation plan in 1990,” said Rep. Adrian Madaro during testimony in front of the MBTA’s board. “This portion of the mitigation package would directly benefit the residents of East Boston, Revere, Winthrop, and surrounding communities, yet after nearly three decades of repeated delay in the face of numerous public overtures, there has still been no progress.

Madaro said instead of focusing on how to get the project done the MBTA has been focusing on “alternatives” to a Blue-Line/Red-Line Connector.

Alternatives for the project are under investigation, and include options with the existing Bowdoin Station eliminated or reconfigured. By “alternatives,” area residents and Madaro 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.

Madaro said that previous gubernatorial administrations’ abandonment of its commitment to the project was not only an economic injustice, but were also likely in violation of Environmental  Justice policies, ignoring and undermining populations served by the Blue and Red Lines, which include some of the lowest-income residents in the Boston area.

“To continuously ignore this long-promised  and much-needed project is tantamount to the highest disservice to those who rely on public transportation, primarily residents of the North Shore, who have repeatedly been denied this most basic and sensible of updates to the transit system,” he said.

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

However, under Gov. Mitt Romney’s administration in early 2000’s,  the state tried to renege on the commitment that 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 Gov. 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 called for 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.

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