MBTA to Fund Red Line/Blue Line Connector Study

Linking the only two MBTA train lines that have no connection has been something residents in East Boston and surrounding communities have been asking and waiting for since the 1970s. The Red Line/Blue Line Connector has long been a bone of contention between the neighborhood and the state ever since the Commonwealth reneged on its commitment to build the connector as part of Big Dig mitigation.

While advocacy from residents and local elected officials to get the connector built has fallen on deaf ears ever since the project was promised as part of the Big Dig, it seems now the interest of a multibillion company in Boston has lit a fire under the MBTA to get the job done.

MBTA Spokesman Joe Pesaturo announced last week that the T has paid $50,000 to hire engineering from VHB to begin a three-month study on the feasibility of the Red Line/Blue Line Connector.

The T has cited significant development in Eastie and Revere, including the potential move of Seattle-based Amazon’s second North American headquarters (HQ2) to Boston at Suffolk Downs, as reasons to reexamine the stalled connector project. 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 built and proposed in Eastie and Revere has led to renewed interest in the project by 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.

Until now, the T has focused on ‘alternatives’ to the connector project, something that has not sat well with elected officials.

“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,” said Rep. Adrian Madaro. “I’m glad at least there is some talk and some money being spent on refocusing the MBTA’s efforts on getting this project done.”

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 Mass General or to jobs in Cambridge.

However, under Governor Mitt Romney’s administration in early 2,000’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 Governor 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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