Last week MBTA officials announced that the project to connect Red and Blue lines, thus ending the only two train lines that currently do not intersect might be a lot cheaper than once thought.
In 2010 the MBTA released a study on the viability of connecting the Red Line to the Blue Line at the Charles Street/MGH stop. This would make commuting for East Boston residents heading to doctors appointments at Mass. General or jobs in Cambridge a whole lot easier.
The Red-Blue Line Connector project was a commitment outlined through the Big Dig Memorandum of Understanding in 1990, but nearly 30 years later this commitment remains unfulfilled. For decades the state pointed to the cost of constructing a 1,5000 ft. tunnel under Cambridge Street from Bowdoin to the Charles Street/MGH stop as a way to wiggle out of the commitment.
The 2010 study was based on using a very expensive boring machine to get the job done. Using that method, as well as taking into account design and cost overruns, the project ballooned to anywhere between $413 to $748 million.
However, last week the MBTA admitted that if the state used a ‘cut and cover’ construction method where workers tear up Cambridge Street and then lay in the tunnel the cost of the project could shrink to between $200 and $250 million. While this method would be faster than boring it would cause more traffic disruptions on Cambridge Street. However, the work could be kept all underground at a cost of $350 million, a number that is still well below the 2010 reports.
East Boston State Rep. Adrian Madaro, who recently testified at the state’s Fiscal Management and Control Board to voice his disappointment the Red-Blue Line Connector wasn’t included in the MBTA Focus 40 planning initiative, said he was encouraged by the new estimates.
“After years of delays, now is the time to make the Red Line-Blue Line connector a reality,” said Madaro. “With this new study revealing the cost of construction to be half of the previous estimate, we must invest in this critical piece of infrastructure to connect East Boston and the North Shore to important economic corridors along the Red Line. As costs go down, the viability of this project becomes more reasonable and it must be pursued.”
The Red-Blue Line Connector was meant to mitigate increased automobile use and reduce vehicular congestion on the streets of Eastie. It would also be a valuable economic link between the North Shore and economically important areas. The lack of a direct rail connection has long kept Eastie residents from job rich areas in Kendall and the Seaport.
The Red-Blue Connector would also decrease the congestion found at Park Street and Government Center stations caused by a time-consuming transfer which acts as a hassle and deterrent to commuters and travelers alike.
As part of the MBTA’s Focus 40 planning initiative that outlines the MBTA’s goals for the next 40 years the Red-Blue Connector was omitted and a plan to create a pedestrian connector was offered as an alternative.
“While the proposed pedestrian connector from State Street is not a bad idea, it does not go far enough, and it is not an equitable solution that will adequately serve populations along the Red- and Blue-Line corridors,” said Madaro. “The MBTA should not be focused on installing the pedestrian connector as a stopgap measure while continuously delaying a tangible commitment to planning and executing construction of the long-awaited rail connection.”