While people were happy to see information available and the chance for public comment, most said the long-awaited Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment presented is inadequate and will not serve as a complete environmental plan for the $1 billion extension project.
Hundreds of people crowded the Somerville High School auditorium Wednesday night to be heard at the Green Line extension community meeting by Massachusetts Department of Transportation and Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act.
While people were happy to see the information available and the chance for public comment, most said the long-awaited Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment presented is inadequate and will not serve as a complete environmental plan for the $1 billion extension project.
“This DEIR is incomplete and a final environmental report should be completed,” said Lauren DiLorenzo, director of community development in the City of Medford. “A lot of information has been prepared and a lot of information is missing.”
This long-envisioned transit project will extend existing service from relocated Lechmere Station through Cambridge, Somerville and Medford, with an extension of the main line to Medford Hillside and an adjunct line to Union Square. The project originally arose in the 1990s when the state agreed to a Green Line extension to mitigate the pollution increase caused by the Big Dig.
Several key issues remain in contention: finding an appropriate location for the maintenance facility, design and construction including the Community Path and the Route 26 terminus and noise, pollution and quality of life issues.
Karen Rose, Medford's director of public health said this should be a five-star project to mitigate current air quality problems and improve quality of life, not make it worse.
Monica Lambhoy from Somerville’s Office Of Strategic Planning and Community Development pointed out that Somerville had historically been under-served by transit but has borne the brunt of transit development cutting through it. She also noted that the city’s current transit population equals Brookline’s.
Brickbottom residents came out in droves to ask why Yard 8 is still being considered for the maintenance facility when the city and its residents have already explained that it would be an unfit, given its proximity to the artists' building and its 24-hour operation schedule.
“We will be in misery from the moment the bulldozers come,” said George Gabin, 78. Brickbottom Association president for the past 23 years, Gabin threatened to be the first to lie down in front of the bulldozers if the state does not find a better alternative.
The DEIR was filed with the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office on Oct. 15 of this year and is available online and in public libraries. It represents a critical milestone in the public evaluation process and allows for preliminary project engineering to begin. Residents and city representatives from Cambridge, Medford and Somerville were happy to see the document commits to building a Route 16 terminus, full design of the Community Path and continued analysis of alternate locations for the much-maligned maintenance and storage facility.
Somerville resident Wig Zamore of Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership clarified that everyone is in favor of the Green Line extension but warned the project needs to be done right.
“The desire to see more formal community involvement, including around station designs, area designs, and mitigation was nearly universal,” he said. “If there is one area that is disappointing it is in the reluctance of MassDOT to embrace the Commonwealth’s Smart Growth and Sustainable Development policies which require integration of transportation and land use. The statement near the end that MassDOT cannot consider mitigation of historic and ongoing infrastructure brutality was shocking.”
Steve Mackey from the Somerville Chamber of Commerce said the state needs to address development and land use in the plan, seek full and effective coordination between state agencies and recognize the gateway to economic development in this project. He asked that the Office of Housing and Economic Development be present in future meetings and urged state leaders to not underestimate the gateway to Boston and Cambridge – the Innerbelt / Brickbottom - and to consider submitting a full economic development plan for the project.
Others pointed out what the document has not adequately addressed like disability access, chemical runoff management, biker and pedestrian access and safety, green construction and management, bridge repairs, construction mitigation, and noise and vibration mitigation.
“As we saw again last night, every part of the Somerville community has been absolutely fantastic in working together and presenting a untied front to keep this project moving,” said Mayor Joe Curtatone. “It’s also been wonderful to have committed partners in the Governor’s Office and Mass DOT, offering real support on keeping the momentum on this project. We have a lot of work left to do, and real issues to resolve, but last night was a reminder of how far we’ve come.”
Written comments may be submitted until Jan. 8, 2010, via e-mail to Holly.S.Johnson or by mail/fax to Secretary Ian Bowles, Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, MEPA Office, Attn: Holly Johnson, MEPA Analyst, EEA #13886, 100 Cambridge St., Suite 900, Boston, MA 02114.
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