GLX Public Information Meeting - Nov 20th, 2017

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GLX stands for "Green Line Extension". These notes come from a public information meeting that MassDOT held at Tufts University's Breed Hall, 51 Winthrop Street, Medford.

MassDOT has a website for the project: http://greenlineextension.com/.

MassDOT's presentation slides for the meeting are available here: http://greenlineextension.com/documents/PubMtgs/GLXCollegeToMVP_PublicMeetingPresentation.pdf

The MBTA has filed a notice of project change (NPC). The green line extension has been planned to run to College Ave. We'll call this phase I of the project. Tonight, we're going to talk about a proposed phase II, which will extend the green line approximately one mile, down Boston Avenue to the Mystic Valley Parkway. The contract for Phase I will be awarded in around two weeks. Phase II is still in the very early stages; environmental review and funding are still to-do.

The MBTA had a procurement process to find a contractor, and received three bids (for Phase I). A very satisfactory bid was received last Friday. The bids consist of a base cost, plus options (things that aren't essential for the project, but would be nice to have). The contractor will provide a timeline, and the MBTA will publish this document when they get it.

The goal of these projects is to enhance transit services in Cambridge, Somerville, and Medford. It should improve mobility, increase ridership, improve air quality, and support smart growth initiatives.

The environmental review started in 2009. The original goal was to extend the green line to the Mystic Valley Parkway; the last leg of that extension was cut due to budget constraints. But now, it's back on the table. There will be a separate bidding process (and perhaps a different contractor) for Phase II.

Phase II will shift the Lowell Line Commuter Rail tracks, to allow the green line to run in the MBTA's existing right of way. The green line will run alongside the commuter rail tracks. The project will likely involve rebuilding two bridges. (One of the bridges is at the intersection of Boston Ave and North Street; I'm not sure where the other bridge is.)

The Mystic Valley Parkway station will have a single center-island platform, ticket vending machines, a pickup/drop-off area, and bicycle parking. The station will not have a parking lot.

The station will likely require an electrical substation, at a location TBD.

One option under consideration is to take control of the U-Haul building, and put the station there. This may or may not involve the demolition of the U-Haul building. It may be possible to have the T station on the ground floor, with other uses above.

The MBTA has a lot of environmental impact work to do: noise and vibration studies, air quality, water quality and runoff, and environmental justice impacts. At present, the Commuter Rail is the dominant source of noise and vibration in the project area. Any increases will have to be mitigated. There are new techniques for reducing rail noise and vibrations which aren't used in the current rail line, but could be added during construction.

The station's main entrance will be on Boston Ave. There will be pedestrian improvements along Boston Ave. There will also be disruption (during construction) to the Lowell Line, and project abutters.

The MBTA assumes some land acquisition, beyond the U-Haul building. Many of the parcels they'd need to acquire are small.

MBTA believes this will be a good opportunity for transit-oriented development.

The public comment period for Phase II is still open. Meeting attendees are encouraged to submit comments, which will be accepted until Nov 28th.

Once the comment period closes, MEPA has 10 days to provide a scope document for project study. This document should be available on or around December 8th.

At this point, the meeting opened for public comment. Some of the points I remember (in no particular order)

  • People were very for, or very against, the green line extension. Age seemed to be the best predicting factor. People my age an younger were generally supportive. People a generation older were generally opposed.
  • A number of people opposed the project because they thought it would make traffic worse. Another commenter pointed out that 10,000 people would live within 1 mile of the proposed station, and some of them would prefer public transit to driving. Another commenter said "people in my generation don't like driving, and many of us don't own cars".
  • One or two people were concerned about increased diesel pollution (because the project would move the commuter rail a couple of feet).
  • Several people objected to the project, because it would involve land acquisitions. Another commenter said "the project will take 23 square feet from my backyard, and I fully support it".
  • Several people were concerned about pedestrian traffic across the Mystic Valley Parkway. One commenter suggested building a pedestrian foot bridge around the Parkway.
  • Several people opposed the project because they thought it would reduce their property values. Another commenter said "I bought my condo in this area because of the Green Line extension, and I'm looking forward to seeing my property values go up."
  • When it was my turn to speak, I said that I was from Sunnyside Ave. in Arlington, which is in the part of Arlington that's tucked between Medford and Somerville. I said that I any many in my area supported the project, and had been looking forward to the GLX for years. I noted there was a lot of work to do on Phase II, and I hoped the project would be a success.

Roughly speaking, attendees with negative comments got up and spoke first, followed by attendees with positive comments. Several of the project opponents got up and left when they realized there were a good number of supporters.