We all understand that our growing economy cannot thrive, expand and provide opportunity if our transportation system cannot move people and goods efficiently. In fact, numerous recent reports have highlighted this connection. In A Better City’s “Transportation Dividend” report from February 2018, we found that our transit system provides an $11.4 billion annual return on a $2 billion annual investment and identified key regional growth centers where future transportation needs are unmet. As a result of these findings, we, and others, have urged the state to address funding, management and project shortfalls that could impede our current economic growth trajectory.
One of the most important ways the Commonwealth illustrates its priorities is with its capital planning processes. The MassDOT board just approved an updated Capital Investment Plan (CIP) for FY2019-2023 and, given the important influence that transportation investment has on our economy, we are pleased to see many significant projects included and underway in this CIP including: the Green Line Extension, Red/Orange Line Upgrades and Automated Fare Collection (AFC) 2.0, among others. We appreciate the Administration’s push to move these forward and begin their implementation.
The Green Line Extension is a key part of the Artery Tunnel Project mitigation efforts and Automated Fare Collection will allow MBTA users to move seamlessly between modes of transit (bus, commuter rail, subway) and also make a big step toward full Bus Rapid Transit implementation by allowing for all-door boarding on system buses. These projects have been priorities for A Better City for many years and we are pleased with this progress.
Furthermore, we are encouraged to see $103.4 million allocated for DMA replacement vehicles, which we expect will serve a Silver Line currently running at 128% capacity during peak commuting hours and now being stretched further with the new SL3 extension to Chelsea. We look forward to working with the MassDOT to determine how much new capacity this funding will provide and when these vehicles are expected to arrive. There is an immediate need for additional Silver Line vehicles so we will continue to push for the expenditure of these funds to happen without delay
Finally, while this CIP appears to make initial progress toward the stated goal of achieving a State of Good Repair for our transportation system over the next 15 years, there are key modernization and expansion projects that are crucial to our system and are not a priority, but should be. The most notable example of these being the Allston Multi-Modal project, which is expected to be finalized and begin initial stages of construction over the next couple of years. This project involves straightening the MassPike through the Allston Interchange, reconfiguring the interchange and building a transit hub at West Station which will help open up 200 acres of development potential in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood. A Better City has been instrumental in designing and advocating for an “All At-Grade” solution for the MassPike through the “throat” section that sits between Boston University and the Charles River. This option, if selected as the preferred alternative, will reduce the cost of the project by $100 million from a more difficult to build highway viaduct alternative, will provide better connections from the south side of the transportation corridor to the edge of the Charles River , and will be less disruptive for movement through Allston during the construction period. Unfortunately, there is no funding allocated in this capital plan to address this important project.
Authored By: Kathryn Carlson