Long track led to Red Line restorations

Although civic leaders had long called for action, the present transformation of Dorchester's Red Line stations dates back to well organized grassroots activism in the late 1990s. The now dormant Dorchester Allied Neighborhood Association (DANA) tapped into emerging e-mail chains to ferment an alliance of dissatisfied T-riders along the spine of the Dorchester Avenue corridor. The activists' focused lobbying kept lawmakers lazer-locked on their own efforts to push through bond money to fund the T improvements. A succession of MBTA general managers - Robert Prince, Michael Mulhern and Daniel Graubuskas - were regularly quizzed about their own internal efforts to prioritize the Dorchester project, deemed in the Reporter and elsewhere as the most decrepit branch of the MBTA system. In 1999, a DANA-sponsored meeting featuring Prince and other MBTA and elected officials drew hundreds to the Murphy Community Center. That meeting may have been the tipping point - as state officials got an ear-full and an eye-full from residents in the flesh.

Here are some of the milestone moments in the Red Line restoration movement.

1998

House of Representatives approved first bond bill to fund improvements to the four Dorchester stations, but the bill stalls in State Senate.

1999

MBTA chief Robert Prince, then a Dorchester resident, tells the Reporter that the prospects of rebuilding Ashmont, Shawmut, Fields Corner, and Savin Hill stations "looks good." "Short of my demise, we're going to put things in place that are irreversible," Prince said.

February 2000

In a community meeting organized by DANA at the Murphy Community Center, several hundred turn out to tell Prince - and other state officials - of their demands for better quality stations.

August 2000

MBTA Board approves Prince's request to begin design work to rehabilitate Savin Hill station - regarded as the stop in most dire need of rehabilitation - although bond bill has not yet been approved by governor.

Fall 2000

State legislature - with the key support of Speaker of the House Tom Finneran and the sign-off of Gov. Paul Cellucci - approves approximately $66 million in a transportation bond bill to renovate and rebuild the Ashmont, Shawmut, Fields Corner and Savin Hill MBTA stations.

February 2001

Meeting at Cleveland School in Fields Corner serves as kick-off planning meeting for the re-design of the four stations. Design advisory committees (DACs) are formed to give oversight to each of the four projects.

October 2003

The renovations at Fields Corner, Shawmut, and Savin Hill stations get symbolic start with a groundbreaking ceremony for the now $67 million project. Beginning with a press conference at Fields Corner Station, transportation and elected officials joined locals in riding Red Line trains to Shawmut, where Epiphany School students met them, and then to Savin Hill, which Walsh said was "the last station on the entire spider to be fixed," referring to the web-like MBTA rail map.

June 2005

Modernized Savin Hill station re-opens.

August 2005

A construction contract is awarded to Barletta Heavy Division, Inc. for the for complete station reconstruction and modernization at Ashmont Station, bringing total cost of Dorchester Red Line rehab over the $100 million mark.

July 2006

Demolition begins at Ashmont Station. Work continues at this date and the project is expected to be complete in 2009.

May 2008

Community celebration marks the dedication of Shawmut Garden, which has replaced the foreboding tunnel cap above the T stop of the same name. Work is now all-but complete at the underground station, which like Fields Corner and Ashmont, has remained open throughout most of the project.

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