(UPDATED) MBTA GM: Greenway trail will include Mattapan

Gintautas Dumcius, News Editor
Jun. 17, 2011

Officials from the MBTA, the Department of Conservation and Recreation and the State House met yesterday in an attempt to move forward with a planned expansion of the Neponset Greenway.

The project, which has been vetted over the last two years, appeared to hit an impasse earlier this month, when Greenway supporters learned that the MBTA had safety concerns about having an at-grade crossing at the Mattapan Square MBTA station as part of the planned trail extension. DCR is working to extend the Greenway by one mile, connecting the riverside path from Pope John Paul II Park to a separate state trail in Hyde Park. The trail current stops short at Central Ave. in Milton.

Greenway supporters argued the MBTA’s position could prevent the trail from going into Mattapan. But the general manager of the MBTA, Rich Davey, said Thursday night his agency and DCR are in discussions to “work through the issues” and talking about alternatives such as a bridge.

Addressing Mattapan residents who attended a meeting on a controversial Fairmount Line station, Davey said the MBTA supports having the trail extension go through both Milton and Mattapan.

“We are moving that project forward,” Davey said. Transportation Secretary Jeff Mullan and Davey noted that the extension still needs funding for its construction.

MBTA officials have pointed to safety concerns about an at-grade crossing, citing several incidents on the high-speed Mattapan Line in the last 16 months.

The Conservation Law Foundation, in a June 13 letter to Davey, took issue with the MBTA's concerns.

"MBTA now raises purported safety concerns with respect to the proposed at-grade crossing, notwithstanding the fact that currently, there are six at-grade crossings on the Mattapan trolley line, and transit users at Mattapan Square Station routinely must walk across tracks," wrote Melissa Hoffer, vice president at the Conservation Law Foundation, in a letter obtained by the Reporter. "While MBTA may be seeking to avoid new at-grade crossings as a matter of internal policy, applying that preference in this instance to an alignment identified after a lengthy stakeholder process is entirely arbitrary. At-grade crossings can and have been implemented safely throughout the MBTA system."

Officials from DCR, the MBTA and the State House met at the MBTA’s office earlier on Thursday. State Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry also attended the meeting, and reiterated her position that the trail must include Mattapan and Milton. “They know that,” said Forry, who is married to Reporter managing editor Bill Forry.

DCR's preference, reached after several community meetings, has the trail flowing through both Milton and Mattapan, following the Neponset River on the Milton side starting at Central Ave. and crossing over the river near the Ryan Playground. From there, it would keep going to the Mattapan Square MBTA station, and join the existing trail at Blue Hill Ave. and Brush Hill Rd. through an at-grade crossing.

Meetings, behind the scenes and in public, are expected to continue. The Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition will be holding a meeting on Wednesday, June 22, at 6:30 p.m. at the Mattapan Neighborhood Service Center.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was updated at 1:30 p.m. 6/17/2011 to add letter from CLF and the June 22 meeting.