T officials defend new station siting; abutters unmoved
Despite opposition from the area’s abutters, top transportation officials are sticking with their choice to construct a commuter-rail station between the Blue Hill Avenue and Cummins Highway overpasses. A key state senator has also weighed in, saying he remains unconvinced about the location.
Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Mullan and MBTA General Manager Rich Davey met with local lawmakers and some neighborhood residents last week in Sen. Jack Hart’s State House office to discuss the siting of the station.
Some Mattapan residents have pushed for re-locating the proposed Woodhaven Street stop on the Fairmount Line, saying its presence there will hurt property values. But studies commissioned by the MBTA say it’s the most feasible site with the least impact to local residents, as well as the cheapest, costing $11 million. The other alternatives ranged from $13.5 million to $14.7 million.
The Blue Hill Avenue station is one of four new stops being added to the line that runs between Readville and South Station. Construction of the facility was supposed to begin over a year ago, but elected officials pressed the MBTA to stop and assess whether the site near Woodhaven Street was the best location.
Davey told the Reporter that the proposal to build the station where it was originally planned still needs the approval of the MBTA board and that construction remains 15 months away. “We still have a long process to get through,” he said.
Davey defended siting the station where it was originally proposed, saying the location is the most feasible because of its proximity – a fourth of a mile - to Mattapan Square. “Through our review, this station location makes the most sense,” Davey said.
The MBTA considered several alternatives, including ones south and north of River St. Every alternative location the MBTA studied would have forced the transit agency to take private property, he said. Under one alternative, costing $14.5 million, the MBTA would have to take a business and take over some church property.
Davey said that in order to accommodate residents, the station platform will be located between the train tracks, instead of on opposite sides of the tracks, as originally proposed. The move eliminates the need for boring and blasting near abutting homes.
The Department of Transportation and MBTA are overseeing the construction of the Fairmount line and the 800-foot platform at the Blue Hill Avenue station, which could spur economic development in Mattapan Square.
Noting that the abutters remain dissatisfied with the MBTA’s recommendation, Sen. Hart (D-South Boston) said he is not yet convinced that the chosen location is the best site. “I’m not there yet,” he said, adding that he was looking for a “win-win” situation, and the T “didn’t achieve that. It’s a beautiful street; I call it a bucolic neighborhood.”
City Councillor Rob Consalvo, who represents a part of Mattapan, said he shares Hart’s concerns. “I know the neighbors are not ready to give up yet,” he noted.
The T’s decision is splitting local lawmakers, with Reps. Russell Holmes (D-Mattapan) and Linda Dorcena Forry (D-Dorchester) supporting the transit agency.
“It’s the one that serves the community the greatest,” Holmes said. “We looked at every solution we could.”
Forry, who is married to Reporter managing editor Bill Forry, said lawmakers will work to ensure noise barriers and other mitigation measures will be put in place for the project. “For me, I know it is tough for the residents of Woodhaven,” she said. “I just hope the conversation and the dialogue will continue.”