Governor Deval Patrick signed a $1.47 billion Immediate Needs Bond Bill late last week that included $100 million for the Big Dig's Clean Air Act payback, the State Implementation Plan (SIP). The Fairmount Commuter Rail improvements project is one of four projects in the SIP required to be completed by 2011, but there is still no official word on how much money will go to which project or when.
The speculation, shared by spokesperson Jon Carlisle of the Executive Office of Transportation, is that a portion of it will be spent on the design of three new stations on the line in addition to Four Corners Station, which is already being drawn up. The design processes could begin in the next several months.
That start would be welcomed by neighborhoods all along the line. Many have already mobilized to seek the best locations for their local stations, with the exception of Newmarket Station, which is already planned to be located near the South Bay Shopping Center.
The neighbors of the proposed Four Corners and Talbot (Codman Square) stations are close to consensus on their favorite spots, but to the south one stop is interchangeably called the Blue Hill and Cummins Highway station and to the north neighborhood activists are calling for a fifth stop at Columbia Road in one of three possible locations.
"We asked them to do all of the sites at the same time because it just makes sense," said Marvin Martin of the Greater Four Corners Action Coalition. "But the [transportation office] has only released money for [Four Corners]. We said to the T that we wouldn't entertain their ideas if we don't know where the Codman Square station is going to be placed,"
The driving concern among groups seems to be making sure that all possible neighborhoods are served. To that end, representatives from Columbia Road and Codman Square were present at a community meeting for the Four Corners design.
Originally, many wanted a station between Washington Street and Geneva Avenue, but the MBTA faced technical challenges on the inbound side due to a curve in the track that necessitated putting the raised platform, required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, over a foot from the train doors, a violation of the act. Putting one station between the tracks was not feasible either. The costs of acquiring extra property and extensive re-grading were too great. This forced them to propose an inbound platform on the other side of Geneva Avenue.
The community rejected this idea last November because of the long walk some residents would have to take, but another plan, "Alternative 6," was better received at a March 21 community meeting. It provided a walkway over Geneva Avenue that cut the walking distance in half for those coming from Washington
Jeanne Du Bois, director of the Dorchester Bay Community Development Corporation spoke in favor of the Columbia Road station.
"Look at how close Bellevue and Highland stations are in West Roxbury," Du Bois. "If they can get it, so can we. If this is the best place for a station it's okay by me."
The MBTA indicated that a mile between stations was ideal, but Bellevue, Highland and West Roxbury stations are spaced out at less than one-half mile intervals. Proposed locations for the Talbot, Four Corners and Columbia Road stations have just over three-quarters of a mile between stops.
Columbia Road advocates propose a station across from Ceylon Park just north of Columbia, or south of Columbia, or near Bird Street, where the old station once operated.
Local geography may give Codman Square residents a natural choice, between Talbot Avenue and the footbridge over the tracks at Park Street.
"We have not heard negative comments on this location," said Mark Dinaburg of Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, "but there has not been a process."
After the meeting, Dinaburg said he expected the Talbot Station process to run a lot smoother than discussions in Four Corners.
Blue Hill/Cummins Highway
Yesterday, City Life/Vida Urbana and the Mattapan Community Development Corporation rallied with other community groups at the old Cote Ford dealership on Cummins Highway, where some believe that station should be. The MBTA has taken to calling the station "Blue Hill" on their publications, possibly indicating a stop near the Jubilee Church at 1500 Blue Hill Avenue. They also raised the issue of protecting current residents from the displacement that could be caused by higher property values near the new station.
Not to be outdone, the neighborhood is also rallying at Ceylon Park, on April 26 at 5:30 p.m. to call attention to their fifth stop campaign. The Fairmount Indigo Line Coalition, the DBCDC and other groups are sponsoring.
"People in that area want the fifth stop, and they're not going to go away," said Frederico Rivera of Dorchester Bay.