Community activists, residents, lawmakers and transit officials celebrated the groundbreaking of the Four Corners/Geneva MBTA commuter rail station project last Friday, finally surmounting a 20-year process to bring a train station to the area.
“It’s a very emotional moment to see that we have started this fight, and have won it,” said Rupert Moore, president of the Greater Four Corners Action Coalition. The group has been a prominent organization pushing for an MBTA station since 1991.
The $17.7 million station, expected to be completed in 2012, is only one part of the larger Fairmount Commuter Rail Rehabilitation Project. Per court order, the MBTA will be constructing 3 other stations in Dorchester and Mattapan—at Talbot Ave, which went out to bid last week, Newmarket Square and Blue Hill Ave. The T will also be repairing several bridges along the Fairmount corridor.
The siting of the Blue Hill Ave. stop, in particular, has been met with considerable opposition. The proposed site of the station abuts homes along Woodhaven St., which causes concerns among residents over traffic, noise during construction, and fluctuating property values.
Earlier in the year, residents criticized the MBTA a for a lack of community involvement in the plotting of the station, a sentiment shared by Sen. Jack Hart, who was prompted to walk out of an public meeting concerning the station in April, citing a “loss of faith” in the MBTA and their planning process.
Since then, the MBTA has taken steps to improve its outreach, meeting with several lawmakers and residents to explore other location options and configurations for the station, including a possible site closer to the Jubilee Christian Church on Blue Hill Ave.
“We are not against a station in Mattapan, but we feel that it could be better located elsewhere in the community, where it is needed more.” said Barbara Fields, co-chair of the Woodhaven Culbert Regis Neighborhood Association. Acccording to Fields, the Woodhaven Culbert Regis group has been in talks with the MBTA, although they have been reluctant to put forward other location options. “We have not consulted the whole community, and we don’t want what happened to us to happen to other neighborhoods,” she said.
“The [Four Corners/Geneva] community was involved in this process, whereas Woodhaven Street was not,” said Sen. Hart when asked about the differences between the planning of the Blue Hill and the Four/Corners stations. “I think [the MBTA] has made some progress, and I’m optimistic that they will find a suitable solution.”
At Friday’s groundbreaking, lawmakers encouraged Four Corners/Geneva residents to continue fighting for “first-class service for a first-class community,” as well as a community-driven workforce during the construction—ideals that other communities in similar situations are aspiring to. MBTA officials say that the Four Corners/Geneva project is a strong example of why the community process is important.
“We realize that we have to be sensitive to the needs of the community,” said MBTA general manager, Richard Davey.
Area T riders are excited for the future, and appreciative of the process. According to local T rider, Deborah Gaul, the MBTA has delivered on the community’s needs.
“This day is the culmination of the Greater Four Corners Action Coalition’s dreams,” said Pamela Bush, a long-time advocate of a Four Corners MBTA station. “This has been a civil rights battle, and we won.”