Abutters, MBTA remain at odds over rail station

Residents of the Woodhaven Street area remain in deep disagreement with state lawmakers and transportation officials over the siting of a commuter rail station between Blue Hill Avenue and Cummins Highway.

A meeting on April 10 did little to quell the discontent. State Rep. Russell Holmes, a Mattapan Democrat who supports the project, said another meeting has been scheduled for mid-May, with MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott expected to attend.

The residents’ reluctance continues to delay the project, which is now four years behind schedule. According to Holmes, most of the Mattapan community wants the station. “I can say there have been loud voices outside of Woodhaven that they want a station in Mattapan,” he said. “Loud and many.”

But Barbara Fields, a Woodhaven Street resident, said she and other abutters remain opposed to the site. “The residents of Mattapan who have been coming to the meetings have not expressed the desire to have the station sited there,” she said.

Fields said local residents are still concerned about the impact of the station on their homes and “quality of life” issues, though MBTA officials point to studies in other cities where property values of homes near public transportation have gone up.

“It is so close to the next station that we are still trying to figure out why the Department of Transportation wants to impose a station on us,” Fields said. “We are supportive of another station being built. We are opposed to it being built at that particular site.”

The MBTA has looked at alternatives and said they aren’t feasible, for various reasons, from the curvature of the track farther up ahead to forcing the transit agency to take over private land.

The proposed Blue Hill Avenue station is the last piece of the Fairmount Line project, which has added commuter rail stations in a bid to spur economic development in Mattapan and relieve the crowded buses that travel the corridor. The other commuter rail stops that have been part of the project include Newmarket Station, Talbot Avenue Station, and Four Corners/Geneva Station.

The benefits of siting the Blue Hill Avenue station between the avenue and Cummins Highway include its access to the two major roadways and its location a fourth of a mile from Mattapan Square, according to the MBTA.

Local lawmakers appear to agree, which wasn’t always the case. Before they left public office, state Sen. Jack Hart and Councillor Rob Consalvo both voiced skepticism about the location. But their seats have been filled with people who support the proposed site, including state Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry and Councillor Tim McCarthy, according to Rep. Holmes. Rep. Dan Cullinane, whose district includes the site, also supports the project.

The station will be a center island platform, an attempt to minimize the impact on abutters and keep foot traffic away from property lines. Right-of-way fences will also be installed, and the station will have security cameras.

The MBTA plans to have preconstruction video surveys of up to 40 homes on Woodhaven Street and up to five houses on Regis Road to document existing cracks and damages. A traffic study will also be performed in June. Project plans call for small parking areas, like those near other Fairmount Line stations. And the Boston Transportation Department will introduce resident-only parking around the station, which is already in use at the other stations, according to the MBTA.

According to a presentation from the April 10 meeting, construction could start in May 2015, with the station opening in December 2016.

“It’s just simply we have looked at all the issues we’ve heard and we’ve looked to address those issues, and still have come to the conclusion that the station is best positioned between Cummins and Blue Hill Ave.,” Holmes said.

Fields, who once pledged to lie down on the tracks in order to stop the station from getting built, remains unconvinced. “It is not fair to impose something on this neighborhood and especially the abutters,” she said.