Some 30 Mattapan residents convened at the Mattapan branch of the Boston Public Library last Wednesday to learn about construction plans for a new station on the Fairmount commuter rail line that will be built between Blue Hill Avenue and Cummins Highway.
Construction will begin next spring and is expected to be finished in the spring of 2019, according to Desiree Patrice, senior project manager of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) who expressed confidence that the station will significantly lower commuting times for a Boston neighborhood that presently posts some of the longest in the city.
A ride to South Station that now takes 45 minutes will drop to 20 minutes without a transfer, Patrice said, which amounts to as much as eight full days in a calendar year. She added that the central location of the station will allow for easy access to connecting buses and will be a five-minute walk from Mattapan Square and various local businesses. “We give you better access to the jobs that you’re going to,” she said. “You can improve your quality of life.”
The meeting also took up matters that have proved to be a concern to residents, like the hours of construction work. The project will operate on a weekend schedule of 16 hours a day, and will include off-hour construction between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Noise will be combated by the use of drilled holes for piles rather than driven piles and there will be no loud blasting during the process, said Patrice. The construction will also avoid any permanent takings from residential land.
Other design plans will include a covered ramp from Blue Hill Ave. and Cummins Highway, canopies for poor weather, bicycle storage, lighting, and display screens.
“We want to promote a better ride. We think that part of improving your commute could open up a lot more advantages,” said Patrice, who added that she believes the project will be of particular benefit to the younger generation of Mattapan who currently travel long distances to attend school and to neighboring neighborhoods and towns. “The commuter rail does accept high school passes, so nobody will be disadvantaged from this,” she said.
Mattapan resident Robert Jenkins expressed concerns about the construction. He believes that the MBTA and MassDOT are “sugarcoating” the noise that the project will create. “I don’t care what anybody says, it’s not going to be quiet,” he said. He also expressed his disappointment with the small representation of Mattapan at the meeting. “[This meeting] has less than one percent of the people who are going to be affected out there,” he said.
Vickey Siggers of Mattapan said she thinks the process will be worth it if it means eliminating travel time.
“It’s a temporary situation, that’s part of how we improve,” she said. “I find it’s a welcoming sound because in the end we will have these projects that will improve Mattapan.”
Mattapan leaders— including elected officials— have long pushed for the creation of the Blue Hill Avenue station as an essential economic development vehicle for the neighborhood. The station will be the fourth in a series that have been built or renovated to expand access to the commuter rail line that runs through Dorchester and Mattapan on its way to and from Readville and South Station. The other stations— now open in Dorchester— include Newmarket, Four Corners, and Talbot Ave.
In 2003, the Conservation Law Foundation sued the MBTA and other state agencies for failure to comply with the Big Dig agreement to fund rail projects in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan. In a settlement that resolved the suit, the new stations on the Fairmount Line— including one in Mattapan— were mandated.
Last July, Mattapan’s elected officials, including Sen. Linda Forry, Rep. Russell Holmes, and Rep. Dan Cullinane, lobbied hard to include the final funding needed for the $26 million project to be included in a state five-year budget plan. The station will receive $3 million in the state budget for preliminary work in 2017 with another $22 million allocated between 2018-2021.
Years before it will come to pass for MBTA riders, the new hub is spawning growth nearby. A proposal to build a $31.2 million mixed-use housing complex next to the station on the site of the long-dormant Cote auto dealership on Cummins Highway won a green-light from city planners last April, in part because it was billed as “transit-oriented,” given its proximity to the planned station. The project— dubbed Cote Village— will include 76 units of housing in a five-story building at Cummins Highway and Regis Road.