Mattapan trolley, rail station clear key hurdle

The preservation of the historic Mattapan Trolley Line and the construction of the Blue Hill Avenue commuter rail station are one step closer to funding, as substantial sums are included for the projects in the draft capital investment plan released by the state’s Department of Transportation earlier this month.

The agency is looking at about $14.3 billion in investments over the next five years, most of it allocated to long-term highway, aeronautics, rail, and transit projects. Funding for the trolley line and the commuter rail station was first included in a draft of the investment plan presented to the MassDOT fiscal control board in March, but funding priorities had not yet been set.

The Fairmount Line’s long-promised Blue Hill Avenue stop in Mattapan was the last station guaranteed in a settlement resolving a 2003 lawsuit against the MBTA and other state agencies for failure to comply with a Big Dig agreement funding rail projects in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan.

To complete the final component of the Fairmount Corridor Improvement project, MassDOT marked $26 million out of the approximately $1.58 billion budgeted for MBTA expansion projects. Advocates say construction of the station will be a crucial step toward transportation equity in underserved Mattapan. Local elected officials and community members have also pushed to preserve the high-speed trolley line.

“The Mattapan trolley is a bright spot, providing quick, reliable, consistent access to the Red Line for commuters,” state Rep. Dan Cullinane said in an email. “As the existing data, or anyone from Mattapan who relies on public transit, will tell you: Mattapan has some of the longest commutes of any community in the city of Boston. In reviewing the transit inequity data and maps showing disproportionately long work commute times to and from Mattapan, I firmly believe the commuting time for Mattapan residents would balloon far above what the data reflects if it were not for the quick, consistent, access to the Red Line the Mattapan Trolley provides.”

About $9 million is planned for the design and maintenance of the existing Presidential Cable Car (PCC) fleet on the Mattapan trolley.

“The MBTA is currently conducting a study to better understand the current condition of the Mattapan high speed trolley vehicles and infrastructure and options for future vehicles,” MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said in March. Of the total trolley investment plan, $5 million “anticipates the need for near term investment in the current vehicles and infrastructure to ensure the continued safety and reliability of the system while longer term options are under review,” he said.

Additionally, the plan includes $3,796,400 for the work needed to keep the existing fleet functioning.
Cullinane authored a letter signed by nine other local elected officials requesting a $3 million infusion for the fleet in March. He said the larger amount “shows how important this service line is to the communities it serves.”

The investment plan is currently open to the public for comment. MassDOT plans a series of meetings throughout the state to gather public input on the plan. Board members will set the final plan at their meeting on May 23.

Two Boston meetings are slated for early May – May 2 at 6 p.m. in the Public Library’s McKim Building at 230 Dartmouth Street; May 4 at 11 a.m. in the State House, Room 428. And May 3 in Quincy, at 6 p.m. in the Public Library at 40 Washington St.