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MBTA Blue Line to Lynn

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State, local officials say Blue Line should come to Lynn

By David Liscio

Monday, February 2, 2004

LYNN -- State and local transportation officials gathered here this week to evaluate the latest study results related to extending the Blue Line rapid-transit rail northward from Revere, and most agreed it should be extended to Lynn, if not to Salem.

However, no final decision can be made until the plan is formally accepted by the state's primary transportation and planning authorities, after which it would be submitted to Washington, D.C. for funding consideration.

"In some respects, this is the final stage. The state's official transportation agency, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, hopefully will now recommend to the federal government one of the programs that they would like to see completed-namely, the Blue Line extension on the North Shore," said Thomas Costin Jr., chairman of the Lynn Business Partnership's Transportation Committee.

"Based on the plan most favored, the line would go first to Lynn and then to Salem, if the latter community wanted it."

According to Costin, the MBTA is making the Blue Line extension a top priority as it mulls the larger issue of North Shore transit improvements involving 32 communities.

"We went to Washington, D.C. in 1992 and were told the only way we could ever be considered for funding was to have the plan recommended by the state's transportation authority, so we had to come back and go through this process," Costin said. "It's essential if we're ever to receive any federal dollars."

Federal budget officials are already projecting toward 2012, which suggests any funding for the Blue Line would be appropriated before that date, said Costin. He added that it's always possible the local project could be fast-tracked.

"The federal government wants to know not how much the project would cost today, but how much it will cost during the year that it's constructed. They need to account for inflation. But as I've said from the start, this is ultimately going to be a political decision," he said.

Costin, a former Lynn mayor who once served as president of the U.S. Postmasters' Union in Washington, said the Lynn transportation initiative dovetails with Gov. Mitt Romney's plan to revitalize the state's urban areas.

"The governor has made it clear that he's more interested in reinvigorating the cities than in building housing in the rural areas," he said. "That's exactly what we've been doing in Lynn: reinvigorating the downtown."

Costin cited the so-called Beacon Chevrolet site, a Lynn waterfront property in which he has a business interest, as an example of urban housing construction located near a public transportation hub.

"We're in the process of securing the necessary permits for that project on the north harbor. That means 300 to 400 new residential units right across from a rapid-rail station," he said. "We can build those kinds of units because the zoning has been changed, and what you're seeing now is all these different things coming together."

The Blue Line plan most favored by Lynn officials and business leaders involves extending the rapid-rail line northward from Revere, parallel to the existing commuter rail tracks, according to Ted Grant, a consultant to the Lynn Business Partnership.

"It appears that everyone in Lynn is agreed this is the best way to go," said Grant. "The preferred alternative means building the Blue Line alongside the commuter rail to Lynn. Swampscott and Salem would not be part of that initial project."

Grant, too, said the rezoning of the city's waterfront to allow for high-rise construction could prove key when state transportation officials take an updated look at projected commuter-rail ridership and proximity of development opportunities to the nearest rail station.

"The zoning will have a positive impact because the state has magic numbers that it must reach. If more housing is built along the Lynnway, it means more potential riders will be considered in the study, and more riders divided into the same number of dollars equals less dollars per rider. In other words, the project becomes more cost-effective," he said.

Dennis DiZoglio, the MBTA's director of planning, said the Lynn meeting was held to update local officials on the status of the agency's latest studies.

"We went over the preliminary findings of our analysis," he said, explaining the studies considered environmental and conservation issues, cost benefits and grant probabilities.

DiZoglio said the MBTA started its evaluation when five different plans related to the Blue Line extension were up for discussion.

"We're now bringing the results of these studies to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), as well as sharing them will all kinds of state and federal agencies," he said, adding that the FTA will likely review the information for a month or more.

The information will also be sent for review to the Army Corps of Engineers and a variety of state and federal agencies overseeing wildlife, conservation and other issues.

"By April, hopefully, we could have a public hearing and bring everything out. At that time, we would suggest that this is our recommended option," DiZoglio said. "Certainly there have been signs of progress. The pros and cons, the strengths and weaknesses of each idea have been analyzed."

DiZoglio noted that the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) must also endorse the plan, known as Option 3B.

"As it stands, there is no actual Blue Line project to endorse. The Blue Line is part of the North Shore Transit Improvements package. But at some point, it will be separated out," he said.

Meanwhile, the MBTA will continue to monitor changes in Lynn's demographics, waterfront development and other factors.

"That zoning change on the waterfront created more development potential than there was before," said DiZoglio. "That's the kind of change we have to keep looking at as we re-evaluate the project each year."

From The Daily Item of Lynn

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I hope they extend it all the way to Salem!

btw-Tocoto and I were on the Blue Line yesterday and noticed how short the platform was at Maverick station and how run down the station was in comparison with the new Aquarium Station which is a showplace! I wonder when they are going to work on that station?

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Soon! All Blue line stations (except for Bowdoin, which is being closed) will be redone to allow for 6 car trains. All the outdoor ones are done (Airport will be done soon). Aquarium is done, State apparently has some major work to do. Government Centre I believe will see the rebirth of the hidden sections of Scollay Under and Maverick has some hidden platform sections that will be reborn.

I'll see if I can dig up some more specifics.

Oh, and I too would love to see it go to Salem.

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Is the fed review process really long? For some reason I think it is.

Only processes that take longer than the feds is getting something done on Beacon Hill.

I know the feds are working on a 6 year transportation budget right now. I'm not sure if that means if the Blue Line isn't funded it has to wait, or if it is an outline of what the states will get, and allocation comes down the line. I know Dukakis is lobbying to dump Phase III of the Silver Line and to move the funds over to Fall River/New Bedford Commuter Rail. Beacon Hill is saying they can't move the money that way. But now the feds have rated Silver Line Phase III as 'not recommended' so there seems to be some talk of moving that money (that last month was unmoveable).

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I hardly go down to Boston. I rarely use the T or anything. One day im going to go down there and learn my way around the city and everything. I think imma do that during the summer. It wouldnt hurt to have a guide.

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Is the fed review process really long? For some reason I think it is.

Charlotte and Raleigh have been waiting more than ten years secure enough Fed funding to start their first lines.

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Manchvegas dogg - when you want to come to boston talk to me or Scott. We sometimes meet and have taken pictures together as well.

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Manchvegas dogg - when you want to come to boston talk to me or Scott. We sometimes meet and have taken pictures together as well.

I definately will.

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Blue Line extension plan gains support

By Thor Jourgensen

Friday, May 28, 2004

LYNN -- The Blue Line rapid transit extension to Lynn has won initial legislative approval and a major funding commitment.

Lynn's legislators are confident they will secure sufficient votes in the Massachusetts House and Senate to support the Legislature's Transportation Committee endorsement of the Blue Line.

Gov. Mitt Romney has expressed his support for the extension, providing there is sufficient state money available for the project. The committee included the Blue Line this week in a selection of six transit projects recommended for state funding.

The committee set a $493 million funding limit for the extension, with that money covering the costs of design, acquisition, renovation, construction and reconstruction to extend the Blue Line from its present terminus at Wonderland Station in Revere to Lynn.

U.S. Rep. John Tierney is working to secure federal funding to cover part of the project costs.

"The inclusion of the Blue Line extension language in the bond bill is an historic step forward in making the vision of rapid transit to the North Shore a reality," state Sen. Thomas M. McGee said.

McGee credited fellow legislators, city officials and business leaders with pushing for the extension and securing endorsement from Romney, top state transportation officials and legislators.

"The Blue Line extension provides a tremendous opportunity to create a smart, forward-thinking transportation network that will bring with it economic development, job opportunities on the North Shore and an improved quality of life to residents," said McGee.

McGee and state Reps. Robert Fennell, Steven Walsh, Douglas Petersen and Mark Falzone this year made winning the Transportation Committee's endorsement a top Blue Line priority.

"This is great news for Lynn and for all of the people who have worked so hard on this project over the years," Walsh said.

State officials are in the process of ranking major transportation proposals, including the extension. Several concepts for extending the Blue Line to Lynn are under review, including one that follows the existing commuter rail line.

"The advantages to Lynn will be enormous in terms of potential economic growth, accessibility and our downtown revitalization efforts," Fennell said.

Lynn's commuter rail stop at Market Street will get its first major test as a transportation connection in late July when it become a transfer point for train riders transferring to buses en route to Boston.

Falzone called the Blue Line the "cornerstone for future transportation progress in the city."

From The Lynn Daily Item

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The MBTA is studying alternative plans to extend the Blue Line past Revere to Lynn and possibly to Swampscott and Salem. (Globe Staff File Photo / John Bohn)

MBTA weighs Blue Line extension

Final plan would compete for funding

By Anthony Flint, Globe Staff | October 12, 2004

''Next stop, Lynn" would be part of the lexicon of Blue Line conductors under an MBTA proposal to extend the subway branch from its terminus at Wonderland to Central Square in the North Shore city.

Under another of several options being considered, the subway line would continue even farther, to Swampscott and Salem.

Another less expensive alternative would be to build a commuter rail station at Wonderland, the dog racing track near Revere Beach, with a pedestrian connector or people-mover to take riders the quarter-mile to the Blue Line station. The commuter rail tracks and the subway tracks are separated by busy roads and parking lots.

Despite criticism that the cash-strapped T cannot afford to embark on major new projects, the MBTA board on Thursday approved $322,000 to bolster a study that will be critical in the application for federal funds on the project, which could cost up to $843 million. T planners are collecting ridership figures and studying environmental impact reports and aim to present a comprehensive plan for the Federal Transit Administration to review.

''We're looking at the different options and showing the feds what benefit we'll get with the different investments," said Dennis DiZoglio, assistant general manager for planning and real estate at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

MBTA planners say the study on the Blue Line extension should be completed by next spring or summer, followed by a determination of how the chosen best alternative would fare in a nationwide competition for federal transit funds. Actual construction is probably 10 to 12 years away.

The idea of extending the Blue Line has been debated for decades, but uncertainty about funding has kept the project largely in the shadows. The T is famously short on money to take on expansion projects, having just moved forward with the $491 million restoration of the Greenbush branch of the Old Colony commuter rail line through the South Shore.

The Blue Line project also is in stiff competition with other projects, including the proposed extension of the Green Line through Somerville to West Medford; the restoration of the Arborway trolley in Jamaica Plain; a Red-Blue line connector in downtown Boston; the expansion of commuter rail to Fall River and New Bedford, and the Urban Ring, a proposed circumferential transit route around Boston.

US Representative Michael E. Capuano, Democrat of Somerville, said it would be difficult to secure federal funding for the Blue Line project as well as another major project, like the Green Line extension, at the same time. The T would have to show that it can maintain both its current and expanded system and that sufficient state funding -- usually 50 percent of the cost of transit projects -- was in the pipeline.

Capuano called the Blue Line proposal ''a great project" and said ''it should be one of the priorities, but it's impossible to talk about it in a vacuum." He has called on Governor Mitt Romney's administration to assemble all proposed transit projects, create a priority to-do list, and figure out how to pay for them.

''There's no discussion of which projects, among all 10 or 15 of them, have the most merit," Capuano said.

Administration officials say they are working on a plan to prioritize the estimated $6 billion in proposed transit projects but are still investigating new ways to finance them, including drawing revenue from development near train stations.

DiZoglio said the T was able to move ahead on the Blue Line after US Representative John F. Tierney, Democrat of Salem, secured federal funding for planning studies. Going further will depend on the availability of both federal and state funds, he said, but MBTA General Manager Michael Mulhern and state Secretary of Transportation Daniel Grabauskas have both spoken favorably about the project in recent months, giving it a sense of momentum.

''It's chugging along," said Lynn Mayor Edward J. ''Chip" Clancy Jr., who views the arrival of rapid transit as the key to revitalization efforts for the economically troubled city. ''This is alive and well. It's well documented there's a pressing need for rapid transit. Lynn, and the North Shore, has waited a long time for this."

There are significant engineering and environmental challenges. Continuing the subway tracks due north from Wonderland, on an old narrow-gauge railroad trackbed, would bring the Blue Line through the Point of Pines neighborhood in Revere. The alternative is to build subway tracks alongside the existing Newburyport-Rockport commuter rail tracks, but that would require construction of expensive trestles to get through the environmentally sensitive Rumney Marsh area.

Revere Mayor Thomas G. Ambrosino said he is more supportive of building a commuter rail station at Wonderland, which would allow commuters to park elsewhere and make an easy transfer to the Blue Line to get into Boston. The addition of a commuter rail station, which Revere currently lacks, would also enhance city and state plans for housing and mixed-use development on the parking lots at Wonderland, Ambrosino said.

A new commuter station would require major street and sidewalk improvements to allow riders to transfer easily to the Blue Line. The T is considering a people-mover tram or possibly a moving sidewalk, but the most direct route is through the dogtrack's parking lot and across Route 1A.

From The Boston Globe

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N. Shore lawmakers push provision to extend Blue Line

By Glen Johnson, Globe Staff | January 20, 2005

Amid stiff competition among Massachusetts cities and towns for transportation money, North Shore legislators have succeeded in adding a provision to the state transportation bond bill that could improve the chances for an extension of the MBTA's Blue Line to Lynn, over other projects such as an extension of commuter rail service to New Bedford or a Green Line extension to West Medford.

State Senator Thomas M. McGee of Lynn, at the urging of US Representative John F. Tierney of Salem, included language in the bond bill last summer guaranteeing that the state will pick up as much as 50 percent of the project's construction cost, which could total more than $500 million, if the T is unable to pay its share.

Tierney said yesterday that such a guarantee offers the best chance for the state to receive a 50 percent match from the federal government. "There's a lot of competition for these projects, so it's important we have some commitment that the state is absolutely serious about this," said Tierney, who, like McGee, is a Democrat.

The $2.5 billion bond bill authorizes other projects such as the New Bedford extension, but in those cases it calls for the state and the MBTA to split the funding not provided by federal authorities. With the T facing a $16 million budget deficit this year, a possible $10 million deficit next year, and no ability to borrow more money, the guarantee that the state will pick up the agency's share of the Blue Line project, if necessary, gives it a distinction its competitors lack.

That could give it a headstart over extending the Green Line and several other projects. The Conservation Law Foundation is suing in federal court to force the state to build those projects, arguing that they were guaranteed under a 1990 legal agreement that cleared the way for the Big Dig.

Phil Warburg, the foundation's president, declined to directly address the Blue Line provision, but said the state needs to find the money for the Big Dig transit commitments. "We are very concerned that the state make good on its longstanding promises," he said.

Still, the provision by no means guarantees that the Blue Line will be extended to Lynn from its current terminus at the Wonderland Station in Revere. The state bond bill merely gives legislative approval to a series of proposed transportation projects.

Governor Mitt Romney, who has the power to select which projects will be funded, has indicated he favors improving rather than expanding transit lines, though he has indicated his support for the Blue Line project. While the US House has approved legislation that would provide the federal share of the money, the US Senate must still follow suit, President Bush must sign the legislation into law, and then federal authorities must deem the Blue Line project worthy of their support.

Nonetheless, McGee said that successfully inserting the provision will help make the project a reality.

"The feds, when they're funding these projects, they want to know that there's a real commitment from the state for these projects," the senator said. "They've been hearing for 50 years-plus that the Blue Line to Lynn is a priority. This is a way for us to make it clear to them that this really is a priority for us."

MBTA General Manager Michael H. Mulhern has expressed support for the Blue Line extension. Spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the agency has little financial ability to support the project. Among those projects is the Greenbush commuter rail extension to the South Shore and the final phase of Silver Line construction in Boston.

The agency is conducting an initial environmental review on the Blue Line project.

The five major options the MBTA is studying include one to extend the Blue Line from Revere to Lynn, Swampscott, and Salem.

From The Boston Globe

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