Group sues to restore trolleys

February 16, 2007
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The Arborway Committee filed suit Tuesday against the state and its ally the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) in an attempt to require restoration of the Arborway Line trolley service between Heath Street and Forest Hills.

Restoration of the Green Line E-branch trolley service, “temporarily” suspended in 1985, was originally required by a successful 1990 CLF lawsuit against the state as part of Big Dig environmental mitigations. In 2004, the state announced it would simply rewrite environmental regulations to get out of restoring the service.

In 2005, the CLF sued the state to again require trolley restoration and two other transit projects. But in a settlement last year, the CLF permitted the state to kill trolley restoration with only the promise of some type of improvements in the S. Huntington Avenue and Centre/South streets corridor devised with public input.

The Route 39 bus currently acts as a trolley replacement service. Residents for and against trolley restoration have engaged in sometimes vitriolic debate for years.

The Arborway Committee lawsuit is based on an “environmental justice” claim.

“Restoring Green Line service is the only viable way of improving public transit and thereby improving air quality in Jamaica Plain,” said Arborway Committee chair Franklyn Salimbene in a press statement. “Route 39 bus service has been, is and promises to continue to be both ineffective and unhealthful.”

The suit was filed against the CLF, the state Executive Office of Transportation and the Department of Public Works. It argues that state is breaching its 1990 contract with the CLF. Salimbene told the Gazette that under statute, the CLF must be named as a co-defendant because it’s a signatory to the contract, but that the Arborway Committee is not targeting the CLF.

The Arborway Committee is a group of local residents who have advocated for trolley restoration since the 1980s.