EOT mishandled Arborway corridor planning

October 19, 2007
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The following was sent to Secretary Bernard Cohen at the state’s Executive Office of Transportation on Sept. 26:

I am writing to you regarding the “public” meeting the Executive Office of Transportation (EOT) held in my district, the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, on Sept. 10. I have attached a news article from the Jamaica Plain Gazette titled “Transit meeting upsets everyone” that further elaborates on the meeting and the community’s reaction to it. I would like to address a number of concerns I have with the EOT’s handling of this meeting and the issue for which it was held: transit improvements in the Arborway corridor.

The EOT did not make my office aware of the meeting, nor did they do adequate community outreach to ensure the residents of Jamaica Plain and Mission Hill were made aware of the meeting. The issue of transit improvements along the Arborway corridor, which includes Centre Street, South Street and S. Huntington Avenue, has a long and contentious history dating back to the 1985 decision to replace trolley service with bus service.

I would therefore question the EOT’s decision to originally publicize a meeting on the subject as a meeting solely for “stakeholders.” Though the EOT did concede to allow all who came to attend the meeting, the lack of community outreach on a topic that has been so central to discussion and debate in the neighborhood is not acceptable.

I would further question the commitment of the EOT to address the current problems with Arborway Corridor transit. I can certainly appreciate the fiscal restraints of the EOT in regard to transportation projects. However, the improvement of transit along the Arborway corridor was a commitment made to the community multiple times as the result of the Big Dig’s environmental mitigation and then again as a settlement with the Conservation Law Foundation. The corridor serviced by the 39 bus is one of the busiest systems, with many residents using public transportation for work in the Longwood Medical Area and downtown Boston. Centre Street in Jamaica Plain has become a regional destination area for tourism and business for its historical relevance, parks system and diverse array of small businesses. It is undeniably necessary that the EOT follow through with its commitment to transit improvement.

In addition to the challenges regarding public transportation along the Arborway Corridor, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has been following a process of addressing the Emerald Necklace parkways system through the Arborway Master Plan. I offer this information in order to draw a clear distinction between DCR and EOT’s process, however, in working with the community. Despite disagreements between residents and DCR, DCR has consistently engaged the community and worked with my office. I hope that in the future EOT will effectively reach out to residents and the elected officials representing Jamaica Plain. I further suggest that EOT engage DCR, so that communication can occur on two projects that will indisputably impact each other.

Whether we decide to solve the transit problems with better bus service or trolleys, it is imperative that concrete improvements be made, and that will only occur if the community, elected officials and EOT work together in a visible, transparent manner.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration. Please do not hesitate to contact my office at (617) 722-2370 if I can be of assistance.

Jeffrey Sánchez
State Representative
Jamaica Plain