Tobin: Old trolley poles must go


City Councilor John Tobin is calling on the MBTA to remove the old, rusty poles that once held electric trolley wires from Centre and South streets.

Tobin contacted MBTA General Manager Dan Grabauskas with the request last week by telephone and a formal letter.

Grabauskas has “directed MBTA staff to report back to him with a scope of work, including estimated costs, for such a project,” said MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo in an e-mail to the Gazette.

A lawsuit seeking the return of trolley service on Centre/South is still pending. But even if it succeeds, the old poles could not be reused, according to Franklyn Salimbene of the local Arborway Committee, the group that filed the suit.

“They’re ugly. The T has not maintained them properly,” Salimbene said of the so-called catenary poles. “I think [pole removal] might contribute to the attractiveness of the street.”

Tobin and others have called for pole removal before. But the idea has been renewed by controversy over cell phone antennas in the area and a possible master plan for Centre/South. [See related article.]

MBTA Green Line trolleys ran down S. Huntington Avenue and Centre and South streets until 1985. After decades of controversy, the MBTA got federal approval to officially kill restoration plans this year.

Tobin noted the pole situation is similar to the old trolley tracks that formerly ran down Centre and South. The tracks remained even though they also could not be reused in any restored trolley service. Tobin long called for the tracks to be removed. They were finally paved over this year.

Noting that paving over the tracks was a compromise solution, Tobin said he welcomes any method for making the poles disappear. “Bring David Copperfield out,” he said.

If trolley service is restored, Salimbene said, he would advocate for a combined streetlight and catenary pole to reduce pole clutter.

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