City presses T to remove trolley poles

April 2, 2010
By

John Ruch

The city is pushing the MBTA to remove old, rusty poles from Jamaica Plain sidewalks in the wake of an announcement two months ago that the transit agency can’t afford to do it.

“The city will continue to press the T to take care of this issue that has been a blight on the neighborhood for a long time,” said Vineet Gupta, director of policy and planning at the Boston Transportation Department (BTD), in a Gazette interview.

Gupta said that BTD has asked the MBTA for a “formal written response,” including budget information, about removing the poles. That response could come as soon as this week, he said.

The MBTA did not have immediate comment for this article.

The so-called catenary poles once held wires that powered electric streetcars on S. Huntington Avenue and Centre and South streets. The poles have been unused and rusting since 1985, when the MBTA halted the Arborway Green Line trolley service through Jamaica Plain. It is technically possible that streetcar service could be restored by a still-pending legal decision, but the old poles could not be reused either way.

BTD and the MBTA reached an informal agreement late last year to remove the poles, which crowd the sidewalks in many spots. But in February, the MBTA announced that it could not use federal stimulus funds for the project as it had planned.

Pole removal has been in the MBTA’s capital budget for years, but still has no apparent funding source. The MBTA’s budget is in a well-known crisis involving billions of dollars in debt.

“We understand the MBTA does have some budget issues,” Gupta said, adding that he has spoken with MBTA staff about the poles and the funding.

The Pondside-area Jamaica Pond Association has long advocated for removing the poles. The issue also has been discussed by the city-formed “Centre South Action Plan” advisory group overseeing the ongoing redesign of Centre and South streets. That advisory group generally has favored removing the poles, but possibly keeping two pairs in place for hanging banners over the street.

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