STONYBROOK—The Community Planning Committee for the Arborway Yard (CPCAY) has officially enlisted the help of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) in an effort to convince the MBTA and Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to include $220 million for the construction of the Arborway Yard bus facility in next year’s Capital Investment Program.
CPCAY has been running a multifaceted campaign that includes letters, petitions, endorsements from the community, neighborhood and business groups as well as going to board meetings, according to chair Henry Allen. State Rep. Liz Malia and state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz have both been vocal supporters of the current design.
According to the 90 percent design presented to the community on Oct. 27 and again to the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) on Jan. 25, the 10.1-acre facility along Washington Street would include a 118-space “bus barn” building, a 10-bay maintenance and fueling facility, an underground 275-space parking garage for MBTA employees and a bus wash station.
The MBTA would cede nearly eight acres of the current property to the City for future development that would include low-cost housing, commercial space and further green space, as the Gazette has previously reported.
Originally budgeted at $94 million, the Arborway Yard facility is currently expected to cost $200-$220 million. The facility has been a part of the MBTA’s Capital Investment Program (CIP) in the past, though that is not currently the case.
CPCAY’s goal is to have 500 letters submitted by early April, when the MBTA Board and MassDOT will convene to vote on the new CIP. If the Arborway Yard facility is not included in that version of the CIP, the project will have to wait another year for possible inclusion. The temporary bus yard currently on the site is already two years over its intended five-year lifespan.
CPCAY member Allan Ihrer called the temporary facility “a hideous mess” at the January JPNC meeting.
“We are prepared to continue the fight beyond April, if necessary. There is too much at stake for the community to do otherwise,” Allen said.
JPNDC is currently providing “on-the-ground” assistance to CPCAY, organizing a letter writing campaign and a door-knocking outreach day, according to Kyle Robidoux, community organizing assistant director at JPNDC.
“JPNDC has been involved for the past 12 years, attending community meetings, but more recently we were approached by Henry Allen, asking if we could lend more organizing support to the campaign,” Robidoux told the Gazette in a phone interview.
“We felt it fit our mission, so we committed to providing help to push for funding,” he added.
As of Jan. 25, 146 letters had been sent to Jeffrey B. Mullan, secretary and CEO of MassDOT, and MBTA General Manager Richard Davey, Robidoux said. “Also, close to ten organizations have signed the letter, including the JPNDC, Southern JP Health Center, Brookside Health Center, Arborway Coalition, Asticou-Martinwood South St. NA, and West Roxbury Courthouse NA,” he added.
The project is at a “real crisis point,” Allen told the Gazette last November, saying that the whole project “will be lost if financing doesn’t come through.”
In a form letter sent in reply to community letters, Davey said, “the MBTA faces very difficult fiscal circumstances because of legacy debt burdens and a $2.7 billion backlog in state of good repair projects. Due to these constraints, we had to refocus the current MBTA CIP to invest in the Authority’s aging infrastructure.
“At this time, a number of important projects, which include the Arborway Yard Transit Facility…are not included in the current MBTA CIP. We cannot include these projects…until additional funding sources are identified.
“When additional funding is available, these projects will be prime candidates for inclusion into a future MBTA CIP.”
The controversy-fraught and years-long process started in 1998, when the MBTA announced plans to build a major new transit facility in Forest Hills to replace Bartlett Yard in Roxbury. With strong backing from Mayor Thomas Menino and other officials, residents were able to form CPCAY and get design review authority. That led to years of complex negotiations and an agreement that several acres of land would be given to the city for redevelopment into housing, commercial space and green space.
In 2001, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was negotiated and agreed to by the MBTA and CPCAY that reflected the give-and-take needed to uphold residents’ rights to a safe, livable environment and the need for MBTA buses to be maintained.
In 2007, CPCAY met to approve a final design for the site. MBTA officials stunned everyone by announcing that, despite their previous agreement to the design, they needed a facility 1 acre larger than previously agreed. The next year, CPCAY finally approved a design with a more modest expansion in a controversial vote. Since then, it has pushed for full funding to complete the design and enter construction.
Finding the funding would be a “tall order,” Davey said at the October meeting, but he added that the MBTA would work on bringing down costs and “sharpening our pencils” to build the facility as soon as possible. Davey assured those present that no measure would adversely impact the community. He also said he would look for different sources of funding.
The CIP is a document that outlines and authorizes the MBTA’s use of funds over the next five years. The MBTA cannot operate or build any projects not included in the CIP.
The CPCAY has its next meeting on Feb. 10, at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute at 305 South St.
To submit comments to the MBTA, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or write MBTA Budget Office, 10 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116.