Last chance for Arborway Yard facility funding

March 18, 2011
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Courtesy Photo
Arborway Yard supporters (from left) Oren Elow, Karen Zerby Buzzelle, Kay Fallon, Henry Allen and state Rep. Liz Malia show their support for the proposed facility at a March 2 MBTA and MassDOT joint boards meeting.

STONYBROOK—If the joint boards of the MBTA and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) don’t include funding for the Arborway Yard bus facility in next year’s Capital Investment Program (CIP) at their April meeting, it won’t be for lack of community support.

Eighteen representatives of various community organizations and elected officials showed their support for building the facility at the March 2 meeting of the MassDOT and MBTA joint boards, trying to convince the joint boards to provide funding for the project.

The joint boards are expected to vote on the CIP on April 6. This was the Community Planning Committee for the Arborway Yard’s (CPCAY) last chance to convince the MBTA and MassDOT to include the Arborway Yard facility in next year’s CIP. The project has been in design limbo for nearly 13 years and it is currently only waiting for funding to break ground.

The supporters brought colorful shovel cut-outs to the meeting—used to illustrate the project’s state of being shovel-ready.

“We left two of those as gifts for [MBTA General Manager Richard] Davey and [Secretary and CEO of MassDOT Jeff] Mullan…We showed them that there continues to be strong support for this project from residents and elected officials,” Kyle Robidoux, community organizing assistant director at JPNDC, told the Gazette last week.

The CIP is the MBTA’s five-year investment plan. While inclusion in the CIP is not a guarantee of funding, projects not included in the CIP will not be funded. 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.

According to the 90 percent design, 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.

The people who attended the meeting represent the 506 people and 15 community organizations that signed a letter in the “strongest possible support,” according to that letter, for building the facility.

State Rep. Liz Malia read another letter to the joint boards, signed by Mayor Thomas Menino, state Rep. Jeffrey Sanchéz, state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz and city councilors Stephen Murphy, Felix Arroyo and Matt O’Malley, as well as herself, that expressed their support “for the construction of this critically needed transit facility.”

“We feel that further delays in the construction of this project would be shortsighted and would represent a broken promise to the City and the neighborhoods we represent,” the letter reads. CPCAY Chair Henry Allen provided a copy of both letters to the Gazette.

This show of support, complete with Allen’s “impassioned” speech, happened during the public comment section of the meeting, precluding discussion or questions from the joint boards, Allen said.

“We did hear that both the general manager and the secretary of transportation were impressed with our support and presentations and want to fid a way to fund this,” Allen told the Gazette. “At this point, we remain very concerned that the final CIP…will not include funding for the Arborway Yard [facility]. We will continue to lobby, advocate, pressure the MBTA to do the right thing.”

“We hope the MBTA will fulfill their promise to the community to build the facility” Robidoux said.

Along with the CPCAY, representatives from the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC), Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) and Stonybrook Neighborhood Association (SNA), as well as Malia, Jullieanne Doherty, the new JP coordinator at the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services and Val Frias, from O’Malley’s office, were all present in person.

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 CIP in the past, though that is not currently the case.

The MBTA already has invested approximately $30 million into the Arborway Yard site, including costs for planning and design of the new permanent facility and the design and construction of a temporary maintenance facility. That temporary facility was designed to serve the MBTA’s needs for approximately five years and is already two years past that life expectancy.

The CPCAY has been fighting for a community-friendly facility on the site for almost 13 years, when the MBTA decided to close Bartlett Yard in Roxbury. The CPCAY approved the 90 percent design at its December meeting. It is now up to the MBTA and MassDOT to break ground.

To submit comments to the MBTA, e-mail cipinfo@mbta.com or write MBTA Budget Office, 10 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116.

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