Arborway Yard not funded

STONYBROOK—Construction of a permanent Arborway Yard bus facility is officially on ice for at least another year after the joint board of the MBTA and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) approved a budget that did not fund it on April 6.

City Councilor Matt O’Malley filed an order for a City Council hearing to assess the environmental impact of the current temporary Arborway Yard bus facility on the Washington Street site. That hearing has not yet been scheduled, but is expected to happen late this month or in early May.

The MBTA was not required to conduct an environmental impact report since the current facility was designed to be a five-year temporary facility. Now that the MBTA has decided not include funding for a permanent facility, the Arborway Yard facility appears to have become permanent, O’Malley said.

“The temporary facility at the Arborway Yard has been an eyesore in the neighborhood for years and may pose environmental hazards for residents of the community,” O’Malley said in a press release. “We need to continue to press the MBTA to keep its promises to the residents.”

“The MBTA…file[d] an environmental notification form for the facility, even though it wasn’t required, because there was such a strong community interest in the project,” MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo told the Gazette this week.

The projected $200 million-$220 million for the project was not included in the version of the Capital Investment Program (CIP) approved April 6, despite months of lobbying by the CPCAY, Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) and elected officials. The MBTA has already spent $30 million developing the project.

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.

“It represents a real broken promise on the part of the [MBTA] General Manager [Richard Davey] and the MBTA,” Community Planning Committee for the Arborway Yard (CPCAY) Chair Henry Allen told the Gazette last week. “The saga continues into its fourteenth year.”

The CPCAY has the summer to try to get the Arborway Yard—located on Washington Street at the Arborway—on next year’s CIP before the approval process begins in the fall.

The only response the Gazette received from the MBTA was a copy of the introduction used to present the CIP to the Board and a form letter sent to petitioners in favor of the Arborway Yard project that states: “The MBTA faces very difficult fiscal circumstances because of legacy debt burdens and a $2.7 billion backlog in state of good repair projects.

“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 in the MBTA CIP until additional funding sources are identified.”

“We’ll continue to press [Secretary and CEO of MassDOT Jeff] Mullan and Davey on the next iteration of the CIP, which starts this fall,” Allen said. “We’re going to figure out our next steps, but we’re not going away.”

At the joint boards’ March meeting, Allen made an “impassioned” speech, he told the Gazette, trying to convince the boards to include funding for the project. A letter signed by seven city and state elected officials, including Mayor Thomas Menino, state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz, and state Reps. Liz Malia and Jeffrey Sánchez was also presented to the joint boards.

“As far as I am aware, the only person Davey called was Jim Hunt, from the City. I was never contacted as chair of the CPCAY. Neither were any of our elected officials. I consider that not only rude but entirely disrespectful after all the years and work we’ve dedicated,” Allen told the Gazette this week.

“We get zero response. What does that say about how they view us and view this community?” Allen continued.

Chang-Díaz and Malia said in February that they are planning to include the opening of bonds in a future bond bill that could provide an alternate source of funding for the project. There are also efforts to arrange a meeting with Gov. Deval Patrick.

“What the T did was walk away from the Arborway Yard,” Malia said after a Casey Overpass community meeting on April 6.

When asked about the state of the bond bill, she said, “There’s some very general language in the [state] budget that would allow us to come back to it—like sewing a piece of elastic into the seam to allow some wiggle room in the future.”

“The state has never given the T enough money to do what it needs to do. I don’t know what the solution is for that, but we have to live with the consequences,” Malia told the Gazette last month.

At a community meeting about the Casey Overpass demolition project on April 6, many members of the community—including O’Malley, Allen and CPCAY member Allan Ihrer—stated that the Casey and Arborway projects should be done simultaneously and cooperatively. [See related article.]

“The Casey Overpass and the Arborway Yard should really be done in tandem,” O’Malley said. “This is an opportunity to develop both responsibly and [in a] well-thought out [manner].”

The CPCAY was formed in 1998, shortly after the MBTA announced plans to build a major new transit facility in Forest Hills to replace Bartlett Yard in Roxbury.