O’Malley still pushing for Arborway Yard

June 10, 2011
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City Councilor Matt O’Malley will host a City Council hearing on June 13 to assess the environmental impact of the current temporary Arborway Yard bus facility on Washington Street and to discuss the MBTA’s decision to not fund a planned new permanent facility.

“We want a definitive timeframe and to hold the powers that be accountable,” O’Malley told the Gazette.

O’Malley, chair of the Environment and Health Committee, has invited MBTA General Manager Richard Davey, to attend the hearing.

Joe Pesaturo, an MBTA spokesman, did not confirm whether Davey would attend the meeting.

The joint board of the MBTA and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) approved a budget in April that did not fund the permanent Arborway bus yard, a project that has been in development since 1998.

“It represents a real broken promise on the part of the General Manager [Davey] and the MBTA,” Community Planning Committee for the Arborway Yard (CPCAY) Chair Henry Allen told the Gazette at the time.

The CPCAY is the community organization that has design review authority over the project.

The current facility on the site, located at Washington Street and the Arborway, is a temporary facility that was intended to be in use for five years. It is now eight years old.

The MBTA was not required to file an environmental impact report (EIR) on the temporary bus yard. The MBTA instead filed an environmental notification form (ENF), a preliminary document, with the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) Office in November 2002, Pesaturo told the Gazette.

According to Rick Bourre, MEPA Office assistant director, an ENF is a preliminary piece of paperwork filed with the MEPA office. The MEPA office then reviews the ENF, and from that analysis decides whether a project requires an EIR.

As long as the temporary facility has not changed from the 2002 filing, Bourre said, no new environmental assessment is required.

Since the MBTA has decided not to include funding for a permanent facility, O’Malley said in a press release, the temporary Arborway Yard facility appears to have become permanent.

“The overarching issue here is we have this blight in the neighborhood,” O’Malley told the Gazette. “We want an answer from the T as to what the next steps are,” O’Malley said.

“I will continue to use my office as a bully pulpit,” O’Malley continued.

The CPCAY, meanwhile, had its most recent meeting on June 7, after the Gazette’s deadline.

“We’re not going away,” Allen previously told the Gazette.

O’Malley also invited state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz, state reps. Liz Malia and Jeffrey Sánchez and representatives from City Hall to the hearing. Chang-Díaz, Malia, Sánchez and Mayor Thomas Menino have been vocal supporters of the project.

The CPCAY has been fighting for a community-friendly facility on the site for 13 years, when the MBTA decided to close Bartlett Yard in Roxbury. It is now up to the MBTA and MassDOT to fund the project and break ground.

Originally budgeted at $94 million, the Arborway Yard facility is currently expected to cost $200 million to $220 million. The facility has been a part of the MBTA’s CIP in the past, though that is not currently the case.

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