T: Maybe we can fund Arborway Yard

The MBTA may have found a way to fund the long-stalled Arborway Yard bus depot project at Washington Street and the Arborway by using a grant provided by the Federal Transit Administration.

The idea was announced during a City Council hearing on the environmental impact of the temporary facility on June 13, held by City Councilor Matt O’Malley.

“We’re encouraged by the fact the [MBTA] general manager has identified a possible source of funds,” Community Planning Committee for the Arborway Yard (CPCAY) Chair Henry Allen told the Gazette. “It is a competitive application with other states, so there are no guarantees, but it is an encouraging development.”

“We are expecting to learn more details [about the grant] from the Federal Transit Administration next week,” MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo told the Gazette.

The MBTA has not announced which grant it is applying for or how much that grant would provide the project.

Allen has a meeting with MBTA General Manager Richard Davey today, where Allen expects further details on the grant, he told the Gazette.

Davey did not attend the June 13 hearing despite being invited, O’Malley said, explaining that is “not unusual.”

“I didn’t perceive it as a snub,” he said.

Three other MBTA officials were present, however, and O’Malley said that the City Council’s Environment and Health Committee, which O’Malley chairs, “grilled them pretty hard.”

O’Malley added, “We were disappointed that certain questions couldn’t be answered.”

O’Malley said the T representatives—John Schwarz, Ed Hunter and Mahendra Patel—were ill-informed on the size of the MBTA’s Capital Investment Program (CIP), its long-term budget and planning document, believing it to be $1.5 billion when actually it is $4.5 billion. They also did not know why the Arborway Yard was removed from the CIP some years ago, nor would they agree to an in-house audit of the current facility’s environmental impact.

Pesaturo told the Gazette that Schwarz, Hunter and Patel work in the design and construction department, whereas “budget and finance people craft the CIP.” He did not comment on their ability to authorize an environmental audit.

“The lack of preparedness on the part of the T representatives demonstrated…total disrespect for what people have put in over the last 13 years,” CPCAY member Bernard Doherty told the Gazette the day after the hearing.

“They really don’t care…They’re not connected,” Doherty added.

According to O’Malley, the T officials repeated that the Arborway Yard is one of the top priorities for the T.

“We are on the precipice of an incredible opportunity,” O’Malley said. “When we are able to get the Arborway Yard fully funded, it is going to be an absolutely amazing transformation.”

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

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 planning since 1998. The project would include several acres of residential, commercial and parkland development.

The current facility on the site is a temporary facility that was intended to be in use for five years. It is now eight years old.

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.

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