Bus yard grant includes building demo

STONYBROOK—The MBTA last month submitted a $155.5 million federal grant application to fund construction of the Arborway Yard bus facility. In a last-minute surprise, the application proposes demolishing the T’s 500 Arborway office building.

Residents years ago proposed demolishing 500 Arborway, an office building that sits at the heart of the proposed bus facility at the Arborway and Washington Street. But the MBTA refused, forcing an awkward design to be planned around the building.

“We only wish that the MBTA had agreed with the CPCAY years ago that 500 Arborway be demolished,” said Henry Allen, chair of the Community Planning Committee for the Arborway Yard (CPCAY), a resident group advising the T.

The demo should make the project about $40 million to $50 million cheaper, Allen estimated. It also should not affect the size or other details of the bus facility plan, said Allen and MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo. The building site would be a parking lot, eliminating the need for expensive underground parking, Allen said.

That could be one reason the T’s grant application seeks far less than the original construction estimate of $200 million to $220 million.

Pesaturo said that the grant would be enough to fund construction of the new facility, demo of 500 Arborway and the removal of a “temporary” bus facility that has run for years on the site. Following construction, the T has pledged give 8 acres of the site to the City of Boston for redevelopment into housing, retail space and parkland.

The Arborway Yard plan has been full of surprises. The T attempted to build it 13 years ago without telling the community, leading to the formation of the CPCAY. In 2007, with the design done, the T suddenly announced that it would not work and had to be 1 acre bigger. The CPCAY proposed demolishing 500 Arborway for the space, but the T claimed that would add $50 million to the price tag.

Last fall, the T indicated it might demolish the aging office building after all. But nothing more was heard until a draft grant application circulated days before the July 29 submission deadline with the 500 Arborway demolition as an element, according to state Rep. Liz Malia, who showed the Gazette a copy of the paperwork.

The T’s application is for a Federal Transit Administration bus facility grant program. Three days before the submission deadline, Gov. Deval Patrick indicated to the Gazette at a Jamaica Plain forum that he did know what the Arborway Yard is. Patrick shook his head when asked about the bus facility, and said he did not recognize the project after it was briefly described to him. Allen said he was “incredulous” about the governor’s lack of knowledge after years of CPCAY lobbying.

Two days later, Patrick wrote a grant support letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood calling the Arborway Yard “an important investment and one that will result in an enhanced quality of life for generations to come.”

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