Boston University on Friday joined a chorus of abutters and advocates calling for quick construction of a new train station between its campus and Harvard University, but stopped short of pledging a dollar amount to help build it.
In comments submitted Friday to the state, BU senior vice president Gary Nicksa said the university supports building the so-called West Station “sooner rather than later,” as opposed to the more-than-a-decade delay contemplated by Massachusetts officials.
As part of the much larger project to reconfigure the Massachusetts Turnpike where it curves between the Harvard and BU campuses, scheduled to begin in a few years, the state plans to put off construction of West Station until after the highway work is done — as late as 2040. In the interim, the state would use the area around the Allston interchange as layover space for idle trains.
Neighbors and local politicians have argued that without a transit stop, it will be difficult to plan for the dozens of adjacent acres that Harvard is expected to develop.
Harvard has already weighed in, last month urging state officials to open a no-frills, interim version of West Station along the Worcester/Framingham commuter rail tracks as soon as the mid-2020s. But unlike BU, Harvard has pledged $8 million for the initial stop, and another $50 million to turn it into a large-scale transit hub with multiple platforms and a bus terminal.
BU spokesman Colin Riley said the school is “committed to contributing to the funding, yet specifics are pending discussions” with neighbors and state and city officials. BU once said it would contribute $8 million, but that was back when the station was estimated to cost about $25 million. Since then, the station has grown in size and ambition, and accordingly, the cost is now near $100 million.
Nicksa also suggested the state should create better pedestrian and bicycle connections between its campus and the Charles River, and said BU wants the state to limit the number of trains stored there during off-peak hours. And he raised concerns about noise and vibrations from construction work near school buildings.
Jim Aloisi, a transit advocate and former state transportation secretary, said BU may be reluctant to offer up a dollar commitment as a negotiating tactic to address its other concerns.
“I’m guessing they’re not talking about money because they have to negotiate some of these other things,” he said. “They don’t want to name a price.”
BU is also backing a direct connection between West Station and Commonwealth Avenue, along Malvern Street, that would only be open to buses and shuttles that can also provide transit service to the Longwood Medical Area. BU was once opposed to this kind of bus connection, but has more recently come around. The state’s plans, however, do not include the bus connection.Adam Vaccaro can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamtvaccaro.