BU had agreed to help pay for Allston station
When Deval Patrick, in one of his last major acts as governor, unveiled plans to build a new commuter rail station in Allston, one critical piece was missing: funding for the final third of the $25 million project.
Harvard University and the state had each agreed to pick up one third of the cost, but state officials said they were unable to secure the remaining $8 million from an unnamed third party.
Now, the mystery (such as it is) has been revealed.
Boston University president Robert A. Brown, in a letter to Patrick obtained by the Globe through a public records request, pledged the final $8.33 million for the station, called West Station, back in September.
“Boston University is prepared to help fund the construction of West Station, in partnership with the Commonwealth and Harvard University,” Brown wrote, adding that he was “very pleased to be a partner in this important transit project for the Allston area.”
Unlike Harvard’s contribution, however, BU’s donation was never finalized, apparently because it hinged on further discussions with the Patrick administration — discussions that never took place before Patrick left office in January, according to a university spokesman.
“The pledge was contingent on additional conversations with the state at that time about the impact that the development would have on traffic and on the BU campus and surrounding neighborhoods,” said the spokesman, Colin Riley. “Those conversations have not taken place, but we’re looking forward to restarting them with the Baker administration.”
Indeed, Brown’s letter said BU would pay only if the university signed an agreement with the state and with Harvard that would ban cars and buses from using BU’s West Campus as a route to the station.
Brown wrote that the university also expected to be a “full partner” in the planning and design of West Station and to be “fully engaged” in any plans to expand the station to include buses.
Michael Verseckes, a Baker administration spokesman, said that while officials are focused on restoring train service following the historic snowfall last month, the administration is open to talking with Brown about helping to pay for West Station.
“The administration’s immediate priority is getting the current commuter rail system running on a regular schedule for commuters,” Verseckes said. “However, we welcome any opportunity to engage in a discussion about transportation public-private partnerships beneficial to our local and educational communities.”
West Station is a key piece of a larger plan to revitalize a forlorn former rail yard in North Allston near the Charles River. Along with a $260 million project to straighten the Massachusetts Turnpike near the Allston tolls, the plan is designed to open nearly 50 acres for development and to improve access into Boston on the Worcester/Framingham commuter rail line.
Organizers of the proposed 2024 Summer Olympics also plan to build a temporary 18,500-seat aquatics center near the rail yard to allow fans and tourists to arrive via West Station.
Construction of the highway project and the station are slated to begin in 2017, with the station due to be completed in 2020. Eventually, state officials envision using West Station as a stop for self-propelled trains — called diesel multiple units — that would connect Allston to Cambridge and North Station.