Brian M. Arrigo
Mayor of Revere
For over 40 years, the idea of connecting the MBTA Blue Line and the Red Line has been a topic of conversation. Now is the time for action.
The reasons favoring the connection beneath Cambridge Street from Bowdoin station to MGH/Charles have long been obvious. The five color-coded transit lines tying Boston and the metropolitan region have a fundamental flaw: Red and Blue don’t meet, even though the Blue Line provides direct access to Logan Airport and Revere Beach, and the Red Line provides access to Massachusetts General Hospital, Kendall Square, and Cambridge.
The pro-connector argument has always relied on that persuasive rationale. But over the past decade, extraordinary growth at Logan and in communities served by the Blue and Red Lines, the imminent acceleration of that growth, and the future expansion of MGH have elevated “persuasive” reasons to “compelling” reasons.
The connector can help relieve two of Greater Boston’s most daunting problems: housing supply and transportation woes. With the Kendall Square region almost fully built out, access to communities like Revere is necessary for the region’s continued economic growth.
Ease of commute helps businesses lure a dynamic workforce. The time-consuming double-transfer that Blue-to-Red riders now face, or the traffic-snarled drive from the North Shore to Boston’s west side essentially detaches good jobs from willing employees. A Blue-Red link would create a manageable public transportation commute between the MGH/Cambridge area and the North Shore. In Revere, to cite a prime example, some $750 million worth of investment signals the availability of human capital that the region’s economy demands.
Additionally, as Boston and Cambridge run out of space to entice or expand businesses, Blue Line communities offer space to grow. In Revere alone, we have large development opportunities within walking distance of the Blue Line: nearly a third of the 161 acres at Suffolk Downs, 34 acres at Wonderland, and 850,000 square feet of ready manufacturing space at the former Necco property.
The projected cost of the connector dropped substantially from an earlier estimate. Meanwhile, its benefits have been exponentially increased. The Red-Blue connector has always been a good idea. But today, it is an imperative part of Greater Boston’s future vitality.
David G. Tuerck
President of the Beacon Hill Institute and a Professor of Economics at Suffolk University, Franklin resident
Considering the system-wide financing problems facing the MBTA and the state’s poor track record of completing infrastructure projects on time and on budget, the inclusion of a Blue Line-Red Line Connection in the MBTA’s Focus 40 project list is evidence of misplaced priorities. The MBTA would be better served by prioritizing maintenance of existing capital, reforming its pension system, and keeping costs of current projects under control — for example, the current Green Line extension project.
The proposed connection is yet another promise from the gift that keeps giving: the budget-busting Big Dig. Proposed as a Big Dig environmental mitigation strategy, planners pledged to consider extending the Blue Line to Charles Street. A less ambitious approach — building a simple pedestrian walkway to connect the Blue and Red lines — is not enough for transit advocates, who consider that idea just short of an insult. The compulsion is to think big for the small number of riders — relative to the rest of the system- who feel taxpayers should pick up the tab for their convenience rather than out of necessity.
Creating a mini-Big Dig in one of the city’s most dense commercial areas from Government Center to Charles Circle — hard by the MGH campus — offers few benefits compared with other proposals to improve the state’s public transportation, such as replacing trolleys on the Ashmont-Mattapan line.
The proposed underground connection has most recently been estimated to cost $200 million to $350 million. Those familiar with the history of cost-overruns know that the final cost is likely to be much higher. This is backed up by research. One study by a Danish researcher found that most transit projects worldwide exceed their budgets and fail to meet ridership goals.
For those who think the Big Dig cost overruns were worth it, the empirical literature is clear: Despite the expenditures, Massachusetts has a notably lengthy travel time to work, according to the US Census Bureau.
Few would argue that MBTA services and infrastructure need no improvement. But investing in a Blue Line-Red Line link when there are other critical transportation needs not being met is misguided.
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As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. Anyone interested in suggesting a topic or writing a piece can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.