Red Blue Connector added to Focus 40 priorities

Massachusetts secretary of transportation Stephanie Pollack, standing in red in this file photo, made a big annoucement about the Red Blue Connector Monday afternoon.

Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack announced today at the Fiscal Management and Control Board meeting that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority would include the Red Blue Connector as a Next Priority Project in the Focus 40 strategic vision plan and include it as a rail connection between Bowdoin and Charles/MGH, not a pedestrian tunnel.

The Red Blue Connector is an extension of the Blue Line under Cambridge Street in Boston to Charles/MGH Station. It would allow many riders transferring from the Orange or Blue Lines to the Red Line to avoid the heavily congested Green Line trains between Government Center and Park Street and reduce Red Line loads at Park Street.

The change was welcome news to activists, officials and developers, many of whom had signed up to speak at the meeting to urge them to do precisely that. TransitMatters even gathered 1200 signatures for a petition.

Elected officials like Revere mayor Brian Arrigo and Boston City Councilors Michelle Wu and Lydia Edwards talked about how important the Red Blue Connector would be for the economy and social and environmental justice initiatives.

Brendan Crichton, a state senator from Lynn, urged the MBTA to extend the Blue Line to Lynn, something there had been plans for since the 1930s.

Gina Fiandaca, the commissioner of the Boston Transportation Department, said that the Red Blue Connector was important for the City’s Go Boston 2030 transportation plan and efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. It would also be important for equity and using the opportunity provided by the Massachusetts General Hospital redevelopment plans.

Tom O’Brien of HYM said that they were planning on building around 10,00 units of housing at Suffolk Downs and that the Red Blue Connector will be crucial to making sure all those people don’t contribute to further congestion on the roadways.

Fred Salvucci, a former state secretary of transportation, said that the connector was in plans made when Michael Dukakis was governor and that the T should get a move on with design-build-procurement so it can be more like a Focus 2025 project. He said it was very important for state of good repair and modernization reasons, as well the project at Suffolk Downs.

“You can’t put another dog house at Suffolk Downs because of the state of the transportation system,” he said.

“We’ve seen now that the cost should be reasonable,” said Ari Ofsevit, who did an analysis several years ago highly critical of the MBTA’s assumptions about the project. “We’ve been promised the Red Blue Connector since Tom Brady was in middle school.”

Staci Rubin, a senior attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation, said that they would be watching the Red Blue Connector very closely because it was legally-mandated by a lawsuit the CLF won over increased emissions resulting from the Big Dig.

Pollack said that just because they were making the project a Next Priority, it still didn’t mean they were actually committing to do it by 2040. She said that they have a capital investment process where projects are prioritized based on statutory requirements, the board’s priorities and regulation established by the legislature. She described it as a rolling five year plan where projects could be included in it from Focus 40 based on priorities and availability of funds.

“I hope there will be funds available,” she said.