GLX and Public Engagement

December 17, 2015

The Somerville and Medford communities that are most affected by the Green Line Extension recently submitted a letter to MassDOT Secretary Pollack on the importance of public engagement.  This letter, from the Somerville Transportation Equity PartnershipMedford Green Line Neighborhood AllianceFriends of the Community Path and Green Line Extension Working Group is shared as a guest blog.


Dear Secretary Pollack,

We appreciate your efforts to address the recent Green Line Extension (GLX) cost escalation. As community representatives we have long been engaged in constructively contributing toward the completion of the GLX, which will transform transportation in our communities and the Metro Boston region. We plan to continue to work with you, the MBTA and MassDOT to ensure that the costs can be reduced so that the project can proceed. We understand that this will delay the project’s completion, but we acknowledge that undertaking additional value engineering and redesign, creating an improved procurement strategy and method, and installing new project management are essential.

One aspect of the project that we want assurance from you will not change is the robust community process that has been a hallmark of this project for more than a decade. A good public process will not only lead to an ultimately superior project, but it is a benefit to all taxpayers.

One of the recently announced project management changes greatly concerns us: the elimination of consultants working on public outreach. Recent communications about MassDOT Board and Fiscal and Management Control Board meeting times and agendas have been contradictory and not easily available to the public. The absence of a communications point person and team, and a published email address for public comments has led to confusion and frustration. In short, public outreach has clearly suffered. We strongly believe that re-establishing a transparent public communication process will result in better decision-making during this most crucial phase of the project’s history. This has been the case numerous times in the past, when recommendations from the community were instrumental in the siting of the Washington Street Station and Green Line maintenance facility, as well as improving the inner belt track configuration, just to name a few.

With a new GLX financial plan promised as soon as March/April 2016, the process will be moving very quickly over the next four months. During this time and then throughout the life of the GLX project, we request that MassDOT:

  1. Resume holding at least monthly meetings of the GLX Working Group. The MBTA has not held a formal GLX Working Group meeting since last August. The GLX Working Group contains a wealth of expertise and knowledge about the project and is an important conduit of information to and from the communities. As has been past practice, in order to ensure that the most people can attend, GLX Working Group meetings should be held in the late afternoon or early evenings and in the GLX project area, not in Boston.
  2. Hold a public event in which members of the community can meet the key members of the new GLX project management team, including those responsible for public outreach.
  3. Share all GLX cost and redesign information with the public in a timely fashion, to allow ample opportunity for public feedback and constructive input.

As members of the Green Line Extension communities, we are proud to say that many of us have been working on the GLX longer than most people on the project team. We also are taxpayers, we understand trade-offs are necessary, and we have advocated all along that we get the most benefit for every dollar spent.

Please remember that we are your biggest allies for making the GLX project work, and that we are here to stay.

Sincerely,

Ellin Reisner, President, Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership
Ken Krause, Medford Green Line Neighborhood Alliance
Lynn Weissman, Co-president, Friends of the Community Path
Doug Carr, Co-chair, Green Line Extension Working Group

cc:

Mayor Joseph Curtatone
Mayor-elect Stephanie Muccini Burke
Senator Patricia Jehlen
Representative Christine Barber
Representative Denise Provost
Representative Timothy Toomey
Representative Sean Garballey
Brad Rawson, Senior Transportation Planner, City of Somerville
Rafael Mares, Vice President, Conservation Law Foundation
Kristina Egan, Director, Transportation for Massachusetts
Frank DePaula, General Manager, MBTA
Kate, Fichter, Assistant Secretary, Mass DOT


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