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State's $100m for ballpark geared to specific capital improvements

By Michael Rezendes, Globe Staff, 7/28/2000

he $100 million the state is putting up to help build a new Fenway Park is intended for a shopping list of improvements to utilities, local roads, sidewalks, public transportation - and a study of a new exit ramp from the Massachusetts Turnpike.

''We've tried to make the list as tight as possible because the speaker and the Senate president want the public to know that the money is going to hard-core capital improvements,'' said state Senator Robert A. Havern III, an Arlington Democrat and Senate chairman of the Legislature's Joint Transportation Committee. ''It's not just a blank check for the Red Sox to use however they please.''

Committee members have pegged the cost of more than a dozen specific improvements at $76.3 million - with the remainder of the state money to be set aside for unexpected contingencies and additional improvements that might arise from today's public hearing on Fenway legislation unveiled yesterday by Governor Paul Cellucci.

''We're going to be looking for some additional wisdom from the public,'' said state Representative Joseph C. Sullivan, a Braintree Democrat and House chairman of the transportation committee.

But critics of the plan to build a new baseball park with public assistance said $100 million is not nearly enough to provide the improvements necessary to accommodate an additional 10,000 Red Sox fans flowing into Kenmore Square and other Fenway neighborhoods surrounding a new, larger stadium.

''The number should be closer to $500 million,'' said state Representative Byron Rushing, a Democrat of the South End who represents the Fenway. ''This is not a matter of making public transporation stops look nicer, it's a matter of finding a way to make them handle more people.''

Moreover, Rushing said the state should already have made the infrastructure improvements in the area to accommodate fans using the existing ballpark.

''If the work had been done earlier to get fans into the present stadium you might see more support now for a new facility,'' Rushing said. ''As things stand, my constituents don't believe a new park is going to be better managed in terms of getting fans to use public transportation.''

The legislation released by Cellucci calls for improvements to the Kenmore and Fenway station stops along the MBTA's Green Line, and for upgrading the commuter-rail stop at Yawkey Station for full-time use.

But the law is vague when it comes to specifics. Although the language in the bill calls for renovation projects required to make the stations accessible to handicapped persons, it's unclear how extensive other improvements should be.

In addition, some lawmakers believe that an initial estimate of $12.8 million for utility improvements needed for a new and expanded baseball stadium might fall significantly short of the true cost of utility upgrades.

Specific roadway improvements called for in the bill include the reconstruction and expansion of Kilmarnock Street, so that it runs to Brookline Avenue; construction of a new Yawkey Way; and the reconstruction of the rotary in front of the old Sears building, recently renovated and renamed Landmark Center, where Brookline Avenue, Boylston Street, and the Riverway now meet.

Pedestrian improvements include upgrades along Lansdowne Street, Brookline Avenue, and Boylston Street, and new pedestrian signals throughout the area.

Despite concerns that some of the transportation committee's cost estimates might be low, Havern insisted state assistance to a new Fenway Park will be capped at $100 million - with the funds to be raised through state revenue bonds.

Havern also acknowledged that Boston University, a Fenway Park neighbor, stands to benefit from some of the improvements provided by the bill.

''They'll get the benefits of the improvements to Kenmore Square but they'll also bear the burden or more traffic and more people coming through their campus,'' Havern said.

This story ran on page C04 of the Boston Globe on 7/28/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.



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