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Curtatone calls for petition, clear answers on Green Line

Posted by Matt Byrne  August 2, 2011 05:41 PM

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A day after the state anounced a three-year delay of the Green Line extension, Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone ramped up political pressure on state officials, urging business owners and citizens to "inundate" Beacon Hill leaders with demands for a clear construction time line.

The message and petition, disseminated through the city's social media apparatus, is the clearest call yet for answers by the city that has the most at stake in the billion-dollar project, which the state now says will be completed by 2018 at the earliest.

"We cannot, will not, live with vagueness any longer," Curtatone said in a phone interview before his administration released the petition.

Within the first hour of going online the petition -- which calls the delay "bereft of any tangible committments," and "simply unacceptable" -- has drawn dozens of signatures.

The state is legally bound to finish the Green Line project by the end of 2014 because of a lawsuit that requires the state to build non-automobile transportation projects to ameliorate the environmental impacts of the Big Dig. 

Yesterday,  planners said all parcels of land required to build the line must be acquired before major work can get underway.

"We're going to be very direct about this: The Green Line is going to get built, and we can't tolerate any more lack of communication or lack of transparency,'' Curtatone said. 

Frustration has centered on a promise by Governor Deval Patrick to break ground on the extension while he remains in office.

"We have developers lined up willing to make investments," the Somerville mayor said. "But we need reliable time lines."

Transportation officials say they continue to back the extension plans, and remain committed to building the light rail line.

"It will get built," said Richard Davey, T general manager, in a phone interview Tuesday after the announcement.

Cause of the delay is the decision by transportation planners to wait to obtain all or most of the parcels of land and the environmental permits the project requires, before it goes out to bid for design and construction, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation said in the announcement.
While fall 2018 is the earliest projection, station service extending to College Avenue in Medford could be as late as 2020, the statement said.

Ellin Reisner, president of the Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership, a community organizing group dedicated to improving transit in the city, said she was not surprised at the state's announcement.

"It's like de-ja vu all over again," Reisner said, who has fought successfully against similar maneuvers by the state before, only to see construction and planning pushed back even further.

Echoing concerns by other groups, Reisner expressed dismay at what she said was lackluster reasoning given by the state, calling for increased funding for transit.

"The state has not raised revenue to support any infrastructure projects for years," she said, " Like many people, we feel like we've heard a lot of excuses."

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