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Elected officials fight proposed South Boston train layover yard

Posted by Patrick Rosso  November 22, 2013 04:55 PM

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(Image courtesy Google Maps)

The location of the proposed facuilty.

The South Boston community and the entrepreneurs behind the proposed Celtic Recycling facility have been left in limbo as the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority debates using a Widett Circle property for a commuter rail layover yard.

The T is considering taking the 18.5-acre property at 100 Widett Circle by eminent domain to support service expansion plans at South Station. The Boston Business Journal first reported the plan.

A decision by the T is expected to be made in the spring and if it were to take the property it would pay the fair market value, an approximate $11.1-million according to the Boston Assessing Department.

The site, located across the tracks from the dense neighborhood of South Boston, was proposed in September to house a state-of-the-art recycling facility for Celtic Recycling.

Although Celtic Recycling has signed a 75-year lease agreement for the space, which was last used as a cold storage facility, the T’s plans could throw the proposal into chaos.

“This whole MBTA thing is a real headache,” explained Susie Chin, the company’s CEO and founder. “It jeopardizes a technologically advanced recycling facility; it jeopardizes the 100 jobs we’d create.”

Now politicians and residents are sounding off about the T’s plans. Although not everyone in the neighborhood was supportive of Celtic Recycling moving into the industrial area, some said a train layover yard is much worse.

“The South Boston delegation and the community has no information that says this [layover yard] will be a good thing for the community,” explained Representative Nick Collins. “I think it would be best if they looked at other facilities.”

The property, one of two-dozen eyed by the T, would be used as a daytime storage facility space for the commuter rail trains that service South Station, according to documents provided by the T. Lack of storage is a “long-standing problem,” according to the T, and it contributes to inefficient train moves, the unnecessary running of trains through communities, and increased operating costs.

The T believes the space would also help reduce emissions because it would allow it to run less trains from South Station to the Readville storage yard, cutting overall diesel consumption.

“In addition to the anticipated reduction in fuel consumption via miles traveled, the proposed Cold Storage layover yard will be designed with sufficient electric powered plug-in stations to avoid idling of locomotives during layover times, in accordance with state-of-the-industry practice and the U.S. EPA settlement with the MBTA and Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company,” said the documents provided by the T.

The T, however, has run into environmental problems in the past and in 2010 was cited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for violations at its other train yard in the South Boston area.

Knowing the history, many in the neighborhood aren’t buying the plans proposed now.

“It’s not going to happen, they need to find somewhere else to put it,” said U.S. Congressman Stephen Lynch. “The idea of having a layover yard was one that was suggested many years ago and it was opposed by all the local community groups.”

The property is approximately 1000-feet from the closest residence on B Street, with a number of other industrial uses, including a T maintenance facility, between the property and the residential neighborhood.

“It [the T’s proposal] came out of the blue,” said State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry. “We need to understand what is going to happen at the space and make sure the community has input about it.”

Although Dorcena Forry said that she, along with her South Boston colleagues, have their concerns about the property, she acknowledged the need for a facility somewhere.

“This is a balancing act,” said Dorcena Forry. “Transportation is a real issue, but we need to take a compressive approach. We need to see the other locations proposed and make sure they [the T] did their due diligence.”

A spokesperson from City Councilor Bill Linehan’s office said that the area’s elected officials have been working to bring the T out to talk to the community.

“We still hold the position that we'd still like to see Celtic there, provided the proper community process,” explained a spokesperson for Linehan. “We’ve met with MassDOT and they let us know about their intentions, but our message was clear: there needs to be a community process.”

A community meeting is expected to be organized for early-December to allow residents a chance to provide input on the T’s plans.

Email Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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