Proposed Silver Line bus tunnel expensive and unnecessary

October 21, 2008

The financially strapped MBTA is planning an $1.2 billion expansion of the Silver Line bus that would connect the Waterfront and Washington Street routes with a tunnel under the city. The project, supported by business interests, is meant to connect the waterfront and Back Bay with a bus tunnel. However, more efficient transportation alternatives are being overlooked, even though they are significantly less costly.

Rally for light rail service instead of the Silver Line bus on Washington Street

While the project may be eligible for federal funding, the T will still be putting up at least $500 million. The MBTA is already in financial crisis and the expansion will only lead to further debt. Even the executive director of the MBTA Advisory Board, Paul Reagan, said in a recent Globe article that the MBTA does not have that kind of money.

"The people that rely on the T the most, people of low income and communities of color, would mainly be the ones paying for this project, and they can't afford it," ACE member John Cater said in the Globe. Another fare increase is expected to be announced as early as 2009.

The tunnel construction may result in damaging neighborhoods, some of which are designated as historical. Emerson College will be directly affected as construction will be taking place across the street from its campus. The project is slated to begin in 2011 and end in late 2016, but as we've seen with the Big Dig, building difficulties and unforeseen delays could drag the process out much longer.

Rather than the MBTA overspending to build Silver Line Phase III, the Washington Street Corridor Coalition and other transit activists have been advocating that the T provide light rail on Washington Street that would access an existing but unused light rail tunnel near Boylston Street. That would provide true replacement service on Washington Street for the elevated Orange Line that was moved in 1987. Light rail could be extended beyond Dudley Square into Roxbury and Dorchester, providing better transit for residents in those neighborhoods and a one-seat one-ride trip downtown. Representative Byron Rushing also supports light rail rather than the T’s proposed Silver Line Phase III bus tunnel.

The Washington Street Corridor Coalition is heading the fight against the Silver Line Phase III. If you would like to get more information or aid them in their work, please contact Bob at 617-445-1999.