Silver Line’s next stop: Chelsea

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October 30, 2013, 7:38 pm
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(NECN: Peter Howe, Chelsea, Mass.) - This economically struggling city may be one of the areas of metropolitan Boston most in need of much better mass transit service than it has now: Per capita income just two-thirds of the state average, 44 percent of residents foreign-born immigrants, three times the state average, many of them Spanish-speaking.

But today commuting options to employment centers in Boston revolve around commuter trains – sometimes an hour apart in the middle of the day – and a long slog through congested streets and over the plugged-up Tobin Bridge on the MBTA Route 111 bus to Haymarket.

Wednesday, Governor Deval L. Patrick rolled out an $85 million to give the city of 37,000 a much better option: "The Silver Line is coming to Chelsea." The project calls for building, by late 2016, an extension of the existing fast-bus transit line between South Station and Logan International Airport to serve four new stops in Chelsea, including a new terminal loop with a new commuter rail station next to the Mystic Mall and Market Basket supermarket. "The people of Chelsea will be able to get on one high-speed bus and travel directly to the airport, the Seaport District, and South Station," Patrick said. State transportation officials estimate 9,000 people a day will use the extension, making it instantly the eighth busiest bus route on the T system.

Katherine Roldan, a student in Chelsea, said, "I think that's really helpful because here you need to take a bunch of buses and everything to get to Boston. That'd be really helpful for people to get over there."

A key reason the extension is possible is last November’s opening of the Port Authority’s Martin Coughlin Bypass Road heading north out of Logan Airport. Built in the old Grand Junction Railroad trench and named for an old-time East Boston community activist, the bypass road gives buses, trucks, airport service vehicles, and someday Silver Line gas-electric coaches a wide-open half-mile-long pathway from Logan over to the Chelsea Street Bridge, completely separated from East Boston city streets that are, as a rule, jammed solid. From the Chelsea Street bridge, the Silver Line will enter a new busway to be built in the old Grand Junction right of way, tucked away behind buildings on Eastern Avenue, then in space along the Rockport/Newburyport commuter rail line once occupied by third and fourth tracks in that right of way that got removed decades ago. The project will also add a three-quarter-mile-long recreational "greenway" next to the bus line, opening up opportunities for bicyclists, joggers, and walkers in one of the most densely populated sections of all metropolitan Boston.

"We invest in infrastructure, what I always describe as the unglamorous work of government, because it supports everything else," Patrick said. "Opportunity through economic growth lifts us all."

With videographer Todd Labrecque and video editor Lauren Kleciak

Tags: Boston, massachusetts, Peter Howe, MBTA, Deval Patrick, Chelsea, MBTA Silver Line expansion, MTBA Silver Line
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