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MassDot releases a request for consultants to develop a Lynn Transit Action Plan Study

(Spenser R. Hasak)

LYNN — The Massachusetts Department of Transportation is soliciting proposals for a study that would look at revamping public transportation access in the city, including a renewed focus on extending the Blue Line to Lynn.

MassDOT released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a Lynn Transit Action Plan Study, which would focus on how to enhance the quality, capacity, and reliability of public transportation.

Mayor Thomas M. McGee says access to high quality, affordable, and reliable multi-modal transportation is vital to the revitalization and economic growth in Lynn.

McGee, a former state senator and representative, has been an advocate of both the Blue Line extension and the ferry service since his time in the legislature.

“I’m a strong advocate of rapid transit options to Lynn,” he said. “It’s great to see the Blue Line extension as something they’re taking a look at this time. It allows the region to have the access to rapid transit that has been missing from the North Shore since the Narrow Gauge rail line came out of Lynn, (which was) the predecessor to what is currently the Blue Line … This is an investment we need to make.”

Two key focus areas of the study would be the feasibility of extending the Blue Line, rapid transit which currently ends in Revere, and re-establishing ferry service from Lynn to Boston.

Ferry service operated on a limited basis from Lynn to downtown Boston in 2017, but was cut by Gov. Charlie Baker and did not run this past year.

The study will align with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Focus40 plan, an investment plan that positions the MBTA to meet the needs of the Greater Boston region in 2040 and one that has identified Lynn as a “priority place” within the existing transit network.

But McGee said he believes the Blue Line extension, which has been talked about for decades, is something that will happen sooner rather than later, citing major development happening at Suffolk Downs, the Focus40 plan also discussing a possible Red Line-Blue Line connection and the need to reduce bottleneck traffic and congestion in the corridor.

The mayor couldn’t provide an estimate on how much a Blue Line extension would cost. In 2013, the MBTA’s Blue Line extension study estimated the cost would be from $737 million to $1 billion.

According to the Focus40 plan, new fast and frequent rail connections to downtown Boston would “support economic development and job creation in Lynn, which has an unemployment rate higher than the Commonwealth average,” and would be part of rethinking how the MBTA uses its commuter rail system.

Part of the MBTA’s proposal is to help the city develop a plan for the next 20 years, but in the more immediate future, the mayor said the city is working toward procuring its own ferry for short-term service to downtown Boston and improving regional rail service.

“In the meantime, we’re trying to develop much more frequent and dedicated service to Lynn so we can have quicker headway to allow us to come back and forth from that corridor as we develop full-scale rapid transit to Lynn,” McGee said.

The Lynn Transit Action Plan is meant to address challenges transit riders in Lynn face and focus on how to implement improvements related to bus service, fare policy, or pedestrian and bicycle connections to transit in the near future, according to the RFP.

In the longer term, the study will look at the feasibility of pursuing major improvements to rapid transit, commuter rail, or water transportation in the city.

Challenges facing residents and those who use public transportation in the city include a high level of transit dependency, or lack of access to a personal vehicle; low bus service reliability or frequency; off-peak service needs or a need for more frequent commuter rail service; and commuter rail service may provide a financial burden, according to the RFP.

According to a press release from MassDOT, a stronger transit network is vital to support the city’s lower income and immigrant communities. About half of the city’s households speak a language other than English at home and 20 percent of households live below the poverty line. The average household income in the city is $50,000.

“The goal of the Lynn Transit Action Plan Study is to develop a list of options that potentially can improve travel opportunities for people of Lynn and the surrounding area,” said MassDOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack in a statement.

Proposals are due by Dec. 10.

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