Opinion

Crighton: It’s time for a Blue Line action plan

By Brendan Crighton

Anyone who glances at an MBTA transit map, let alone looks at the billions of dollars invested in transit expansion to the south and west of Boston in recent decades, can easily see that the North Shore has been neglected for far too long.

As early as the 1930s, plans existed to expand rapid transit to Lynn, but here we are now in 2019, and still we have no timeline for a Blue Line stop in Lynn. What we do have is our interminable belief that rapid transit would be transformative for our region.

Over the years, incremental progress to improve transit connections for the North Shore has occurred at the local, state and federal levels, but the fiscal realities and instability at the MBTA have meant that major projects such as the Blue Line extension languish in the idea phase and even the successful ferry pilot lacked state resources to be continued.

However, I have a renewed optimism in this new year because the MBTA recently designated Lynn as one of three “Priority Places” in its Focus40 Plan, along with the Seaport and Allston areas of Boston. This designation means that beginning in 2019 MassDOT will develop a comprehensive plan for the future of transit in Lynn. With this focus on the City of Lynn, I strongly believe our region has the best opportunity in decades to make a case for real progress toward bold transit investments like the Blue Line.

I know firsthand the frustration that exists locally and the understandable cynicism anytime the Blue Line Extension to Lynn is mentioned; but, I also understand that extending the Blue Line to Lynn would be truly transformative to the city and region — transformative in creating job opportunities, bringing in new businesses, restaurants and tourists, revitalizing our downtown and waterfront, connecting to jobs, to institutions of higher education, to medical care and to Logan airport, and generating much-needed revenue for our municipal budget to go toward new schools, better roads and public safety. It is up to us to make the Blue Line extension a regional priority and let MassDOT know that the time has come to invest in the North Shore.

The Lynn Transit Action Plan will consider the short and long term costs and benefits of projects such as a year round ferry from Lynn to Boston, improved bus service, better bike and pedestrian connections within the city, and yes, the viability of extending the Blue Line.

With the technological advances in rapid transit since the last Blue Line extension alternatives study over a decade ago, it is possible that we will find new options at a lower cost and with reduced environmental impacts. In every other industry, we see dramatic impacts of technological advances but in transit we lag behind the rest of the world, as the Commonwealth and our country must address years of underinvestment in our transportation infrastructure.

With MassDOT and the MBTA now giving Lynn the focused attention it deserves, it is time for us to renew our efforts locally and do all that we can throughout the development of the Lynn Transit Action Plan to make our voices heard.

Every resident, employer, senior citizen or student will have multiple opportunities to provide input to the plan. Let’s work together to show MassDOT that Lynn’s time has come. We must make our case for transportation equity. We must show up. We must ensure that the final plan truly reflects the needs of our region.

While the action plan is in development, we must also make sure that we are well-positioned to implement the recommendations upon its completion. Today, I filed a bill in the Legislature that would direct MassDOT and the MBTA to complete a new Blue Line Extension feasibility study by 2020, so that when the Lynn Transit Action Plan is final we have a clear understanding of the options for moving forward. I will continue working with MassDOT, Congressman Moulton, Mayor McGee and the Lynn delegation to make sure that our $4.5 million federal grant for a Lynn-owned ferry gets a boat on the water as soon as possible. We need bold solutions to our transportation problems and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Legislature to explore all options to identify those solutions.

Standing at Red Rock Park, Boston appears so close to the city of Lynn; yet today, with limited transit options and constant traffic congestion, it is not easy to get there by land or by sea. Let’s renew our commitment to work together to bridge the distance and to make it resoundingly clear to MassDOT that the time has come for real investments in better transit for Lynn and the entire North Shore.

State Sen. Brendan Crighton represents Lynn, Lynnfield, Marblehead, Nahant, Saugus and Swampscott in the state Legislature.

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