Local Government and Politics, News

$43.1 billion state budget includes provision to study extending Blue Line to Lynn

LYNN — State lawmakers passed a $43.1 billion fiscal year 2020 budget on Monday, requiring the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to study the feasibility of the decades-long goal of extending the Blue Line to Lynn. 

Extending the Blue Line from Wonderland Station in Revere to Lynn’s commuter rail station has been listed as a priority of elected officials since the 1930s, something that’s drawn skepticism from observers over the years, but state Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) believes the time is now.

“I think anyone that’s commuting into Boston would recognize the importance of getting folks off the road and onto rapid transit,” Crighton said.

Traffic congestion is at its worst, he said, which has been exacerbated by increased flights at Logan Airport and increased housing production. 

The rapid transit feasibility study would look at projected capital and operating costs and would require environmental and community impact studies. The potential economic benefits of the expansion would be examined. 

The last analysis on the extension was completed in 2013 by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and estimated the potential cost for bringing service to Lynn was $737 million to $1 billion. 

Crighton and others from the Lynn delegation filed a bill in January that would have required the study, but while that bill was pending, the state legislators saw an opportunity to get it passed as part of the budget. Legislators did not include a cost for the study in the budget, but it’s expected to be more than $1 million, according to the senator. 

“For a study that would have as much impact as this would, it’s relatively small numbers in terms of transportation projects so we expect the money to be there,” Crighton said. 

Gov. Charlie Baker has 10 days to sign off on the budget. He can choose to approve or reject it in its entirety, or veto individual line items. 

The budget proposal includes $5.18 billion in Chapter 70 funding, the major program of state aid to schools, a $269 million increase over last year, which Crighton’s office said marks one of the largest annual increases in K-12 spending. The significant increase is due to a proposed revamp of the state’s outdated foundation budget formula. 

For Lynn, state Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) said that amounts to a more than $19 million increase over last year’s Chapter 70 aid, or about $185.8 million. The additional funding would result in a $3 million increase in the current Lynn Public Schools budget that was passed in June, he said. 

“This was a very positive budget for the city of Lynn specifically,” said Cahill, who noted other funding for Lynn, including $25,000 for repairs to the Pickering Middle School auditorium, $100,000 for upgrades to the water facility geographic information data source for the water and sewer department, and $50,000 for improvements at Manning Field. 

At Pickering, for instance, he became aware of the need for funding when he was attending a play and noticed the terrible seating conditions in the auditorium. The school’s principal and head of the drama department spoke about their desire to fix the chairs. 

“I hope that this money is helpful, but I’m really hopeful that at some point, the city will be able to build a new Pickering Middle School,” Cahill said. 

Other earmarks in the budget for the city include $150,000 for the Lynn Police Department’s Behavioral Health Unit, $55,000 for the maintenance of Red Rock Park, $90,000 for the E-Team Machinist program, $375,000 for the Forsyth Dental Program in Lynn Public Schools, $50,000 for the cleanup of Pilayella algae on King’s Beach and Long Beach, and $25,000 for the Downtown Lynn Cultural District. Funding was secured due to the efforts of the Lynn delegation, which includes Cahill, Crighton, state Rep. Peter Capano (D-Lynn), state Rep. Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead), and state Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus). 

State legislators failed to pass a budget by the end of the fiscal year on July 1, which necessitated the passing of a temporary budget to get them through the month, according to Crighton. 

“There was nothing impacted by us not being on time, other than perceived political ramifications, if there were any,” Cahill said. “I’d much rather have the result that we do now where Lynn was greatly benefited than have a budget that was rushed and less thought out and not as helpful to the city.”

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