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Advocacy Works: MBTA Cancels East Boston Rail Corridor Sale

12:47 PM EDT on July 22, 2019

In June, the MBTA issued a solicitation for bids from private developers for the use of this mile-long rail corridor in East Boston. The corridor connects the Logan Airport area to the doorstep of Suffolk Downs, where builders have proposed 10.5 million square feet of new development.

After receiving intense scrutiny from transit advocates, the MBTA is withdrawing its effort to sell easement rights to an abandoned mile-long rail corridor along the Chelsea Creek waterfront in East Boston.

As reported last week on StreetsblogMASS, the MBTA quietly issued an “invitation for bids” on June 21 to sell off a non-exclusive easement to the mile-long corridor, which parallels the McClellan Highway/Route 1A.

That invitation drew criticism from transit advocates, including former state Secretaries of Transportation Jim Aloisi and Frederick Salvucci, who expressed their concerns about the MBTA selling off rights to a publicly-owned transit corridor in an open letter to the MBTA.

The MBTA is soliciting bids from private developers for the use of this mile-long rail corridor in East Boston.
The MBTA was soliciting bids from private developers for the use of this mile-long rail corridor in East Boston.

Last week, an item for an "East Boston Real Estate Right of Way Discussion" appeared on the agenda for Monday's meeting of the MBTA Fiscal Management and Control Board (FMCB).

At the beginning of the meeting, Chair Joseph Aiello announced that "we are withdrawing that from the agenda... the procurement has been withdrawn. It is being canceled," to applause from the audience.

"The FMCB, the Secretary, the General Manager, the Mayor of Boston and a number of other stakeholders have weighed in with us over the last couple of weeks. We are committing for a MassDOT-led corridor study to look at all the elements up and down the McClellan Highway," said Aiello. "There will be more to hear about the conduct of that study at a later meeting."

The public audience at today's hearing was larger than usual, with numerous members of the Green Justice Coalition attending to speak out for a more equitable fare policy, in addition to several elected officials.

At-large Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu and East Boston district Councilor Lydia Edwards both expressed gratitude to the agency for withdrawing the bidding process and initiating a regional study instead.

"It's a process we're excited to be a part of," said Councilor Edwards. "(We feel) true excitement to design the best corridor possible, and getting the best possible use."

Steven Gingras, a staffer of Rep. Adrian Madaro, also thanked the board for their decision on behalf of the state's legislative delegation. "We know we received quite a bit (of public comment) and we know you did as well," said Gingras. "We thank you very much for your decision, and we look forward to collaborating with the MBTA and our community partners going forward."

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