After decades of mining for unique public transportation solutions in Chelsea, this week Chelsea and state officials have struck silver – and the find could end up being worth its weight in gold.
City Manager Jay Ash and Gov. Deval Patrick shared the podium Wednesday morning at the MassPort Garage on Central Avenue to announce that the Silver Line Rapid Bus Transport line would be coming to Chelsea. It is expected to open in 2015 and be accompanied by a 3/4-mile greenway project for pedestrians and bicyclists.
“Opportunity is coming here because we are investing and there is much more to do because we are growing,” said Patrick. “Because of that, I am here today and am pleased to announce that the Silver Line is coming to Chelsea. The project will also include the reconstruction of the Washington Avenue Bridge and the modernization of the Chelsea Commuter Rail Station, which will become a multi-modal station on Eastern Avenue. When all of this is finished, Chelsea residents will be able to take one high-speed bus and connect directly to the airport, the Seaport District and South Station. Let’s make this happen.”
The announcement followed numerous public meetings that took place all last spring and summer – planning meetings that contained huge amounts of information but made no promises about the project happening. Wednesday’s quick announcement in Chelsea is being trumpeted as something that could forever change the prospects of Chelsea – potentially connecting the city and its residents to one of the fastest growing areas in the state, that being the Seaport District.
Patrick compared the announcement to many years ago when the state extended the Red Line to Davis Square.
“That Red Line T stop transformed Davis Square in Somerville,” he told the audience, in response to a question from a Chelsea High School student. “It completely transformed it. It’s become a place now that people go to not only for fun, but also for economic transformation. One T stop helped make that happen.”
City Manager Jay Ash said the project becoming reality is the result of a grand vision on paper that began 17 years ago with discussions about the former ‘Urban Ring’ project – a project that was discarded when an estimate came in at $3 billion.
However, Chelsea never gave up on that idea of connecting itself to the Red Line and South Station. Earlier this year, the idea of making that happen with the Silver Line – which now has a terminus at Logan Airport – came across Ash’s desk.
He was all for it, and now he’s calling the move a “game changer” for Chelsea – especially for the City’s eastern side.
“I can’t say enough how much this is a game changer for Chelsea,” Ash said. “It connects us to the most prominent area for job growth and innovation in New England – that being the Seaport District. As a result we’ll see people from Chelsea getting jobs there and some economic development flow back too…People will invest in properties along the Silver Line route. I started working on this 17 years ago, and it’s excellent to see it happening.”
Added City Planner John DePriest, “It’s a transportation project, an economic development project and an open space recreational project all rolled into one. To fully see it come to fruition after all these years is fantastic. It will be transformative.”
The plans for the project include bringing the Silver Line buses over from Logan Airport, taking Chelsea Street in Eastie over the Chelsea Street Bridge to the first of four stations.
The first station would be at the MassPort Garage on Eastern Avenue. After that, Silver Line buses would follow a dedicated road on what was a former railroad track line, snaking over to a station next to the Box District. From there, the line would proceed to a Downtown Chelsea station (location near the Washington Avenue bridge). The line would end at a large inter-modal terminus on Everett Avenue that will also serve as a new commuter rail station – likely getting a huge following from the new FBI Headquarters adjacent to the new station.
The timeline for the Silver Line project is to continue design through this winter and put a shovel in the ground next spring, with an opening date of early 2015.
“We still have some right-of-way issues to sort out on the dedicated roadway, but we’re not going to let that hold us up,” said Patrick. “We will start anyway.”
The Silver Line project is accompanied by another exciting project called the Chelsea Greenway. That project will feature a green space component alongside the Silver Line with a walking/biking path that will include seven trail heads with arches on the route. That Greenway will roughly start at the Chelsea Street Bridge and follow the dedicated road to Chestnut Street, 6th Street, Arlington Street, 5th Street, Walnut Street, 4th Street and end at the new Everett Avenue inter-model station.
The timeline to finish that project was less precise and there is only a schematic design for the project right now. However, designers seemed to be borrowing from the successful East Boston Greenway project that has recently been built.
Ann Houston of The Neighborhood Developers (TND) – which has developed the Box District project and who also helped dream up the bus station idea – said it was a great announcement for Chelsea and for the Box District.
“It really is such a home run for the Box District and Chelsea,” she said. “The addition of not only the new stations, but also the walking trail speaks to the quality of life we’ve been wanting to promote. This is really opportunity for all, as the governor spoke about. That’s because the Box District is an opportunity for people of all economic levels…There will be a station right in the Box District and that transportation piece will help people transport themselves to great jobs more effectively.”
In addition to Patrick and Ash, the Chelsea state delegation was present, several CHS students, virtually every business interest in Chelsea, City Councillors and several residents who had participated in the community meetings last summer.
Hundreds attended the announcement.