By Seth Daniel
Though buses could be rolling on the new Silver Line extension in Chelsea one year from now, the second phase of the project – which includes a key commuter rail station and downtown Silver Line station – lies in peril as the state Transportation Department waits on word of a crucial federal grant.
“There is a funding issue with the construction of Phase 2,” said City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “I believe the MBTA is putting in a TIGER grant for the funding. We’re hoping that will be successful. If that doesn’t work, we’ll have to look at alternate options. We’re certainly hoping that works out. It’s an important project for Chelsea and for the state.”
Phase 2 of the project includes relocating the commuter rail station from its current location and building a brand new station adjacent to the Mystic Mall. It also includes building a Silver Line Station downtown under the Washington Avenue Bridge – a station that is believed to be the busiest in the entire new network. Phase 2 also includes the signals at all grade intersections.
The Silver Line Phase 1 project is currently on time and potentially ready to roll in spring 2017.
“Phase 1 is still fully funded and the design for Phase 2 is fully funded as well,” said Ambrosino. “Nothing is being held up in terms of that phase and the MBTA indicates they are on time. We expect them to being offering service in early 2017.”
Meanwhile, the Washington Avenue Bridge project, which has been closed to all traffic since last July, could come on line in September.
However, that too, could be threatened by the Verizon phone worker strike – as the utility is responsible for re-installing utility lines on the bridge when it is completed.
“The Washington Avenue Bridge is open northbound to emergency vehicles only as requested by the City of Chelsea since Jan. 16,” said Ryan Grannan-Doll of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT). “The second phase of the Washington Avenue Bridge is scheduled to be completed by September 2016. They also estimate the bridge would reopen in September. However, the completion date could be delayed due to the ongoing Verizon strike.”
Ambrosino said he is hoping that the MBTA prevails in getting the grant, as it will make the new system much better.
“It will work with just Phase 1, but won’t be as vibrant and aesthetically pleasing as it would be with Phase 2,” said Ambrosino.