Allston residents who have long awaited a commuter rail station in their neighborhood said they felt frustrated after revelations earlier this month that a deal to secure the final $8.33 million needed for the “West Station” project from Boston University was never finalized.
Plans for West Station, which would connect Allston to the existing Framingham/Worcester line that originates at South Station, were received with cautious optimism when they were announced last September. Harvard and the state had each agreed then to cover one third of the $25 million project cost, but the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Authority was unable to secure the commitment of a third party to cover the rest of the project.
A letter obtained by the Boston Globe from BU President Robert A. Brown stated that the university was “prepared to help fund the construction of West Station” pending further discussion and an agreement that would prevent cars and buses from using the university’s West Campus to reach the station. Those discussions and the funding from BU were, according to university spokesperson Colin D. Riley, never finalized.
Residents expressed disappointment at the lack of transparency in the state’s discussions, at being excluded from the conversation, and at BU’s silence at Allston I-90 Interchange Task Force meetings. The task force is a public forum for community discussion on the realignment of the Massachusetts turnpike and the West Station project.
“At the task force meeting there was zero discussion…. BU didn’t pipe up once, bring any issues to the table, or discuss their concerns,” said task force member Galen M. Mook. “[If] they’re going to pretend to participate, then the stonewalling and hiding of their intentions doesn’t show good faith that they’re engaging the community.”
Allston resident Richard Parr ’01, while still frustrated, said he was more willing to understand BU’s failure to include Allston residents in its alleged discussion of the details of the West Station project.
“It’s understandable because [BU and Harvard] are putting the money down, but this seems to go beyond that,” Parr said.
As for BU’s condition prohibiting vehicles from reaching the commuter rail station via its west campus, task force member Matthew Danish said that “having the ability to have buses go from West Station to Boston is really important.” He added that conditioning funding could severely inhibit West Station’s growth as a bus station.
Many residents also expressed hopes that future discussions between Harvard, BU, and the MBTA would be more public and transparent.
In an unpublished letter to The Globe shared with The Crimson, Allston resident Brent C. Whelan ’73 wrote that the community has “a historic opportunity to reconnect the sundered halves of Allston, build a fully accessible new transit hub, and alleviate some of the worst traffic congestion in the region.”
In the letter, Whelan asked for an end to what he characterized as BU’s “secret negotiation[s]” for its own “parochial” interests and called on the university “to join the civic team.”
BU alum and task force member Paola M. Ferrer said that she found the university’s conditional cooperation “foolish” and “paternalistic,” characterizing its behavior as “border[ing] on NIMBYism," using an acronym for "not in my backyard."
“I’m still in a little bit of disbelief,” Ferrer concluded. “I came to love this city being a student at BU, but I find—now being a long term resident and a homeowner in the community—the lack of transparency really insulting and disappointing.”
—Staff writer Ignacio Sabate can be reached at email@example.com . Follow him on Twitter @TheIggySabate.
—Staff writer Luca F. Schroeder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @lucaschroeder.
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