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Stall aboard: Costs may rise as red tape keeps troubled Greenbush line off track

By Casey Ross | Monday, November 29, 2004

More than a year after construction began, the Greenbush commuter rail line project sits mired in regulatory battles that are causing months of work delays and preventing contractors from getting key permits in several communities.

The project completion date is now postponed until the end of 2006, several months later than planned, according to MBTA officials.

"If this continues, costs will rise,'' T project manager Jim Eng said. ``We have contingencies built into the $479 million (project budget), but it could go over that.''

Meanwhile, local activists are accusing T officials of doctoring reports to win environmental approvals and failing to provide enough information to local conservation commissions scrutinizing the project.

"We would just like them to do the job right and follow environmental laws,'' said John Bewick, a former state secretary of environmetal affairs who is leading the fight against Greenbush.

In court papers, opponents who have appealed environmental permits in Scituate, Cohasset and Weymouth Landing accuse project officials of failing to accurately map wetlands that would be impacted by construction.

While those appeals are pending, construction crews are prevented from doing work needed to keep the project on time and within its budget.

T officials deny environmental reports were ever altered to minimize impacts, noting the project has been extensively reviewed by state and federal regulators and has withstood multiple legal challenges.

"At every turn a court has ruled on one of (opponents') appeals, it has been in our favor,'' T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said. "The same small group of people are being obstructionists, but we're going to get this done.''

In 2003, T officials postponed construction on the Scituate-to-Boston commuter rail line because of concerns that permitting troubles and other logistical snags could lead to cost overruns.

While most of those issues have been resolved - construction is now under way in all five communities along the rail line - work crews have been forced to avoid areas where permits have not been granted.

Eng said contractors have not been able to begin work on the Weymouth Landing station or begin a complicated sewer relocation project in Scituate.

Bewick said the delays are justified, charging that the T has inaccurately mapped wetlands around the rail line to skirt environmental regulations. Bewick said Greenbush officials incorrectly mapped one brook in Scituate and also did not disclose the true boundaries of a nearby aquifer.

Opponents have also accused the T of violating environmental regulations by withholding information from several local conservation commissions.

As the battle continues, some local officials are growing tired of protests that have dogged the project since it was first proposed in 1984.

"It seems every time a permit needs to be issued, there is some appeal,'' Weymouth Mayor David Madden said.

"The state has spent a tremendous amount of money, it's a worthwhile project and we need to get it completed.''

Once completed, the Greenbush line is expected to serve 8,400 passengers a day and help reduce traffic along the crowded Route 3 corridor, which is scheduled for its own expansion to help ease a worsening commuter logjam.

From The Boston Herald

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Greenbush foes take fight to Washington

By Casey Ross | Friday, January 14, 2005

After suffering a critical setback, an environmental group opposing construction of the Greenbush commuter rail line is attempting to resurrect its legal attack in Washington.

The Hingham-based Advocates for Transportation Alternatives is filing a lawsuit in federal court to try to overturn a wetlands permit granted last week by the Army Corps of Engineers.

"Unfortunately, the MBTA has consistently failed to fairly evaluate alternatives to commuter rail restoration," said John Bewick, the group's president and a former state environmental secretary.

The new lawsuit, which will be filed in a federal district court in Washington within days, comes after the group dropped its last two environmental appeals in Scituate and Cohasset.

In the meantime, construction crews are working in all five communities along the 18-mile Scituate-to-Boston line, which is expected to be completed by late 2006.

MBTA officials said they don't expect the new lawsuit to cause delays.

From The Boston Herald

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Can't it just reroute the commuter line to avoid wetlands and other sensitive areas? (But delays abound.)


It's an existing line that they are reactivating. The area is too dense to reroute it without taking homes and businesses.

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