Celebrating Advancement of the Silver Line Extension

On March 8, the MBTA and MassDOT released the final report of the Silver Line Extension Alternatives Analysis, in preparation since 2021, that recommended extending the SL3 bus route from Chelsea through Everett to Sullivan Square in Charlestown. Why is this recommendation significant? Because it advances one more segment of the Urban Ring concept beyond the 2018 opening of the SL3 “Silverline Gateway” route from the Blue Line in East Boston along a dedicated right of way in Chelsea, providing improved access for a community underserved by transit. The proposed SLX route will add even more transit access along dedicated rights of way to a growing Everett community, linking between the Blue Line and Orange Line, with potential future connections to the Green Line at Lechmere and the Red Line at Kendall Square with its major employment center.

These potential links are still under study and operations will require additions to the Silver Line fleet, but all of these segments are part of the Urban Ring concept, most recently labeled the “Northern Tier” in a 2009 Notice of Project Change, which was suspended by EOTC, MassDOT’s predecessor at that time, due to lack of funding.

The Urban Ring concept, which is now being implemented segment by segment, has its origins in the “Circumferential Transit” route first advanced by the Boston Transportation Planning Review study of 1972 (thank you Jack Wofford, Director of BTPR) as a substitute for the Inner Belt highway project.

Circumferential Transit was blessed with a shorter name when it was recast as the New Urban Ring by the Boston Society of Architects in 1993 (thank you David Lee, immediate Past President of the BSA at the time), and the concept was further advanced by the MBTA in 1996 in a Major Investment Study (thank you project manager Peter Calcaterra). The concept was carried forward over the years by a series of Citizens Advisory Committees to the MBTA (thank you chairs Dick Garver, Tom Nally, and Tad Read and consultant Jay Doyle) as the concept was further developed, alternatives evaluated, and a Locally Preferred Alternative designated in a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Study in 2008.

In 2009, the LPA included a Northern Tier in the current Silver Line Gateway and Silver Line Extension corridor. The route continued in the Grand Junction Corridor, a spur to the location of future West Station in Allston, through the Boston University campus, the Fenway and Longwood, to Roxbury, Columbia Point, the South End, South Boston, and back to East Boston and the SL3 route.

The Urban Ring concept linked not only this geography, but also residential communities and activity centers strung around the urban core like a necklace of charms. Transit encircling the core also links to all the radial transit, bus, and commuter rail lines that converge downtown, supporting transfers without traveling downtown. Discussion of the concept also engaged a variety of groups and individuals seeking better mobility for the region.

The concept in the northern corridor has more recently been advanced by the Lower Mystic Regional Working Group, established in response to plans for the casino on Lower Broadway in Everett, and by the Everett Transit Action Plan. New development in Everett has also added urgency to enhancing transportation improvements in the area.

What we see in the Silver Line Extension is one more segment of the Urban Ring concept being implemented incrementally, if a bit more slowly than considered in 1972,1993, or 1996. But implemented, nonetheless.



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