TESTIMONY: Joint Board Meeting of the MassDOT Board of Directors and the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board

PREPARED BY TOM RYAN, Senior Advisor on Policy, Legislative and Community Affairs

I speak today to express our strong opposition to the Proposed Finance Policy Framework to the Allston I-90 Multimodal project for consideration by the Joint Boards today.

A Better City asks the MassDOT Board and FMCB to reject this proposed finance plan approach and policy. If this is proposal is not outright rejected, there should at least be a delay to allow for appropriate public engagement on these ideas and issues.

Today’s proposal on the Allston I-90 project appeared with minimal notice and zero public engagement, including no notice to the project Task Force that has helped move this project forward over the past five years.

MassDOT’s proposed finance plan is unfeasible and therefore is substantially flawed as a proposed policy. It creates the illusion of choice, defined by unfounded requirements that would overburden any of the so-called Build Alternatives and likely lead to a No-Build decision.

As discussed during the October 2020 MassDOT Board meeting, there is an overwhelming consensus to move forward with the Modified All At-Grade design that would be less disruptive and has substantial local and regional support. This vision is possible to achieve and MassDOT should continue with the existing plan of selecting the preferred alternative and then evaluating the costs to deliver each design of the project. Once we know the various cost-estimates, we can make decisions on the possible options to fund this project through maximizing our federal, state and public / private resources.

Today’s proposed finance plan would likely prevent this consensus vision from ever being realized. The Finance Plan would tie the current All At-Grade plan and other Build Alternatives to being responsible for the full cost of a South-side Commuter Rail Maintenance facility, a requirement that is suspiciously over emphasized.

Previously, MassDOT has promised to evaluate–but has not yet done so–the MBTA’s need for such a facility as part of any vision for rail over the next half-century. Putting it as part of the Allston I-90 Project document is a step that suggests MassDOT may be trying to stack the deck against the Modified All-At Grade plan. We urge the Boards to refrain from any such move, intended or unintentional.

A Better City echoes the City of Boston’s position, as communicated in their September 23, 2020 letter: the City strongly supports the All At-Grade option and strongly opposes any decision that would result in an interstate highway viaduct to remain at this location. At this juncture, we do not understand how MassDOT and Federal Highway (FHWA) can proceed with a highway viaduct option in defiance of the host jurisdiction’s wishes.

We ask the MassDOT Board to abandon this proposed finance plan today and delay any action on this Agenda Item, at least until after the I-90 Allston Task Force meets at the end of next month.

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