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Agreement: Union Square Green Line Station Operational by 2017

In an agreement with the MBTA and MassDOT, the city of Somerville will buy land in Union Square for the station in exchange for a commitment that the station be operational no later than early 2017.

The city of Somerville, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the MBTA have entered into a memorandum of agreement regarding the future Union Square Green Line station, according to an announcement sent by the city Friday afternoon.

According to the announcement, the city will purchase land in Union Square for the station and then grant a permanent easement to the MBTA.

As part of the agreement, the MBTA and MassDOT commit to beginning construction on the station no later than spring of 2014 and making it operational by late 2016 or early 2017.

The announcement is below, and you can read the memorandum of agreement in the photos section of this article. Here are some of the key points, according to the announcement:

  • $8 million: The city expects the Union Square land acquisition to cost about $8 million
  • The Somerville Redevelopment Authority will likely acquire the land on the city's behalf
  • Near Webster and Prospect: The parcels of land the city is acquiring are located near the intersection of Prospect Street and Webster Avenue
  • State pays for environmental cleanup: As part of the agreement, the MBTA and MassDOT will pay for environmental cleanup of the station site
  • More DIF: The city will explore use of DIF (District Improvement Financing) funds to pay for development in the area
  • Big Union Square development plan coming: The station acquisition will be part of a larger development plan in Union Square. The city will release a Union Square Urban Revitalization Plan later this month

Here's the announcement:

CITY, MASSDOT, MBTA SIGN PACT ON GREEN LINE STATION DEVELOPMENT FOR UNION SQUARE

City’s Redevelopment Authority Will Acquire Land, Manage Adjacent Development, Give MBTA Permanent Easement for the Station; MassDOT and MBTA Reaffirm Commitment to  Keep Project Moving with Medford Street Bridge Rehab Project to Start in October

SOMERVILLE – Massachusetts Department of Transportation Secretary Richard A. Davey, MBTA Acting General Manager Jonathan R. Davis and Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone announced today that the City of Somerville, MassDOT and the MBTA have signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that describes how land will be acquired by the City, or by the Somerville Redevelopment Authority (SRA) acting as the City’s agent, to be transferred to the MBTA in exchange for a firm commitment by the MBTA and MassDOT to construct a transit station in Union Square as part of the Green Line Extension (GLX).  For a symbolic payment of one dollar, the MBTA will be given a temporary easement for pickup/drop-off area and construction staging areas.  Under the agreement, the MBTA will also receive a permanent easement for the station building, which will be sited near the intersection of Prospect Street and Webster Avenue.  The City/SRA will acquire and retain long-term control over adjacent parcels and air rights on the same block until it concludes development and sales agreements with one or more developers.

“This is another major step forward both in making the Green Line Extension a reality, and in planning for the future of one of the most dynamic development areas in our city,” said Mayor Curtatone.  “It’s also a strong reaffirmation of our close working relationship with the Patrick Administration – and especially the state’s transportation leadership.  This agreement helps ensure that current and future development around the new station conforms to our community’s shared vision for Union Square as reflected in the SomerVision comprehensive plan. Just as important, it gives the MBTA the access and support it needs to keep moving on the Green Line.  I’m very pleased with the terms of this agreement, and deeply grateful to Secretary Davey and his team.”   

“It is with this type of partnership and cooperation that we will deliver the Green Line Extension project for our customers,” said MassDOT Secretary and CEO Davey. “I thank the Mayor and City of Somerville for their ongoing support and interest in sustainable transportation. As progress is becoming more and more concrete, I encourage city residents to continue to engage in the process.”

The City anticipates that the acquisition and preparation of the station site and adjacent parcels would be achieved through the SRA at a cost of approximately $8 million.  “We’re currently working out the details of how this aspect of the overall development of Union Square will fit into an urban revitalization plan as we explore the potential use of DIF funds and other financial options,” said Mayor Curtatone. (DIF, which is the acronym for District Improvement Financing, is a technique that, with state oversight and approval, allows cities and towns to designate new property taxes generated by a specific development project to underwrite bonds that pay for initial acquisition or infrastructure costs.  The City is already using DIF to pay for roadway and utility work at Assembly Square, where projected tax revenues will far exceed the City’s debt service costs.)

“We expect to bring a detailed proposal for a Union Square Urban Revitalization Plan to both the SRA and the Board of Aldermen later this month,” Curtatone said.

In return for the City taking on the cost and labor of acquiring the land, relocating current tenants and providing short- and long-term easements to the MBTA for construction and operation of the Union Square station, MassDOT and the MBTA have agreed to  pay for environmental cleanup and remediation costs at the station site, and to proceed on a timetable calling for the start of station construction in the spring of  2014 and completion of “an operational transit station by the late 2016-early 2017,” according to the text of the MOA.

In addition, the MOA recommits the state to several GLX milestones, including:

  • Breaking ground and beginning construction in October 2012 on the rehabilitation of Medford Street Bridge in Somerville
  • Awarding the contract for Final Design Services, scheduled for presentation to the MBTA Board of Directors at its meeting in September 2012
  • Advertising for the Construction Management/General Contractor contract, which will be the construction firm that ultimately builds the GLX project. 

“This is a project that means a great deal to everyone who cares about the economic, social and environmental health of our entire region,” said Senator Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville).  “It’s been hard work keeping the Green Line on track all these years, but deeply satisfying to see it taking shape at last.  Along with the Red Line in Davis Square and the coming of the Orange Line to Assembly Square, the Green Line Extension finally knits all of Somerville back into the fabric of the region’s transportation system.” 

“Transit-oriented development at Union Square is important not just for Somerville but for the entire metro region,” said Representative Tim Toomey (D-Cambridge). “I’m proud to have been part of the effort to push this long-delayed project forward.  It’s exactly the kind of investment that the Commonwealth should be making now to support economic growth in the future.”     

“The positive effects on our residents and on the local business community make this a very welcome announcement,” said Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston. “But as always, there will be a need to manage the acquisition process with care and sensitivity, and to be very prudent about how we decide to pay for the properties the City will have to acquire.  I look forward to working with the Mayor and my colleagues on the Board of Aldermen to make sure we have those bases covered.  This is a tremendous opportunity and we need to make the most of it.”  

“This is a great step forward towards the building of the Green Line station in Union Square and for the continued advancement of Somerville's first downtown,” said Union Square Main Streets Director Mimi Graney.  ”Through this agreement, the State and City show a real partnership in the shared goal of creating a more pedestrian-oriented, economically vital district and a strong regional transportation system.”

 “I’m happy to see that this MOA puts legal teeth into our campaign to keep the Green Line project on the move,” said Ellin Reisner, President of the Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership, a community-based transit advocacy group. “I think it’s a great step forward, but I don’t think it means that we can relax our vigilance or ease off on the pressure to get this project done.  That said, I congratulate both Secretary Davey and Mayor Curtatone on reaching this important deal.”

 “Both state and city officials are working hard to avoid any further delays in the Green Line Extension, and this agreement is a demonstration of the state’s goodwill and determination to see this project through,” said Curtatone. “The approach contained in this MOA is also a way for the City to guide development at a pivotal location in Union Square.  Any expenditures the City makes now will be amply rewarded by proceeds from subsequent land transfers and by tax revenues from future economic activity.  This is a welcome development for Somerville, but its environmental and economic benefits will be felt throughout the region.” 

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