SAND has been an advocate for light rail service and has opposed the addition of diesel-based exhaust on the Silver Line / Piers Transitway since early in our efforts to discuss and plan for a high-capacity transit system for the Waterfront.

Subsequent to hosting a community meeting with MBTA Director of Planning Hasty Evans in 1998, SAND has submitted comments to the MBTA stating our position. To read prior history on this issue, click here.

This story ran on page A01 of the Boston Globe on 11/10/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

Agreement on Silver Line Transitway buses collapses
By Raphael Lewis, Globe Staff

Less than a month after the MBTA agreed to sit down with environmentalists and community groups to reexamine the $38 million purchase of diesel buses for the Silver Line Transitway, that agreement has dissolved, all sides said yesterday.

At issue was the MBTA's refusal to discuss the possibility of buying all-electric buses or light-rail trolleys for the entire $1 billion project.

As a result, Environmental Affairs Secretary Robert Durand will judge if the buses meet clean-air standards against a backdrop of fractious debate. Durand will make that decision on Nov. 24.

''We were trying to make it easy for Bob Durand by having all sides ... come to an agreement so we could say in unision, `This is what should happen,''' said Seth Kaplan, a staff lawyer for the Conservation Law Foundation. ''Now the ball is tossed into the [Executive Office of Environmental Affairs's] court. It's out of our hands.''

The breakdown, which has also opened a chasm between community groups and the CLF, is the latest in a series of controversial developments concerning the Silver Line, which will link Roxbury, the South End, and Chinatown to South Station, the South Boston waterfront, and Logan Airport.

Originally, the MBTA had promised a fleet of high-capacity vehicles that would create little or no noxious emissions to run in the Transitway, a $600 million tunnel between South Station and South Boston under construction.

But when no bids arrived to provide such buses, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority altered its requirements, ignoring pleas from community groups and environmentalists to reopen the possibility of bringing light rail to the project from the outset.

The vehicles the T has decided to purchase, to be built by the German firm Neoplan, rely on diesel-burning engines for the above-ground portions of its route, and electricity for the tunnels. That purchase hinges on Durand's approval, however.

Yesterday, the South Boston Environmental Health Watch, a grass-roots organization that was to take part in the talks, sent a letter to Durand calling the buses a threat to the air quality of those living on the route.

''South Boston residents already suffer from higher rates of ... respiratory disease, cancers, and cardiovascular diseases than residents of the State of Massachusetts or the City of Boston as a whole,'' the letter read. The document called for a panel of specialists to review not only the viability of the specific buses the MBTA plans to purchase, but of all buses.

It was a desire to broaden the discussion that led to the breakdown between the MBTA and the groups, said Lucky Devlin, who represents the South Boston group.

''We wanted a wider look at what was going on and the T wouldn't budge,'' Devlin said. ''They should have widened the scope of these discussions.''

Joe Pesaturo, an MBTA spokesman, disagreed, saying the T agreed to examine only the viability of the Neoplan buses, and not buses in general.

''We will continue to ensure that these vehicles are in compliance'' with clean-air standards, Pesaturo said.

This story ran on page B4 of the Boston Globe on 11/10/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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