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September 26, 2008


Wig Zamore

Thanks George,

I much appreciate your coverage of the last Urban Ring CAC meeting. The project is expected to file major environmental documents soon in order to move ahead with a New Starts application. The Urban Ring will also be the subject of today's MoveMass meeting at 8:15 am at One Financial Center (across from South Station).

This project is complicated and I wanted to straighten out a few wrinkles, as I understand them. First, the Urban Ring is a complete loop outside the downtown core of Boston, which would have stations at MIT, BU, Longwood Medical Area (LMA), Northeastern, the revitalized South Boston waterfront, Logan Airport, etc.

The tentative idea floated for the first time at the last CAC meeting is to skip Wellington Circle in Medford and Assembly Square in Somerville by going directly to Sullivan Square from Everett, along Route 99. It is true that this would save time for the other areas on the ring as Wellington Circle through Assembly Square - Routes 16 and 28 - are extremely congested now, as anyone can see with a quick look at evening rush hour.

Of course relief of roadway congestion and provision of transit alternatives is the whole point of the Urban Ring. One reason given for the suggested change was the lack of dedicated right-of-way through Assembly Square. But in fact the proposed Route 99 Bridge alternative would be in congested mixed traffic as well. And ironically the Urban Ring maintenance facility has been proposed to be in Wellington Circle, which may not have any service.

The proposed Assembly Square substitute - a bus route called BRT #5 - would run from Assembly Square joining a portion of the Urban Ring route to LMA, but would not get passengers directly to most of the Urban Ring locations except after they wait for transfers. This is the way Lechmere works for most Somerville users now. They lose enormous amounts of time waiting for transfers that will not be necessary when single seat Green Line rides are available from the Somerville extensions.

In addition to only partial service to the Urban Ring, BRT #5 would not run as frequently as the rest of the Urban Ring service and it would be subject to changes in route and service every few years. It would be inferior in every aspect.

With regard to Assembly Square land uses, you are right that the potential for office, and research and development space would be most affected. Federal Realty and IKEA are legally obligated to create a Long Term Plan for Assembly Square which will include a minimum of 5 million square feet of this type of much needed commercial space which could provide 20,000 new jobs and much of the net positive tax base that Somerville now lacks, but desperately needs. The Long Term Plan is the preferred development vision that all parties have agreed upon in the Assembly Square settlement.

The Urban Ring consultants, and the CAC's Boston leaders, seemed unaware of the agreed upon land use goals for Assembly Square, even though they have been noted in the project environmental filings with the state. Dick Garver was sympathetic to learning more about them, notwithstanding the comment you heard from him at the CAC meeting about Somerville abandoning the Urban Ring.

Regards, Wig

Bill Shelton

As a member of the Assembly Square Public Advisory Committee, I feel obligated to add information to a statement by state planner Ned Codd which, by itself, is false and misleading:

"The state chose to consider Sullivan after meeting with city officials in Somerville who were skeptical that Assembly Square's roadways could handle the bus lines needed to accommodate the project, Codd said."

Assembly Square Drive could handle the buses just fine. Instead, state officials insisted that A.S. developers must build two additional lanes, that would be used ONLY by the buses, citing U.S. Department of Transportation requirements that 50% of the Urban Ring be dedicated bus lanes.

I was one of the negotiators in the mediation that produced the Assembly Sq. settlement and plan. So I can safely say that giving up that much land would prevent the project from meeting the goals so important to both the developers and the community. The 50% requirement could be met anywhere along the Urban Ring, and it is foolish to redirect the Ring away from where it could stimulate the greatest economic development.

What exposes this explanation as hypocritical nonsense is that in the new plan, the segment of the Urban Ring that goes to Sullivan Square isn't dedicated lanes either. The following sentence from this article may hint at the real explanation:"A plan by Boston officials to lessen congestion on Rutherford Avenue also made Sullivan an option, he said." Boston wants to redevelop that area.

It's hard to believe that city officials would be complacent about the impact on a project that was a cornerstone of Mr. Curtatone's campaign to become mayor. As Barak Obama said about John McCain, I don't think it's that they don't care, I think it's that they don't know. City staff have not attended Urban Ring Advisory Committee meetings for a year.

I'm not as sanguine as Mr. Champion is that "no decisions have been made concerning Assembly Square." But I believe with the kind of unity among advocates, city officials, and community organizations that won a Green Line commitment, we could bring the planned route back through Assembly Square.


This is disgraceful. Mike Capuano was one of those who first fought for the urban ring back in the '90s. And now to see our current administration and our state delegation allow us to ONCE AGAIN get left out of 'the loop', so to speak. This type of treatment would never happen in Cambridge. By the way, is there a proposed map of the entire route that could be posted online? Does any of the proposed route go through Somerville? Does it, like the trains, go through Somerville without making any stops?


I'd like to have the city give a 'Citizen of the Decade' award to Wig Zamore! He's done more to move our city towards a safer and healthier future than any one else I know. Whether it's background science on the PERC mess at 50 Tufts St., digging into the state health statistics to make a solid case for the healthy air needs of East Somerville, or, as here, showing up at meetings, keeping an eye on just about everything and always fighting the good fight - he's the man. Thanks, Wig.

Ken Krause

Am I to understand that seven-plus years into planning the Urban Ring, officials just recently realized that 50 percent of the route must be in dedicated bus lanes to qualify for federal funding? And, rather than add the required dedicated lanes to meet the threshold (and thus greatly improve the reliability and appeal of the Urban Ring service), their response is to simply cut out portions of the route that were proposed to be in mixed traffic?

Wig Zamore

Hi Ken,

I think most citizens assumed, with some justification given the visibility of the Urban Ring and the communities and major development areas that it has long been proposed to serve, that EOT and the local entities were working together to assure proper planning and right-of-way reservation.

At various times along the way, it was stated that the rights-of-way were being carefully noted and preserved. Also, the New Starts requirements have not been a mystery to anyone. However, at this point it is much less important to assign blame than to figure the best way to move forward.

One of the really great segues in Friday morning's presentation to MoveMass was:

1. The portrayal of the imbalance of the insufficient transit efforts north of the Mystic to date,

2. The clear and huge environmental justice neighborhoods in Chelsea and Everett, and

3. The 75% time savings the Urban Ring offers in getting from Chelsea City Center to Wellington.

The Urban Ring would reduce this north of the Mystic trip from 24 minutes to 6 minutes of travel time. The Urban Ring has always held out enormous potential if it can be a good project all the way around the loop. However that is a big “if” given the municipal and institutional power imbalances.

It makes no sense to push forward with the Urban Ring if it will dedicate virtually all of its implementation resources to Longwood Medical Area, Harvard Allston and MIT Cambridge without full integration of the Mystic River communities of eastern Somerville – including Assembly Square and Brickbottom/Inner Belt - Medford, Everett, Chelsea and East Boston.

Regards, Wig

Alan Moore

To answer "disgracefuls"s question about maps, go to:
to see the LPA alternative with Assembly Square and Wellington on page 9 and 4A(R) on page 10 without a Wellington stop (what does Medford think about this?) and with Assembly Square a side stop. I don't know where the alternative with Rutherford Ave and no Assembly Square stop at all can be found.

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