Rusted tracks will greet DNC
Many wanted them down by convention
By Andrea Estes, Globe Staff, 2/28/2004
Mayor Thomas M. Menino and organizers of the Democratic National Convention had envisioned a sparkling new look for the gritty gateway to the FleetCenter, with all the rusted steel and cement of the elevated Green Line gone by the time delegates and television cameras show up in July.
But now MBTA officials say that will not happen.
The battered 92-year-old structure will stay where it is during the convention, interfering with plans to repave Causeway Street, where the tracks run overhead and where thousands will form impressions of the city as they enter the convention arena.
The change in plans throws a wrench into plans to spruce up the pock-marked street and complicates the task of moving traffic and delegates in a congested area of the city.
"We are disappointed the Green Line isn't coming down," said Robert O'Brien, executive director of the Downtown North Association, which represents businesses in the neighborhood.
"We were assured it was on schedule, to be done in advance of the DNC, and we were quite happy with that news," he said. "There's no question that if the Green Line had been down, it would have made for a much more attractive Causeway Street, and we're disappointed it won't be."
What's more, looming MBTA cranes and other heavy equipment in a corner of the old Boston Garden site near the FleetCenter may not disappear by convention time. T officials said they will ask the contractor to "reduce the activity of construction," but have not yet agreed to stop construction and pave the site, where workers are building a new Green Line.
T officials have said that taking down the overhead tracks, the city's last half mile of elevated transit line, will open up views and beautify the city. City officials and convention organizers have made it no secret that they wanted the eyesore removed before the Democrats came to town.
T officials said yesterday they had never definitively promised to take down the structure, but had discussed accelerating their schedule to accommodate the convention.
When it became clear some time late last year that costs would would be exhorbitant, they decided against it, Pesaturo said. He added that Green Line Service would be disrupted if the old line was dismantled before the new one is completed.
Menino said he's still holding out hope the structure will come down before July but insisted it won't matter if it doesn't.
"It won't prevent the convention," Menino said. "It will just mean we have to make minor alterations." Boston 2004 president David Passafaro also downplayed the matter. "We asked, and they said they would try," he said. "But because of time and scheduling and money, they can't get it done. Whatever the condition come July is what it'll have to be."
But Councilor Maureen Feeney, who chairs a council committee on the convention, was angry that the rattling tracks and girders will be in place when the Democrats come to town.
"I find it hard to believe Governor [Mitt] Romney wouldn't recognize the value and importance of showcasing the capital city as a reflection of his administration," she said.
"It's going to be very disruptive to have that structure still there, and it's going to complicate and add even greater confusion and congestion to a part of the city that is critically important to making this a successful convention."
Romney has repeatedly said that the cost of the convention should be paid entirely by the private sector, the federal government, and the city.
His spokeswoman, Shawn Feddeman, said politics played no role in the state's decision not to demolish the Green Line before summer.
T officials, who said they are already planning to spend millions on convention-related expenses, said that getting the tracks down by July would require paying J.F. White, the private contractor on the project, an extra $1.5 million to $3 million, said MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo.
"The cost of accelerating demolition would have been exorbitant," said Pesaturo.
Dismantling the Green Line would also disrupt service for commuter rail and Orange Line riders unnecessarily for four months, Pesaturo said.
The MBTA is planning to spend $3 million to $5 million on convention-related costs, including overtime, police details, and equipment, "everything related to delivering top-notch service during the convention," he said. "We will offer rush-hour-type service all week long."
The T has agreed to make up to 125 buses available to the convention, but convention and T officials said that number may drop.
The demolition of the Green Line will begin after the Convention, Pesaturo said.
At least one public official is pleased that the T is waiting to dismantle the subway.
"This is a good thing," said Councilor at Large Maura Hennigan. "There's so much attention paid to temporary beautification. What about permanent solutions? This is responding to what taxpayers have been saying all along: They don't want their money thrown away on a four-day event."
? Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.