Boston’s bid for the 2024 Olympics is an intriguing — and increasingly— complicated proposition for residents of this neighborhood. If the city wins the Games, it’s likely that the Olympic Village will be sited on Dorchester’s Columbia Point on what is now a mix of private and public land.
Boston 2024 planners envision a sprawling campus that could encompass well over 120 acres of land as outlined in their pitch to US Olympics officials. As current CEO Rich Davey has repeatedly stressed in interviews and public meetings, all Olympics venues are subject to edit and perhaps even outright relocation at this “proof of concept” phase.
Yet, it’s clear that Columbia Point is the committee’s preferred alternative given its waterfront location and its proximity to other likely venues, including the main Olympic Stadium. By necessity, then, the Olympics would transform this part of the city and that would not necessarily be an unwelcome thing.
There is ample room for improvement along Morrissey Boulevard’s northern corridor, which is already taxed by poor infrastructure, evolving land use, increasing density and— perhaps most dire in the long-term sense— rising sea levels that will one day swamp the current road system. State plans to restore Morrissey Boulevard’s “parkway” feel were drawn up in the 1990s in consultation with civic leaders, but were unceremoniously shelved due to budget constraints. The JFK-UMass station— last modernized in earnest back the late 1980s to replace the old Columbia station— is overdue for a robust renovation. And, most notably perhaps, the traffic circle — or rotary— known as Kosciuzko Circle looms as a daily commuter nightmare in its current state.
The problem for all parties involved — at the moment— is that none of the above stated upgrades to Dorchester’s infrastructure is currently planned or accounted for in the state budget. After scrutiny from this newspaper and others, Boston 2024 officials have acknowledged this fact. This week, that reality was underscored in a new report by UMass and the Boston Foundation that weighs the costs and benefits of the bid.
The new CEO, Rich Davey, is on record stating that no new state revenue enhancements are essential to bring the Olympic Village here. In essence, Davey said, such improvements would be ideal, but they would not be a deal-breaker if they don’t come to fruition.
We disagree. It would be folly to site an Olympic Village on Columbia Point without making significant public investments to the current road and rail system. Even if those projects were more modest in scope— say for instance, a renovation, rather than a dramatic expansion of JFK-UMass station— that still represents state dollars that are not currently in the bonding pipeline.
It is time for Boston 2024 to acknowledge that bringing the Olympic Village to Dorchester will, indeed, require more tax dollar spending from the Commonwealth. Boston residents are willing— and able— to hear that truth, because— in the long run— these investments are likely to leave long-lasting improvements that we will enjoy. Isn’t that, after all, one of the primary planks of the Olympics booster movement: That the Games will leave this city and region better off than it was before?