Wanted: Fair play for the Fairmount Line’s Mattapan Station

State transportation officials have a difficult job balancing the needs of aging infrastructure with the fiscal realities of the state budget. But sometimes, decision-makers make things harder than they need to be.

Such is the case when it comes to the planned Mattapan station on the Fairmount Line, the actual construction of which some Baker administration appointees seem to think is up for discussion.

It’s not. And the state officials who represent this community on Beacon Hill — and their counterparts at the MBTA and on the governor’s cabinet— need to hear from this part of the city that anything other than the swift construction and completion of the Blue Hill Ave-Cummins Highway station is completely unacceptable.

Last week, the Reporter broke the story that the MBTA’s general manager is telling advocates for the Fairmount Line that they will need to make a “strong case” for the awarding of the $25.2 million needed to build the station, which is almost at 100 percent design after an agonizing community process. In fact, construction on the station was supposed to begin last year and the new platform servicing this long-underserved section of the city was to begin by 2017. But now Baker’s folks are telling Mattapan, essentially, to get in line with other communities.

MBTA GM Frank DePaolo and his fellow state transportation officials would do well to read up on their history. Funding for this and other new stations on the Fairmount Line is not just another data point on their spreadsheets. Providing funds for the construction of these stations in Dorchester and Mattapan is a court-ordered resolution to a lawsuit that resulted from decades of disinvestment in our neighborhoods. For years, public-transit dependent residents suffered the indignity of watching commuter rail trains blast through their backyards — without stopping — on their way to downtown Boston, jobs, and opportunity. Meanwhile, these same residents crowded onto buses for stop-and-go rides that often doubled their commute times daily.

“Those funds are supposed to be there, ready for when the whole design process is completed,” said Pamela Bush-Miles, one of the people who have led the charge for these stations since the 1990s. “It should be funded to move forward. But the approval of the funds was done and this station is not supposed to be taken off of the list and be put in line behind three or four other projects.”

She is absolutely right.

The Baker team seems to be balking at following through on the long-promised investment in the Fairmount Line. A report in the Bay State Banner last month revealed that Mass DOT has scuttled plans to buy a fleet of diesel multiple unit trains – known as DMUs – that would make the Fairmount Line a more viable rapid transit line. The Baker administration now says that the DMUs aren’t the best fit for the line — and are too expensive. They’ve not yet offered an alternative.

Instead, they are now wavering on building a station in Mattapan, an outcome that would undermine economic growth and housing starts, not to mention the revitalized commuter rail line itself. It is folly — and an outrage— to even contemplate such a decision. Let’s make sure they get that message loud and clear.

Editor's Note: On Wed., March 2, in the hours after this editorial went to press— but before it was available to the public— MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo responded to a Reporter request for an update on the agency's position regarding the station in Mattapan. He wrote, "The station at Blue Hill Avenue is a legally required project and as such will be given the highest funding priority possible as we finalize the capital plan." - Bill Forry