Readers of Banker & Tradesman have a unique opportunity this week to push a key project forward that will benefit anyone with a stake in Boston real estate: Connecting the MBTA’s Red and Blue Lines. 

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation is currently soliciting public feedback on its 2020-2024 Capital Improvement Program (CIP), a huge basket of projects ranging from improvements to the MBTA bus network through road bridges across the state. A full list of projects is available at Public comments will be accepted at that website or via letters addressed to “Capital Investment Plan, 10 Park Plaza, Suite 4150, Boston” through June 10. 

Currently, MassDOT classifies the Red-Blue Connector as the lowest on a three-tiered priority scale.  

Instead of treating the project as pipe dream expansion of the current system, however, MassDOT needs help from all Bay Staters, including the business community, to see it for what it is: a relatively cheap way to reduce congestion from Kendall Square to Logan Airport, and boost the North Shore’s economic prospects at the same time. 

Currently, anyone trying to travel from booming Kendall Square to the airport via public transit has to transfer twice as they pass through downtown – hardly an attractive option for someone with luggage. Instead, many chose to take an Uber or Lyft through downtown, further adding to congestion there. Similarly, anyone living north of Boston is incentivized to drive or hail a ride to get from their home to a job at Kendall or Harvard, or a doctor’s appointment at Massachusetts General Hospital.  

The current downtown subway setup creates congestion on the streets above and the tunnels below. With key junctions of Downtown Crossing, Park Street and Government Center near capacity, that will only get worse when the Green Line Extension begins service in a few years and HYM’s Suffolk Downs project gets built out.  

As recent reports and polls show, Boston’s traffic congestion and other transportation failings are a deadly risk to its economyThey drive away talent and lock renters and homebuyers into particular parts of the metro area based on where their jobs are, driving up prices in a market that already suffers from insufficient supply. 

While a Red-Blue Connector wouldn’t be a cure-all for these problems – boosting investment in repairs to the MTBA network, dramatically improving bus service and converting the commuter rail into a fully electrified, high-frequency system are also key – it is a necessary part of any solution and, after bus improvements, one of the quickest to build 

A simple, 1,500-foot “cut-and-cover” tunnel running under Cambridge Street can link the two lines for as little as $200 million to $350 million, according to MassDOT 

The current round of MassDOT investment would put $15 million towards planning for a Red-Blue Connector. That is simply not enough. The agency must put far more money into the project in this funding cycle so that construction can begin as soon as possible to coincide with work on Cambridge Street as part of Mass. General’s own construction projects, which will run through 2026 

How You Can Push the MBTA to Connect Red, Blue Lines

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min