The WRTA’s new Green Island digs (Asthma, anyone?)

By Maureen Schwab

On April 21, The Worcester Regional Transit Authority held a press conference on Quinsigamond Ave, at Crompton Park, to formally announce the award of a $ 39 million federal grant that will be used to build a new mainatainace and operation center. The WRTA plans to locate the new center on seven of the twelve acres of land owned by NSTAR, located on Quinsigamond Ave and Lafayette Street. The remaining five acres will be used by the State Department of Transportation.

This move will place both projects in close proximity, possibly as close as across the street, from Crompton Park, and a century old residential neighborhood known as Green Island. The residents of Green Island were not invited to the press conference, nor were they asked to serve on a committee that would guide the project to insure that neighborhood concerns were heard and hopefully met.

As promised, after the 4.21.meeting, the residents of Green Island were given the opportunity to hear from members of the City Council and administrators from the Worcester Regional Transit Authority about plans to move the WRTA maintenance and operation center to the empty NSTR property.

Notices were sent to Green Island residents, with a personal invitation from Worcester District 4 City Councilor Barbara Haller to attend a meeting of Public Service and Transportation Committee. The meeting was held for the convenience of the Green Island residents, at the Green Island Neighborhood Center, 50 Canton Street, on Wednesday May 18.

Only about 12 residents, several WRTA employees and members of the management team were in attendance. Those residents of Green Island, who did attend, had the opportunity to hear information about the proposed WRTA move from WRTA Administrator Stephen F. O’Neil, and to ask questions about the project.

Many of the questions from residents raised serious concerns about noise and air pollution. At this time, attendees were told by O’Neil, traffic and environmental studies have not been conducted, but when they are, they will meet with all of the necessary requirements. CC Joseph Petty stated he has never received any complaints about air pollution at the Grove Street facility.

Questions about the State Dept. Of Transportation move were taken by State Rep. John Fresolo. Again, concerns were raised again about noise and air pollution. Rep. Fresolo will hold a separate meeting, at a date and location to be announced, to discuss issues related to this move.

The most important outcome of this meeting was the formation of a citizen’s advisory committee which will allow for residents to monitor the progress of this project, and the opportunity to serve on a design review committee. Anyone who is interested in being on the committee can call the City Clerk’s office and ask to be added to the list. The design review committee will be chosen from this list.

The move from Grove Street to Quinsigamond Ave will have the WRTA leave pollution behind on one site, and perhaps only partially remove the toxins that sit in the ground on the NSTAR lot. The grant money cannot be used to clean or renovate l what has been allowed to deteriorate on Grove Street for 75 years; the money can only be used to build a new facility. According to a newspaper article, the design of the new building is estimated to cost $4.1 million, with construction estimated at $48.8 million.

That’s a little more than $39 million.

Fresh, unpolluted air, on the other hand, is priceless.

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