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Boston, Massachusetts/South Boston Piers Transitway - Phase II

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South Boston Piers Transitway - Phase II

Boston, Massachusetts

(November 1998)


The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is building Phase I of an underground Transitway connecting the MBTA’s existing transit system with the South Boston Piers area, located adjacent to Boston’s central business district. Dual mode trackless trolleys will operate in the Transitway tunnel and on limited surface routes in the eastern end of the Piers area. Phase I will connect South Station – which is the terminus of the MBTA’s south side commuter rail operations, the terminus of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor service, a major bus station, and a station on the MBTA’s Red Line – to the World Trade Center in the Piers area. Phase II would wholly extend the Transitway underground from South Station to Chinatown Station on the Orange Line and Boylston Station on the Green Line, a distance of approximately one-half mile. Based on enhanced engineering, Phase II is estimated to cost $363.7 million (in 1996 dollars).

South Boston Piers Transitway - Phase II Summary Description

Proposed Project Underground Transitway 0.5 miles in length; 2 stations
Total Capital Cost ($1996) $363.70 million
Section 5309 Share ($1996) $291.00 million
Annual Operating Cost ($1996) $864.30 million
Ridership Forecast (2010) 37,000 daily boardings;
(6,513 daily new riders)
FY 2000 Finance Rating: Low
FY 2000 Project Justification Rating: Medium
FY 2000 Overall Project Rating: Not Recommended

The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 1998. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As new starts projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.


In February 1993, the MBTA completed alternatives analysis and selected a 1.5- mile underground transit tunnel from Boylston Station to the World Trade Center combined with surface bus operations as the locally preferred alternative. This alternative is referred to as the Full Build Transitway, which was proposed to be constructed in two phases. The Final Environmental Impact Statement was completed in December 1993. FTA issued a Record of Decision in May 1994 applicable to the Full Build Transitway.

In 1994, FTA signed a Full Funding Grant Agreement for $330.73 million, including a contingent commitment for $53 million, with the MBTA for Phase I of the Transitway. Phase I is scheduled to open in 2002, at which time construction of Phase II is expected to proceed. Phase II is scheduled to open in 2008.

Section 3030(a)(86) of the Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) authorizes the "South Boston – Piers Transitway" for final design and construction, with no distinction between Phase I and Phase II. No funds have been appropriated for Phase II.


The following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTA’s Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. Phase II of the Transitway project was never analyzed as a stand alone segment; hence, the basis of comparison for calculating the new starts criteria for Phase II is against the Phase I of the Transitway. Therefore, Phase II is considered the new start and Phase I the "no build" alternative, as it reflects conditions upon commencement of Phase II. N/A indicates that data are not available for a specific measure.


Mobility Improvements

Rating: Low-Medium

MBTA estimates the following annual travel time savings.

Mobility Improvements New Start vs. No- Build New Start vs. TSM
Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours) 0.5 million hours N/A

Based on 1990 Census data, there area an estimated 649 low income households within a ½ mile radius of the proposed transitway tunnel extension, equivalent to 24 percent of total households.

Environmental Benefits

Rating: Medium

Metropolitan Boston is a serious non-attainment area for ozone. MBTA estimates the following emission reductions in 2010, under a "high-growth scenario".

Criteria Pollutant New Start vs. No- Build New Start vs. TSM
Carbon Monoxide (CO) reduction of 68 annual tons N/A
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) reduction of 13 annual tons N/A
Hydrocarbons (HC) reduction of 8 annual tons N/A
Particulate Matter (PM10) No Change N/A
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) reduction of 4,781 annual tons N/A

MBTA estimates that in 2010 the project would result in the following savings in regional energy consumption (measured in British Thermal Units – BTU).

Annual Energy Savings New Start vs. No- Build New Start vs. TSM
BTU (million) reduction of 59,765 million BTU N/A

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: Medium

MBTA estimates a modest decrease in the systemwide operating cost per passenger mile in 2010 for Phase II of the South Boston Piers Transitway.

Operating Efficiencies No-Build TSM New Start
System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (2010) $0.63 N/A $0.58

Note: Values reflect 2010 ridership forecast and 1996 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: Low-Medium

MBTA estimates the following cost effectiveness index.

Cost Effectiveness New Start vs. No- Build New Start vs. TSM
Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger $15.57 N/A

Note: Values reflect 2010 ridership forecast and 1996 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: High

The South Boston Piers Transitway study area includes downtown Boston and the South Boston Piers/Fort Point Channel area. Downtown Boston contains approximately 19 percent of total regional employment, extremely dense concentration of population, the city’s retail shopping core, a majority of the city’s hotels, and a theater district. The South Boston Piers/Fort Point Channel area, though less intensely developed, contains renovated office complexes, a recently completed Federal Courthouse, the World Trade Center, a new hotel, planned new hotels, high and medium quality high density housing, artists’ lofts, and additional redevelopment opportunities. The proposed transitway project will connect three of the four MBTA rail transit lines and the South Station multi-modal terminal serving Amtrak, local and intercity bus, and commuter rail. Several high trip generators exist in the corridor, including the Boston Marine Industrial Park (3.3 million square feet), the Museum Wharf, South Boston Postal annex, Chinatown, Tufts New England Medical Center, several large government office buildings, and major office towers.

The Transitway corridor is zoned for mixed-use, high-density development. The mix of future development is in the planning stage. Planned land use will focus on housing, manufacturing, research and development, tourism, recreation, retail, food services, visual arts, and maritime industries. Growth management policies are indirect and rely upon concentration of development in the downtown core rather than limitation of development throughout the region. The CBD is the focus of a greater variety of uses through redevelopment efforts. The Boston Downtown Transportation Plan and various economic development policies promote transit-supportive development with a strong pedestrian- focused environment and transit proximity development incentives. Parking has been drastically reduced for commuters due to a freeze on the number of allowable parking spaces for commercial development within the CBD and the South Boston Piers area, further fostering transit-oriented development. Designated Economic Development Areas, located around the proposed Courthouse Station, allow the greatest development density in the project area and contain the Transitway alignment.

Strong institutional and public support enhances the growth of transit- supportive development in both the downtown and South Boston Piers/Fort Point Channel areas through the development review and approval processes. A master plan for the Seaport District, including the South Boston waterfront and Fort Point areas, is being finalized and focuses on high-intensity mixed-use development.

Other Factors

Coordination with Other Major Infrastructure Development - The South Boston Piers area is located near the crossroads of the regional transportation network. The collective investment of local, State and Federal monies in transportation infrastructure has supported development of access to the South Boston Piers area with efficient and reliable transit service. This transportation infrastructure investment has enabled the continued economic expansion of the South Piers area, and includes such projects as the depression of the Central Artery, construction of a new Third Harbor Tunnel, renovation and redevelopment of South Station, and construction of the new Haul Road and access roadways to the Third Harbor Tunnel. A portion of the Transitway Project is being jointly constructed with the Central Artery Project, reducing the costs and environmental impacts of both projects.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 20%

The financial plan includes $291 million (80 percent) in Section 5309 New Starts funds and $72.7 million (20 percent) in unspecified State and local funds.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Low

The low capital finance plan rating reflects the inability to adequately determine MBTA’s financial capacity, as no current financial plan was provided. MBTA does not have a financial plan for Phase II of the Transitway Project and is developing a recovery plan for the Phase I segment. The Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the Boston area regional planning agency and MPO, projects total capital needs for the period 1997 – 2020 to be $9.66 billion. This cost projection does not include other planned MBTA major capital projects such as the North-South Rail Link, the Inner Ring, and the Massport Airport Intermodal Center. Current Phase II cost estimates reflect a 41 percent increase; hence, the reasonableness of all project costs is undetermined. Under Massachusetts law, the State guarantees 90 percent of the debt service charges incurred by MBTA for capital expenditures. MBTA has proposed utilization of this mechanism to fund capital expenditures for the Transitway Project but does not indicate the State’s willingness or ability to meet these funding expectations. Although MBTA may issue bonds to cover the local share, there is no outline yet of how these sources would be applied. The capital plan provides no indication of the presence of contingency factors or other protection against cost overruns.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: Low-Medium

The low-medium rating for the operating finance plan is based on the expectation of only marginally higher O&M costs for Phase II over Phase I, although the existing financial plan does not provide sufficient detail to analyze these costs or their supporting assumptions. MBTA operations are funded through a combination of fare reveneues, state assistance, local assessments, and Federal aid. The financial plan does not consider the ability of existing funding sources to cover additional operating expenses related to this project. The State lacks the financial capacity to absorb an increased share of MBTA’s operating deficits and has forced MBTA to adopt stringent measures to limit growth in operating costs. In recent years, MBTA has experienced strong positive cash flow balances, increased farebox recovery ratio, moderate increases in service, and a moderate decline in ridership.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $1996)

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
Appropriations to Date
Federal: Section 5309 New Start $291.00 $242.00 million appropriated to Phase I through FY 1999
$0.00 appropriated to Phase II through FY 1999
State/Local: Unspecified $72.70 N/A
Total $363.70

Note: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.

[South Boston Piers Transitway - Phase 2 Map (PDF)]

Commitment to Accessibility: DOT is committed to ensuring that information is available in appropriate alternative formats to meet the requirements of persons who have a disability. If you require an alternative version of files provided on this page, please contact