Transit Projects

Silver Line Phase 3

SL and HISTORIC PROPERTIESThe Silver Line Phase III Project (Phase III) is the final segment of the MBTA′s seven-mile Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project which will ultimately provide high frequency and high quality service from Dudley Square and lower Roxbury through the South End, Chinatown, downtown and on to the South Boston Waterfront and continuing service to Logan International Airport. (Click here to see a graphic of the Silver Line project area.)

By implementing Silver Line Phase III, an approximately one mile tunnel connection between the existing Silver Line/Washington Street Service (Phase I) and the existing Silver Line/Waterfront Service (Phase II), the MBTA will improve the existing transportation network in the downtown core by

  1. Providing important transit service enhancements to two currently underserved corridors (i.e., the Washington Street Corridor and the South Boston Waterfront).
  2. Providing mobility improvements throughout the system by improving direct service to South Station/Financial District as well as by improving connections to the Red, Orange and Green Lines. In addition, the Silver Line will provide improved access to the commuter rail system, as well as the intercity Amtrak and intercity bus terminals, all of which are located at South Station.
  3. Addressing existing congestion on both the transit system as well as the roadway network.
  4. Providing community and environmental benefits such as reduction in automobile usage and the associated air quality benefits, supporting sustainable land use plans and encouraging smart growth in the urban core.

Phase III Proposed Alignment and Alternatives

In May 2005, the MBTA filed an environmental review document for Phase III of the Silver Line with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) and with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The environmental document examined the potential environmental, community, operational and construction impacts of completing the MBTA's Silver Line Phase III BRT Project.

Four alternative alignments were considered in the environmental document. These alternatives included:

  1. An alignment along Tremont Street with a portal at New England Medical Center (NEMC),
  2. An alignment along Charles Street and Stuart Street with a portal at NEMC,
  3. An alignment along Charles Street with a portal at NEMC,
  4. An alignment along Columbus Avenue with a portal on Columbus Avenue.

These four Build Alternatives, all of which are located in the City of Boston and are approximately one-mile long, were designed to connect the two existing Silver Line services into a new tunnel referred to as the Core Tunnel Segment. The Core Tunnel Segment, which was analyzed in a prior environmental review process, includes new connections at the existing Boylston Street (Green Line) and Chinatown (Orange Line) Stations. The environmental document examined the environmental impacts of each of these four alignments. (Click here to see a graphic showing the relative locations of each of the four alternatives.)

The environmental document was then subjected to a full and robust public review. More than 350 written and oral comments were received from members of the public, elected officials, and agency representatives concerning the proposed Silver Line Phase III alternatives. At the end of the comment period, EEA issued a Certificate on the environmental review document. (Click here to view a copy of the EEA Certificate dated August 15, 2005.)

As part of the EEA certificate on the environmental review document, the Secretary of EEA, based upon recommendations from the A Better City (ABC — formerly known as the Artery Business Committee), required the MBTA to study an alternative location for the portal along Marginal Road that would provide the transportation benefits of alignments in the environmental document, but avoid some, but not all, of the major issued raised by the public.

After the completion of that environmental review, and based on the direction from the Secretary of EEA, the MBTA worked with the ABC and the City of Boston, as well as other stakeholders to review the various stakeholders' concerns regarding impacts associated with each of the four alignments and portal related to traffic, groundwater, historical and archeological resources and parklands impacts were addressed. The MBTA also began to study the feasibility of the Marginal Road alternative alignment. Though the Marginal Road alternative was determined not to be feasible, the MBTA, through working with the ABC and the City of Boston, identified a possible alignment (referred to as the "Charles Street Modified" (CSM) alignment) that we collectively determined had merit and warrants further evaluation. (Click here to see a graphic showing the relative locations of each of the CSM alternative.)

Although this announced CSM alignment is the alignment that the MBTA is pursing and has selected as its preferred alternative, the FTA and EEA cannot grant final approval until the final environmental review occurs. This environmental review will address potential impacts such as groundwater depletion, impacts to historic homes, traffic, noise, vibration and other potential impacts that could result from the Silver Line Phase III project. The environmental review document will present the impacts that may occur during both the construction period as well as during its operational phase. The environmental document will also identify the means and methods the MBTA and its contractors will employ to avoid, minimize and/or mitigate these impacts.

The environmental review is a two step process. The first step occurred in late 2006 when the MBTA developed a Notice of Project Change, in which it sought permission from the EEA to add this alignment to the group of other alignments studied in the prior environmental document. The Secretary of EEA then issued a scope in which he provided direction and guidance to the MBTA as to what parameters and what environmental issues need to be studied.

In the second step, the MBTA will perform the assessment and prepare a full environmental review document. The environmental review document will bring the newly proposed CSM alignment to the same level of assessment as the previous alignments. This final environmental document will contain a Response to Comments section in which the MBTA responds to each of the comments raised in last year's environmental document as well as those that were raised during the upcoming Notice of Project Change. This second round of environmental review will occur later this year (2008).

The environmental review will be a public process where the public at large will have the opportunity to review the assessment and advise both EEA as well as the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) as to the adequacy of the environmental documents and assessment prepared by the MBTA. These approvals from both FTA and EEA are needed for the project to move forward.

It is understandable that many people are now concerned that the project will not be completed. However, despite these challenges the MBTA, as per the direction of the MBTA′s General Manager, remains strongly committed to the completion of the Silver Line Project. He has instructed the Silver Line Project Team to continue working with the stakeholders, elected officials, and agencies to address concerns and broaden support for the project and address those issues outlined in the certificate.

Most importantly, in 2006, the MBTA requested permission from FTA to re-enter the Preliminary Engineering phase of the FTA′s New Starts Program. In December 2006, the FTA granted permission to return the project to PE. The PE work is now well underway, and the MBTA anticipates completing the PE phase by the end of 2008. At that point, the MBTA will request permission from the FTA to enter the Final Design phase of the project.

During the PE phase, the MBTA will be performing the engineering work necessary to answer many of the questions raised by stakeholders during the project development as well as during the environmental review. The New Starts Program is FTA′s highly competitive program for determining which national projects the FTA will fund via its discretionary funding sources. The MBTA will be seeking 60% of the costs of Silver Line III from the New Starts program. To increase the likelihood that federal funding for Phase III would be approved, it is critical that Boston, as the host city, is unified in its support for the project and for the specific alignment. Without this support, other transit projects in other cities that have local support for their projects are in a better position to receive funding. Not funding Silver Line Phase III would mean not only a loss of hundreds of millions of federal dollars for the Commonwealth, but we would be losing a good transit project for our region.

Silver Line Project Schedule:

The MBTA is aggressively working to advance the Silver Line project to meet the opening milestone which is set for December 2016. The overall project schedule is as follows:

Late 2008 Complete the environmental review document and release it for a full public review, including public comment period.
Summer 2009 Complete Extended Preliminary Engineering (PE) and request entry into Final Design (FD)
Late 2010 Complete the FD phase of the project
Early 2010 Be recommended for federal funding from the FTA
Early 2011 Start Construction
Late 2016 Silver Line III opens for passenger service

Silver Line Phase III Community Outreach


The MBTA′s Silver Line Communication and Community Development Office (SLCO) have been operating since 2003, managing and implementing the MBTA′s public involvement process for the Silver Line Phase III project. The SLCO is working closely with stakeholders and neighborhoods along the Silver Line corridor, conducting outreach activities during the design and environmental review phases. The MBTA is reaching out to stakeholders by proactively conducting on-going dialogue with stakeholders, addressing their concerns, sharing information, and maintaining and promoting goodwill. Additionally, the SLCO continues to inform and educate stakeholders on Phase III development, by involving and encouraging community groups and organizations to participate in meetings and other activities.

The MBTA′s Silver Line Phase III Project team, including the URS/DMJM+ HARRIS Joint Venture team, will implement these strategies throughout the design and construction phases. Broader outreach activities include: hosting, attending and participating in meetings, briefings, charrettes, focus groups, workshops, and other community and business meetings. The communication tools designed for this purpose consist of informational mailings (in both traditional and electronic formats) Silver Line Dig It newsletter, flyers, brochures, posters, local media outlets, publications and presentations, and many others. The MBTA Silver Line Phase III Project Team is working to provide the most effective and efficient communication materials and communication tools to inform, update and educate stakeholders and the public at large during all phases of the project.

The SLCO has developed and continues to maintain the Silver Line Database, which is made up of a diverse group of stakeholders, including: residents, businesses, government officials and offices, advocacy groups, civic and business associations, and other organizations and elected officials. The database has proven to be useful in updating and notifying people of pertinent information, pubic meetings, announcements and other activities related to the project.

The Silver Line Project Team will continue to implement many of the activities during the construction phase that were developed and being applied during the design phase. The main focus will be to provide timely information to residents and businesses during construction so as to minimize disruptions. A multi-tiered plan will be implemented to provide the best possible experience for each impacted residential community and business. This plan will include working with the city agencies and key stakeholders to:

  • Prepare information on comprehensive construction and traffic management plans,
  • Meet with affected residents, businesses and local elected officials in advance of construction to discuss the likely impacts and to obtain feedback,
  • Provide access to a construction liaison for questions and concerns.


Outreach activities and communication tools currently underway during the design phase and continuing through construction are described below.

  • Community and Stakeholder Meetings: The Silver Line Project Team will continue to conduct, host and attend individual and group meetings and briefings with stakeholders, elected officials and others as needed during design and continue throughout the construction phase. At these meetings, the MBTA will update and share information on studies, impacts, schedules and other applicable information.
  • During the construction phase, the MBTA will host various meetings to introduce the contractor and additional MBTA staff working on the project. The MBTA will provide information on the construction schedule, community involvement and other concerns raised by stakeholders. Additional meetings with businesses will be conducted to determine their access needs and integrating these requirements into the construction and traffic management plans. This information will be updated regularly throughout the life of the project and the information will be provided to anyone interested.
  • When scheduling meetings for the wider public, particular attention will be directed to schedule meetings at convenient times and places to support the constraints of workers′ schedules; families with childcare needs; and citizens with limited physical mobility and health challenges such as the elderly or people with disabilities.
  • The public involvement and outreach program is designed to support and meet the needs of non-English-speaking residents in the Phase III corridor, in which the dominant alternative language is Chinese. A Chinese speaking liaison is a member of the Silver Line Phase III Project Team, who works as a source of contact for the Chinatown community.
  • Language translations and listening devices are provided at meetings to ensure individuals who face language barriers or hearing challenges are able to understand the scope and substance of project-related discussions. Interpreters are also provided at meetings for those who speak different languages or different dialects within a particular language. Both language translations and listening devices will be available for residents of the Chinatown community at public hearings. Assistive listening devices and/or sign language interpretation will also be provided for people with hearing disabilities.
  • Outreach to local Elected Officials: The MBTA and project team will continue to brief all elected officials whose districts will be impacted by construction. Highlights of the outreach strategies, as well as information on upcoming meetings with residents and businesses that will be impacted by construction will continue to be provided by the MBTA.
  • Written Materials: Informational Mailings as well as electronic updates will be made available to interested residents and businesses on specific information related to the project.
  • The website′s Silver Line Phase III section will contain updated information, documents, and other informational communication materials on the project.
  • Media Outreach: The MBTA will continue to utilize media outlets, such as, local newspapers, radio, local community cable television, and others to communicate with and inform the public about project progress and public meetings, as needed.
  • Liaison: The MBTA assigned liaison, working as the prime point of contact for stakeholders to provide information and keep the lines of communication open during design, will continue to work during the construction phase. The liaison will coordinate with the communities on construction plans, including construction techniques and methodologies.
  • In addition, the liaison will continue to meet with businesses and residents on a regular basis to address concerns and emergencies as they arise. The MBTA liaison will work with representatives of the Mayor′s Office of Neighborhood Services and other city agencies to keep them informed about neighborhood concerns. The MBTA liaison will follow-up with residents and businesses on a regular basis to address any issues that may arise.
  • Silver Line Phase III Working Group: The MBTA will establish a working group of stakeholders to work with the MBTA around key issues associated with design and construction impacts on residents and businesses relating to the Silver Line Phase III project.

Related Project Documents

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