At the beginning of any complex infrastructure undertaking such as the expansion of South Station, the proponent – MassDOT in this case – must get its arms around the environmental consequences of the proposed project. This multi-part process – which includes planning, public outreach, and technical analysis, as well as other activities – is collectively known as the ‘environmental review process.’
The South Station Expansion project (photo copyright Andy Ryan) is particularly complicated, involving a large urban site tightly bounded by natural topography, residential neighborhoods, and rail and roadway infrastructure. The station site, which has been in railroad use for more than a century, occupies approximately 49 acres near Chinatown, Fort Point Channel, and the Innovation District/South Boston Waterfront. The site includes not only rail infrastructure but also the South Station Bus Terminal and a U.S. Postal Service mail distribution facility, which fronts on Dorchester Avenue.
The issues to be considered during the planning and environmental review process for the South Station Expansion project include the expansion of rail facilities, the demolition of the adjacent Postal facility and the opening of Dorchester Avenue to public use, potential joint/private development next to or around the expanded station, and storage for trains during non-peak hours. The MassDOT project team is looking at all of these elements, assessing how they relate to each other, measuring their impacts on the environment, and considering the effects of other projects proposed for the area. One of the first milestones in the planning/environmental review process is the submittal of an Environmental Notification Form (ENF) to the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) Office. The ENF outlines the environmental consequences MassDOT anticipates from the construction of the South Station Expansion project. To ultimately secure the permits it will need to advance the project toward construction, MassDOT will have to demonstrate how it plans to avoid, minimize, and mitigate any measurable damage to the environment. The Environmental Notification Form asks and answers several questions about the South Station Expansion project site, including:
- Does it include any structure, site, or district listed in the State Registry of Historic Places?
- What are the stormwater and waste water impacts of the project?
- Has it been or is it currently regulated under the Massachusetts Contingency Plan?
- Will the project generate solid waste during demolition or construction?
- How much traffic will be generated by the project?
- What will be the greenhouse gas emissions from the project?
- How does the project comply with Harbor planning and public access to the waterfront?
After the Environmental Notification Form is filed, the MEPA Office conducts a scoping session and welcomes public review and comment. The Secretary of Environmental Affairs will then provide a scope outlining any additional environmental investigations that MassDOT should undertake to gain a full understanding of the potential impacts – positive and negative – of the South Station Expansion project.
Right now, the MassDOT team is working on the Environmental Notification Form for the South Station Expansion project. It will be published in the Environmental Monitor and we will continue to provide updates here and through the project email list. Once the ENF is published, you will also be able to access the document on the South Station Expansion website.
Coming soon: Information about how to provide comment and how to attend the scoping session for the South Station Expansion project Environmental Notification Form.