Federally-funded Ruggles expansion expected to catalyze new jobs, development in Lower Roxbury
A federally-funded $20 million expansion of commuter rail platforms at Ruggles Station is expected to bring jobs and economic expansion to the Lower Roxbury area.
Gov. Deval Patrick and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx announced the federal Transportation Improvement Generating Economic Recovery grant last Friday, joined by state and local officials.
“The vision set forth by President Obama for the TIGER grant program called for smart investment in transportation that will lead to expanded growth and opportunity,” Patrick said. “The improvements that will be made to Ruggles encapsulate that vision — shortening commutes, increasing transit access and catalyzing growth for this neighborhood and the city.”
Since Ruggles Station opened in 1987, it has had two commuter rail platforms, limiting the number of trains that can utilize the stop. More than half of the commuter rail trains traveling on the Southwest Corridor bypass the station, forcing commuters to disembark at Back Bay Station and take an Orange Line Train back to Ruggles.
“It’s been a major inconvenience for people,” said MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott.
Yet Ruggles ranks as the fourth busiest destination station in the MBTA commuter rail system. The TIGER grant will allow for the design and construction of a third, 9,600 square-foot platform to accommodate the increased traffic coming into the station, as well as two new elevators and other improvements to the station.
In recent years, the expansion of the Longwood Medical area and new Northeastern University offices have increased commuter traffic coming into Ruggles. Additionally, new development projects in Lower Roxbury are expected to draw even more commuters.
On Parcel 3, at the corner of Whittier Street and Columbus Avenue, a development team is planning the construction of a retail, residential and office space with a new facility for the Museum of the National Center for Afro-American Artists. On Tremont Street, Northeastern University is beginning construction on a new science center.
State officials expect that the renovations at Ruggles will spur even more development.
“Partly as a result of this development, 1.5 million square feet is under development,” said Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey. “Just think, a 9,600 square foot platform generating more than a million square feet of new development.”
“TIGER really stands for Totally Invested in Growing the Economy of Roxbury,” quipped U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, who noted that a similar grant funding improvements at the Wonderland Blue Line station brought $500 million in investment to Revere.
“In real estate, they say it’s all about three things — location, location, location,” he said. “We’re saying Roxbury is the location of the future.”
The MBTA began planning the expansion of the Ruggles commuter rail platform six years ago. The TIGER program is a competitive transportation infrastructure program under which states compete to receive discretionary funding for so-called shovel-ready projects. The Obama administration has authorized $600 million for TIGER grants this year. Priority was given to projects that are connected to job centers and education services.
In addition to the new development projects in Lower Roxbury and Northeastern University, Ruggles Station provides the closest commuter rail access to the Longwood Medical area.
Davey said construction on the new platform will begin within the next 12 months. The construction crews will work nights to minimize disruptions.
“It’s more likely to impact commuter rail passengers,” he said.