T builds it, T breaks it

by Beacon Staff • December 10, 2008

ew:/b Sue the T, if necessary, to keep them away from our campus.,bAt issue:/b The MBTA's history of calamitous construction accidents

bOur view:/b Sue the T, if necessary, to keep them away from our campus

Our initial worries about the MBTA's plan to build a bus tunnel underneath Emerson's strip of Boylston Street seem to have been misdirected, or at least not circumspect enough. A iBeacon/i editorial back in September warned that a decade of jackhammering on our campus's doorstep would be disastrous for the college's interests. Turns out we should have been more worried about the destruction so often wreaked by major Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority projects, and not just their oft-delayed schedules.

An MBTA construction project caused a floor-to-ceiling crack in the wall at the Old South Church, a national historic landmark, on Dec. 5, iThe Boston Globe/i reported. The crack marred the church inside and out, and silenced the Old South's organ for fear musical vibrations would exacerbate damage from the fissure. Alarmingly, the damage occured while construction crews were attempting to safeguard the church before serious construction began.

It gets worse. This isn't the first time the T's Copley project has damaged a historic landmark: last year, workers cracked a bench across the street at Boston Public Library's McKim building. We're beginning to feel like Ron Burgundy: "What? You broke a bench at the BPL? And you cracked the whole wall at the Old South Church? How'd you do that? We're not even mad; that's amazing."

It might be funny if the MBTA weren't so fixated on tearing up Boylston Street next. And it won't be funny if anyone is hurt in the next T construction disaster. No one has been harmed at the Copley project yet, but in 2006 Milena Del Valle, 39, was crushed to death by 12 tons of concrete when the ceiling of a Big Dig tunnel collapsed on her car.

Here's hoping the next victim of MBTA construction incompetence is not an Emerson student.

The swaths of destruction the T has wrought on this city may be the kind of silver lining Emerson seeks. They could help the college fend off the MBTA's advances on Boylston Street.

The Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay sued the MBTA and the Federal Transit Authority to compel them to move the project-installing elevators at the station-across the street and away from the BPL and Old South Church. A judge dismissed the case because he determined the transportation authorities had explored all their options. The T should have a tougher time convincing anyone they can build safely when they can't even safeguard a church without desecrating it.

If Emerson administrators can't convince the T to back down on Boylston Street, they should sue to make them explore a more sensible path for the Silver Line. Or they should punt the T's pooches off the Longfellow Bridge, because that's how we roll.,iBeacon/i staff