The site of the proposed 2024 Boston Olympic stadium – Widett Circle, in South Boston – sits in-between Interstate 93 and a set of train tracks. The above rendering of the stadium, which the city’s Olympic organizing committee released in late January, seems to showcase the highway; the railway, however, is quite literally covered up.
The Olympic rings and other venues (seen to the right of the stadium) appear to sit on top of an MBTA maintenance yard, and completely conceal a stretch of the Red Line that runs alongside Dorchester Avenue. This clump of tracks not only stores out-of-service Red Line and commuter trains, it’s also the final stretch of rail heading into Boston’s busiest transit hub, South Station.
The impressive rendering of the proposed Olympic site doesn’t show passenger rail cars en route to South Station, or trains undergoing repairs.
But the new head of Boston 2024, former MassDOT chief Richard Davey, says a dramatic transportation overhaul wouldn’t be necessary. “The proposal for the stadium at Widett Circle will not require any major changes to the rail lines,” Davey said in a prepared statement provided to BostInno.
But it could require a bit of creative – and potentially very expensive – design and planning to make sure the proposed stadium and its surrounding venues wouldn’t drastically alter train operations.
“Either the boosters will need to significantly disrupt operations on the MBTA’s busiest transit line, or they’ll have to build an expensive deck above the rail yards (which doesn’t seem to be anywhere in their budget), or both,” Chris Dempsey, a co-chair of No Boston Olympics, told BostInno in an email.
Dempsey, a prominent face in the city’s anti-Olympics movement, suggests that the current Widett Circle stadium proposal – specifically the fact that it could potentially prompt a major and pricey rail project – is the result of overtly secretive planning by Boston 2024. “When Boston 2024 decided to develop its far-reaching plan with an insular team behind closed doors, it was bound to have some blind spots,” the head of No Boston Olympics said, adding:
This is just one of many. Rich Davey, newly hired by Boston2024 and clearly an expert on the T, must be sitting there scratching his head saying, ‘what the heck were these guys thinking? And how the heck are we going to pay for this?’
If Davey – who served as the general manager of the MBTA between 2010 and 2011, before Governor Deval Patrick named him MassDOT chief – is in fact baffled by what would be a remarkable and costly oversight by Boston 2024 architect Alfred Manfredi, it appears he’s doing a good job pretending he’s not.
“All construction and site work costs are included in our budget for the stadium,” Davey continued in his statement, which suggests building the Widett Circle Olympic venues on an elevated deck over the existing rail yard has always been a potential option. (This seems far more likely than the Olympic group forgetting the tracks were there.)
And of course, Davey had to hedge his comments a little bit: “As with all proposals for the 2024 Games, plans are very preliminary and subject to change as we receive community input during the public review process.”
The public’s next chance to enter the 2024 Olympic discussion is scheduled for February 24. The community meeting is slated to start at 6:30 p.m., inside the Condon School Cafeteria on D Street, in South Boston.
Rendering via Boston 2024; screengrab via Google Maps.