“We don’t think people will come to shop in Needham via bike,” said town manager Robin Fitzpatrick. “But we know train riders are big on shopping. So we decided to add the Highland Line from Needham Heights to the Charles River.
Wanting to be “even greener” than Newton in the Highland/Needham corridor improvements, Needham selectmen have opted for a full-on transit expansion for its part of the project.
Fitzpatrick would not reveal how Needham had managed to secure scarce MBTA expansion funds, but something about the birthplace of a highly placed elected official may have something to do with the deal.
The Highland Line would end at the Charles River because of Newton’s insistence on Complete Streets. The planned rebuild of the historic bridge spanning the Charles will only involve the half of the bridge from Newton to the middle of the river.
“We have spent too much time and money on getting the right mix for Needham Street to change now,” said Lily Canan Reynolds of the Planning Department. “Mayor Warren is adamant that Newton prefers asphalt and concrete to rails here.”
An exhausted Chamber of Commerce president Greg Reibman has reportedly been shuttling between Town and City Halls to salvage the deal, which may be scuttled if the regional transportation planning organization, the MPO, decides to further delay the approval of funding in order to iron out the primary travel mode for the corridor.
“I’m all for better transit and better biking, but I wish we could come to some consensus,” Riebman said. “What is a Trip Advisor employee to do? Take the T to Newton Highlands, bike to the river, and then get on the train? It makes no sense.”