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MBTA Cancels East Boston Easement Rights Bid That Attracted Millennium Partners

Pressure from transit advocates led state transportation agencies to call off a planned sale of East Boston easement rights running parallel to Route 1A.

An East Boston easement rights sale to a private developer has been canceled in favor of exploring its potential for traffic relief. 

MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board Chairman Joseph Aiello called off the bidding process and planned discussion of the sale of an East Boston railroad right of way during the FMCB’s Monday meeting. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the MBTA opened a bidding process last month for the more-than-one-mile, 9-acre stretch of former railway easement running parallel to Route 1A, CommonWealth reports

Both transportation agencies own a portion of the right of way. Millennium Partners affiliate Cargo Ventures had wanted to build an access road on the property to better connect 14 acres it owns in East Boston to Logan Airport without having to use the often-congested Route 1A. 

MassDOT and the MBTA opened bidding for the easement rights with the stipulation bids needed to at least meet the property’s current estimated $2.5M value. Cargo Ventures was the front-runner in the bidding process, but it was immediately criticized by transit advocates and former state transportation secretaries Fred Salvucci and Jim Aloisi. 

Salvucci and Aloisi want to see a transportation study for the land and determine if it is better to use the stretch for other transit means like a dedicated bus or high-occupancy vehicle lane instead of selling it to a private developer. 

State officials defended the bid, saying MassDOT and the MBTA could still have reached an agreement to use the property for transit use. Critics were skeptical a private developer would have been willing to keep public use on the easement. 

Across Boston Harbor, Cargo Ventures was associated with a different $100M transportation fight in recent years. The developer wanted to run an aerial gondola network from South Station to a 2M SF innovation campus planned for the eastern edge of the Seaport. 

The initial development plan was scaled down, and a filing earlier this month for the new 900K SF proposal makes no mention of the gondola.