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Study Chides Boston Transit’s Short-Sighted Vision, Highlights Real Estate Opportunity

Boston Land
South Station

While not taking sides in the North-South Rail Link vs. South Station Expansion battle, a new report highlights the real estate ramifications of expanding Boston’s biggest transit hub.

At the request of Salem Rep. Seth Moulton, the D.C.-based Urban Land Institute conducted a study on Greater Boston’s transit system and its economic impact. Moulton and other politicians have looked to highlight the feasibility and benefit of connecting North and South stations in lieu of expanding the latter. While the study emphasizes the strengths of the region’s rail network, it also warns of the impact of letting it deteriorate with a lack of vision, the Boston Business Journal reports

The ULI Advisory Services Panel Report does not pick one project over the other, but it does show where the South Station Expansion project could hinder ambitious plans to redevelop Widett Circle.

“Current plans envision transforming the Widett Circle area into a large layover facility, in addition to adding additional layover space to the western part of Boston in the Beacon Park Yard area,” the report states. “Using the circle in this manner would result in significant negative economic impact — displacement of the existing, vibrant warehouse and distribution facilities and the employees who work there and precluding or significantly increasing the cost of redeveloping the area into a new mixed-use neighborhood for the city.”

Widett was previously floated in Boston’s abandoned 2024 Summer Olympics bid as a site for a stadium that would eventually be converted into mixed-use development. The ULI report cites analysis in the bid that projected up to $8B in developed value in the site’s post-Olympics life. The current analysis for North-South Rail Link would not require the storage space at Widett.