Discussion and input from private citizens concerning public works projects is good; it is an integral part of the process.
Over the last few years, many have weighed in on the plans to build a new station for the MBTA commuter rail at Washington and North streets. The opinions are many and varied.
Those who are a few years older than me are always sure to bring up memories of the old depot at what is now Riley Plaza. Their memories of that towering stone structure are almost always pleasant and entertaining.
My father often told the story of his father and his departure from that station for Fort Dix and Army boot camp. He would detail how my Memere (grandmother) had lined up all 11 of their children to say goodbye. As my father told the story, the military policemen who where there tried to get his father to expedite the farewell and a scuffle ensued. When all was said and done, his old man was put on the train with a broken leg alongside two injured MPs. My Dad was prone to exaggeration when speaking of his father, so I never knew quite what to make of this story.
I recall the next incarnation of a train depot in that area. It required a short descent down dark stairs onto a narrow platform where you would wait for your train. In hindsight, I do not remember it as a pleasant place. It was damp and generally quite dirty. It was not unusual to find some of the local ne'er-do-wells camping under the stairs. Some things never change.
I was overseas when they moved the station to its current location. My only memory of that process was from the local newspaper which I usually got 10 to 12 days late. The one thing I recall from that time was a survey done of the old location that detailed financial and physical difficulties presented in that location. Some of the infrastructure that ran underneath the old station would create design and construction obstacles.
Any public works project will bring with it lively and often passionate discussion. The Ruane Courthouse is a prime example. Discussion and debate is good. Those in power need to hear from those who put them there.
The new garage and depot are no exception. Many have weighed in and will continue to do so. Some who do are just concerned citizens who want to be heard. Others are self-proclaimed experts who feel their thoughts and ideas are superior. There are also those who are sure to stand and opine at every available opportunity whenever ground is scheduled to be broken. They will bring maps and plans with them as they stand up at public meetings to use 10 of the two minute allotted for public comment.
The decision to waive further environmental study at the site was the right one. We all know that the North River will be impacted during the construction. Will that impact be any worse than what that waterway endured so many years ago? The river has been recovering from the days when it ran a different color week to week courtesy of the area's many tanneries. It will endure and recover from whatever stress is created by this project.
The greatest impact may be on the gentlemen who camp between the tracks and the river throughout the spring, summer and fall. They may have to impose on their brethren who squat at the Greenlawn Cemetery duck pond for the duration.
Let's break ground and get this thing built.