West Station wrangling

It’s playing out as a classic chicken and egg situation.

State officials say calls for a commuter rail station in the area of Allston being developed by Harvard as a major life sciences research hub are premature. They want to leave room for a station at the site, but are eyeing a possible opening in 2040 when the area is more built out.

Transit advocates say the Department of Transportation has it all backwards. Building a station now, they say —  a project that will be made possible by the planned straightening of a section of the Massachusetts Turnpike that runs through the area — will go a long way toward helping shape the type of development that takes place there, with denser, transit-oriented projects more likely to take root.

TransitMatters, a group of brainy transit advocates who are regular contributors to CommonWealth’s weekly podcast, have been making this argument for months. Last December, they laid out the case for building West Station now in this Codcast conversation.

“The reality of our recent experience in Greater Boston is you build the transit early in order to establish the zone as transit-oriented and then private investment will come and work around that,” Jim Aloisi, a former state transportation secretary and TransitMatters board member, said in the discussion. “That’s exactly what’s not happening in Allston.”

The Globe’s Dante Ramos made the same case in a December column, saying it was bad enough that Boston neglected to include enough rail or bus service in building out its first new neighborhood of the 21st century — the Seaport. “Now, the same thing is about to happen again in Allston, except maybe worse,” he wrote.

Today’s Globe weighs in with a newspaper editorial echoing the call for state officials not to let the opportunity pass to get it right with West Station. “Unfortunately, the Baker administration and MassDOT secretary Stephanie Pollock [sic] appear to be on the verge of a historic letdown, allowing nitpicky quibbles to get in the way of what should be an easy call,” it says.

It points out that Harvard alone has already committed to pay nearly two-thirds of the estimated $95 million cost of a station. And it emphasizes, as others have, that the course taken now may become a self-fulfilling prophecy when it comes to future development.

“Without a crystal ball, it’s impossible for anyone to know what will eventually get built on the land in Allston,” says the editorial. “But it’s safe to bet that whether the station is included will prove a key factor, influencing land-use decisions in the area. There’s a legitimate fear that without a station, those plans will veer away from the dense, housing-rich neighborhood that would help the whole state relieve its housing crunch.”

It sounds like just the sort of argument Pollack would have made in her days as a transit advocate and smart-growth policy expert at Northeastern University or the Conservation Law Foundation before joining the Baker administration. It will be fascinating to see how this debate ends.

MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

The House passed legislation that would raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21. Currently there is a patchwork of laws and regulations across the state. (Eagle-Tribune)

An Eagle-Tribune editorial hails Rep. Jim Lyons of Andover for pushing a budget amendment that would make legislative documents public records. (Eagle-Tribune)

Dorchester state Rep. Dan Hunt has proposed legislation that would put curbs on outdoor ads at MBTA stations, a move the T says would only further hamstring the already cash-strapped transit agency. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Mayor Marty Walsh filed an updated proposal to regulate Airbnb and other home-sharing sites that would ban investor-owned units rented out full-time through the apps. (Boston Herald)

The Brockton City Council has rejected an amendment to its water contract with Aquaria that would have reduced the city’s annual payment by $455,000 in exchange for a reduction in the fixed capacity from the company’s desalination plant. (The Enterprise)

The Fall River City Council is once again considering a proposal to establish a position of tourism director. (Herald News)

Voters at Orleans Town Meeting approved a measure to add more money to the affordable housing trust fund to support new housing. (Cape Cod Times)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Jeff Jacoby lauds John McCain for his character. (Boston Globe) Reacting to the terminally ill senator’s request that Donald Trump not attend his funeral, Joan Vennochi says, “who can blame him?” She comes up with a list of those who would want Trump at their funeral, and it reads like a list of misfits bound together by displaying significant deficits of the trait Jacoby says McCain has in abundance. (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

Eleven of the Democrats vying in the primary for the Third Congressional District faced off in Fitchburg. State Sen. Barbara L’Italien seems to be the one throwing all the punches. (Boston Herald) The Lowell Sun reports the candidates rarely disagree, but the tone of this debate took on a harder edge.

Employees of the secretary of state’s office filed nomination papers on behalf of their boss, Secretary of State Bill Galvin, during work hours, potential violations of state ethics laws. (Boston Globe)

Immigration is having an outsized role in races for sheriff around the country. (Governing)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The head of the Brockton 21st Century Corporation,the city’s private economic development agency, revealed Pawtucket Red Sox owner Larry Lucchino came to the city last fall to hear a pitch about moving the team to the city-owned Campanelli Stadium, where the Brockton Rox play. Michael Gallerani told the City Council Lucchino appeared interested but the team appears likely to end up elsewhere. (The Enterprise) Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus remains tight-lipped about his city’s talks with the Pawsox, but says he is committed to luring the team there. (Telegram & Gazette)

US Rep. William Keating says the end to the groundfishing ban that has sidelined New Bedford fishing vessels is near after he spoke with the NOAA regional administrator. (Standard-Times)

EDUCATION

Chris Gabrieli, the CEO of Empower Schools, briefs Worcester education officials on the Springfield Empowerment Zone. (Telegram & Gazette)

Tom Birmingham of the Pioneer Institute says Massachusetts is falling short on school standards and funding. (CommonWealth)

Joanna Plotz, a teacher in Chelsea, says the state’s school funding formula is shortchanging English language leaers and low income students. (CommonWealth)

State officials have revoked certification for Quincy College’s nursing program because of persistently low graduation rates. (Patriot Ledger)

U.S. News & World Report is out with its annual “Best High Schools” rankings and Boston Latin School is the only Massachusetts school to break into the top 100, coming in at number 48.

TRANSPORTATION

The Department of Public Utilities is looking into whether Uber broke the law in raising prices during an early March storm that Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency. (Boston Herald)

CASINOS/MARIJUANA

Middleboro could have as many as four retail pot stores because town officials have signed five host agreements with medical marijuana dispensaries including four prior to July 1 of last year, which allows them to sell recreational pot. (The Enterprise)

Hopkinton Town Meeting just said no to retail pot. (MetroWest Daily News)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The civil suit against Bridgewater State University claiming negligence after a child care worker was charged with sexual abusing children has been expanded to include 10 alleged victims. (The Enterprise)

The federal murder trial of one-time mob leader Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme began with testimony from the widow of the man he is accused of killing. (Boston Herald)

The union representing State Police troopers is challenging a move to equip cars in the department with GPS trackers as a contract violation that must be negotiated. (Boston Globe)

In a murky case involving a police and the shady sources they cultivate, Somerville says a one-time detective who is accused of helping a source find a rival, who wound up nearly stabbed to death, is no longer on the city’s police force; the officer is appealing his dismissal. (Boston Globe)

MEDIA

How the GateHouse Media’s business model works. (NPR)

Employees from a number of Digital First Media publications around the country protested in New York City outside the offices of Alden Global Capital, the hedge fund behind Digital First. In Massachusetts, Digital First runs the Boston Herald, the Lowell Sun, and the Fitchburg Sentinel. (Columbia Journalism Review)