Wu calls MGH project a ‘catalytic investment’

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu is calling the construction of two connected towers at Massachusetts General Hospital a “catalytic investment” that could not only boost health care in the city but transform public transportation.

As expected, Mass General Brigham won state regulatory approval on Wednesday for the addition of 78 inpatient beds at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital in Jamaica Plain and the construction of the two new clinical towers downtown at MGH along Cambridge Street.

Wu, in a letter to the Public Health Council, welcomed the jobs and enhanced health care the project will bring. But she also highlighted the potential transit benefits the project could unlock — a multi-modal Cambridge Street, improved access to Logan International Airport, and construction of the “missing link” between the MBTA’s Red and Blue lines. 

What Wu is talking about is the long-sought connection between the Red and Blue subway lines. By extending the Blue Line from its existing terminus at Bowdoin to Charles/MGH, a stop on the Red Line, the MBTA would be able to give riders of the Red Line easier access to Logan and give riders of the Blue Line easier access to MGH and Cambridge. 

According to Wu’s letter, Mass General Brigham has promised $5 million for a new “headhouse” at Charles/MGH and funding for improved pedestrian and bicycle access on Cambridge Street and Blossom Street. 

The construction project at Massachusetts General Hospital is divided into two phases — the first to be completed by 2027 and the second by 2030.

A rendering of Massachusetts General Hospital’s proposed connected twin towers along Cambridge Street in Boston. (Rendering courtesy of NBBJ)

What’s still unclear is whether the MBTA is committed to moving forward with the Red-Blue connector. The expectation is that the T would use a cut and cover construction approach — dig a trench down Cambridge Street, construct the subway tunnel in place, and then cover the trench back up again and rebuild the street infrastructure. T officials have estimated the project could cost as much as $850 million.

A Red-Blue connector had support on the T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board, but the new T board hasn’t said much about it. The T has included $15 million in its proposed five-year capital investment plan (2023-2027) for planning and initial design.

MGH officials say they are setting aside space and access for the MBTA headhouse but not building or furnishing it. The space would become available with the second phase of the hospital construction project, which won’t be completed until 2030. The officials say the hospital construction is not contingent on the T moving ahead with the Red-Blue connector.

Wu, of course, wants the hospital construction and the Red-Blue connector to move ahead in tandem. “The city will be focused on working with the hospital, the MBTA, and the Commonwealth to ensure that all Cambridge Street projects move forward in a coordinated way and align with this important transit priority,” she wrote in her letter to the Public Health Council.

BRUCE MOHL

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Spilka backs tax relief: With state tax revenues soaring, Senate President Karen Spilka calls for her chamber to develop a tax relief package by the end of the legislative session. She offered no details on what she thought might be included in the package.

– Spilka’s announcement represents a major political shift on Beacon Hill. Gov. Charlie Baker and conservative groups have been leading the charge for tax relief, but leading Democrats have remained cool to the idea.

– The April tax numbers, released on Wednesday, changed the conversation. The state collected $2 billion more in April than it had expected, $3 billion more than it did last April. Analysts called the numbers “incredible” and said capital gains and corporate profits were “defying gravity.”

– What to do with all the surplus revenue is likely to trigger an intense debate. Baker has favored a package cutting estate and capital gains taxes and reducing the tax burden on renters and home-owning seniors. Other Republicans have pushed for a gas tax holiday.

– The tax debate could spill over into the sleepy campaigns for statewide office. Attorney General Maura Healey, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, was fuzzy. A campaign statement said she favored using extra cash to reduce the high cost of housing, child care, energy, and transit, but also said tax relief, targeted at those who need it most, should be part of the solution. Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, Healey’s rival, indicated she opposed handing out tax breaks, although she supported using the tax code to help low-income and s working class families. Read more.

Why is driver’s license bill on the move? The Senate is set to vote today on legislation allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses in Massachusetts. Shira Schoenberg analyzes what’s given the bill momentum this year, and concludes the joining of forces between unions and immigrant advocacy groups has made a big difference. Read more.

System failed Harmony: The state’s child advocate said the Department of Children and Families prioritized the rights of Harmony Montgomery’s parents over the rights of the child and, as a result, the system failed Harmony, who has been missing since 2019. Read more.

COVID aftershocks for parents: A new poll indicates many parents are still grappling with the aftershocks of COVID, particularly the impact of the disease on the academic performance and mental health of their children. Read more.

CommonWealth’s award-winning ways: CommonWealth won six awards, including four first-place designations, from the Massachusetts Newspaper and Press Association in its Better Newspaper Competition. Read more

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

The state plans to cut off all funding for the only homeless shelter in Massachusetts with mainly Spanish-speaking staff because its director is facing theft allegations. (Boston Globe

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

A worker was pinned for hours in the rubble of a partial collapse of an old power plant being redeveloped in South Boston. (WBUR)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

US Rep. Ayanna Pressley responds to the likelihood that Roe v Wade could be overturned by the Supreme Court by calling for more justices to be added to the court, ending the fillibuster, and passing a law guaranteeing the right to abortion. (GBH)

Abortion pills are likely to be the next battleground in post-Roe America. (New York Times) Some experts say a range of rights could face rollback based on a decision to overturn Roe. (Boston Globe

ELECTIONS

After Worcester Rep. David LeBoeuf is arrested for drunk driving, Worcester’s Michelle Keane pulls papers to run against him in the Democratic primary one day before 150 signatures are due – and returns her signatures in time to get on the September ballot. She tells MassLive she is public school teacher, survivor of sexual assault, and person in recovery.

The Democratic candidates for state auditor – Chris Dempsey and Diana DiZoglio – trade accusations at a feisty forum in Northampton. (MassLive)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

As part of a legal settlement, Intuit agrees to pay $141 million to 4 million customers who were charged for tax services that were falsely advertised as free. (New York Times)

Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy says the state must get the regulations right when it comes to regulating multi-family housing around MBTA stops. (Salem News)

Demand for public assistance from immigrants is rising in Massachusetts, between a flood of new arrivals and the lingering impacts of the pandemic. (Eagle-Tribune)

EDUCATION

Four Black student groups and a number of Black students received emails that the chancellor of UMass Amherst described as “deeply racist” and similar to emails mailed out last semester. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

City Councilor Michael Flaherty wants more information disclosed about the scandal-ridden Mission Hill K-8 School in Boston. (Boston Globe

Williams College pledges to phase out investments in fossil fuels by 2033. (Berkshire Eagle)

ARTS/CULTURE

Fifty years later, a group of friends – who at the time were teenagers – recall witnessing and becoming caught up in the theft of paintings from the Worcester Art Museum. (Telegram & Gazette)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The price of diesel fuel has doubled in one year and is now more than $6 per gallon. (Boston Herald

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The SJC weighs whether to change the wording of the ballot summary on the millionaire’s tax question. (Gloucester Daily Times)

A former mobster says Attorney General Maura Healey has improperly seized $268,000 from him. (Boston Herald

MEDIA

Meghan Ottolini takes a job at WEEI and becomes the first woman to hold a full-time slot on afternoon drive time sports radio in Boston. (MassLive)