Love it or hate it, no other issue has dominated the public discourse on the South Shore the past 25 years more than Greenbush.
Love it or hate it, no other issue has dominated the public discourse on the South Shore the past 25 years more than Greenbush. Technically, it is just one link in the Massachusetts commuter rail system, and not even a new one - trains ran along the route a few decades before. Yet the branch of the Old Colony commuter rail restoration project has taken on a life of its own among locals, revered or reviled simply as ‘‘Greenbush.’’
Every governor dating back to Michael Dukakis has answered questions about whether Greenbush should be restored. All of them ultimately backed it - but not without a fight, and not all got results.
The issue affected elections, and made history: The 2,500 Scituate residents at a special town meeting in 1995 was believed to have been a state record at the time.
Opponents offered a host of arguments against restoration: too many grade crossings, too much damage to wetlands, too expensive, diesel engine exhaust would cause breathing problems, rare species of salamanders and turtles would lose their habitats, home values would plummet, neighborhoods would be destroyed, rude T officials didn’t deserve to set up shop here.
The battle often seemed to take place atop a pendulum, from referendum votes in favor of the project in 1996, to a well-organized and well-funded opposition campaign that nearly pushed the project off the table.
Even once it got the green light, it stopped: Shortly after the state awarded the project’s $250 million construction contract in 2002, a newly installed Gov. Mitt Romney announced a six-month hiatus while its merits were reviewed.
Still, after more than three years of work and a number of cost hikes that has pushed the project’s price tag over $500 million, it is done.
A new set of modern tracks stretch the 17.7 miles from the Greenbush station in Scituate to the Old Colony mainline in Braintree.
There will be 12 round-trips a day, stopping at the seven Greenbush stations, carrying an estimated 4,300 riders.
Towns have received more than $110 million to offset the impact of the restored rail line - from the $40 million Hingham tunnel, to $5,000 worth of soundproofing in homes along the line.
So ready or not, the train is here. All aboard!