Northeastern helps secure $20M grant for Ruggles upgrades

The U.S. Department of Transportation on Friday announced a $20 million federal grant to make significant infrastructure improvements at the MBTA Ruggles Station, thanks in part to the efforts of Northeastern University and President Joseph E. Aoun.

Aoun joined federal officials and state and city leaders at the station’s Columbus Avenue entrance for the announcement to celebrate the Ruggles facelift project, which will include a new 800-foot commuter rail platform, new elevators, and updates to lighting and signage. The project, which is funded through the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, Discretionary Grant program, will increase capacity and access at the station, federal and state officials said.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh all hailed the benefits these improvements would bring to the transportation hub and the neighboring community, including more job opportunities and improved transit capacity.

Earlier this year, Aoun sent a letter to Foxx in support of the grant proposal, noting the myriad reasons why improvements at Ruggles would benefit the surrounding neighborhood. Aoun and Foxx’s work to make the project a reality continues a partnership that began in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Foxx was mayor when Northeastern launched its first graduate campus in 2011.

“If this community is vibrant, we are vibrant,” Aoun said during his remarks. “We are here to make a commitment on behalf of Northeastern: more jobs will be dedicated to Roxbury.”

Northeastern will also contribute funding to the renovation project. The university has worked closely with the MBTA during the design phase to ensure the project is completed in harmony with the construction of Northeastern’s $225 million state-of-the-art Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex currently under construction next to Ruggles. Northeastern broke ground in February on the complex, which will feature a new pedestrian bridge over the MBTA Orange Line, commuter rail, and Amtrak tracks.

The 220,000-square-foot research facility, scheduled to open in 2016, is part of Northeastern’s ongoing effort to expand its capacity to engage in path-breaking research across disciplines. The ISEC will be the first private research development in Roxbury and is expected to create 600 jobs during construction and another 700 jobs upon opening.

Northeastern’s support for the Ruggles project builds upon its continued investment in the Columbus Avenue Corridor and surrounding community. In addition to the ISEC, Northeastern purchased and upgraded the Renaissance Park office building and nearby garage, and it made a $175 million “vote of confidence” in the Ruggles neighborhood with the opening of International Village in 2009.

“Northeastern has put down such deep roots in this community,” Patrick said. “It has made a difference, and we thank you for that.”

The TIGER grant program began in 2009 through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It provides grants for major rail, bridge, and road projects. Seventy two TIGER grant projects were announced Friday.

“When we celebrate transportation infrastructure, we celebrate opportunity,” Warren said. “Transportation infrastructure is what gives us the opportunity to get to jobs, to go get an education, to live in one place and travel to another, and to keep a strong, vital city operating.”

On Friday, officials touted the public-private partnership to make the Ruggles project a reality.

“This project is part of Boston being on the rise,” Foxx said. “Northeastern University has been a huge part of this development, and President Aoun is building the college in a big way.”

Added Aoun, in recognition of Foxx’s assistance: “The lesson today is very simple. We learned it takes a Foxx to catch a TIGER grant by its tail.”