I-90/MASS PIKE ACTION ALERT
• GREAT & SAFE PATHS MUST BE A PRIORITY (see additional explanation)
Update 2/7/2018, as featured on WBUR's Radio Boston - Letter, renderings, and map of area for #UnchokeTheThroat Proposal (PDF)
Each comment becomes part of the environmental review process and helps to define the issues MassDOT must address going forward.
HERE IS WHY IT IS IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO COMMENT:
DECISIONS NOW WILL AFFECT THE BOSTON REGION FOR THE NEXT 100 YEARS!
It’s a transportation project costing roughly $1 billion, and when it’s finished, the vacant land being opened up will be developed with buildings for 50,000 workers and residents. With so many people in one location, the project will have an impact comparable to the Seaport District, Kendall Square or Prudential Center.
The existing Allston interchange is suburban-style, with sweeping ramps and overpasses occupying 100 acres in the midst of densely built neighborhoods. To replace the ramps of the interchange, the state plans to move the Turnpike and build city streets to carry heavy traffic to Cambridge, Boston and Brookline.
In addition, essential commuting and recreational paths along the Charles River are an afterthought to highway needs. Transit can help as an alternative during and after highway construction, and paths must be provided for the growing non-vehicular travel needs of this dense urban environment.
This reconstruction will cost at least $107 million more than tearing down the viaduct and replacing it with highways on ground level. A ground level highway will improve long term opportunities to walking and biking access between the community and the river, and may ultimately create opportunities for air rights development.
MassDOT plans for a single narrow walk/bike path along the river directly adjacent to the highway, separated only by a guardrail. This does not meet the needs of people walking and biking.
Long range plans show that we need West Station to serve commuter rail connections to South Station, the western suburbs, Worcester, and North Station. It would be connected to all nearby bus lines. West Station will NOT be built until “demand builds”; an unacceptable conclusion of MassDOT's DEIR.
Allston, Brighton, Brookline, Watertown and Cambridge residents need bus services between Harvard Square and the Longwood medical area. Yet the plan includes no route for buses to make these connections and omits an essential bridge to make crosstown connections. Crosstown service will NOT be built at all until it becomes necessary according to MassDOT's DEIR.
Only a narrow strip of unlandscaped riverfront—very similar to what exists today – is provided on the shoulder of the highway. Paths allow walkers and bikers to move efficiently, and are a major responsibility of MassDOT. For a half mile along the Charles River, better more accommodating paths are NOT included as part of MassDOT's DEIR.
For a walkable, transit-accessible and bikeable future:
A new West Station can provide transit access to/from the western suburbs, South Station, and Kendall Square. Walk-ins come from Allston and Brookline, and crosstown riders on buses serving Harvard Square and the Longwood area
The Silver Line was built before the Seaport District evolved, the Red Line was in place to serve Kendall Square, and three Green Line stations served Prudential Center.
This will set the transportation patterns for the people who will occupy and pass through the development area daily.
This area has among the highest daily volumes in the state – 144,000 vehicles per day on the Turnpike, and 90,000 on Soldiers Field Road along the river. With transit implemented before the highway, congestion during construction would be eased, drivers would have alternate ways to get to this area and other destinations.
Many people go between North and South Allston, and between Harvard Square and the Longwood Medical Area daily. This bridge would provide a new and more direct connection for buses, walkers and cyclists to cross the Turnpike barrier and reach new rail services and the jobs and residences that will be built here.
There is no plan to provide early construction of transit facilities and routes. The DEIR says that construction of West Station and its access roads, bicycle paths and pedestrian paths will be postponed until “demand builds.”
Residents and visitors deserve a plan for the banks of the Charles River commensurate with the setting and 21st century planning standards:
One half mile of the Charles River is the narrowest part of the riverbank, and is known as the “Throat”. In DEIR plans it remains an unattractive and unsafe 8-foot narrow path, shared by people walking and biking. It is separated from the high-speed, extremely busy Soldier’s Field Road traffic by a single guardrail. There is no landscaping, trees or resting place along this area. WalkBoston and the Charles River Conservancy have been working with designers at Sasaki to propose ideas for the paths to supplement the highway work the state has done.
View our video on how we can #UnchokeTheThroat"
To mitigate taking historic parkland like the land used here, MassDOT should provide adequate and attractive replacement facilities. Highways that are located in and adjacent to significant regional parks should contribute to their improvement.
Separate and safe walking/running and biking paths must be provided to serve the many active commuters and recreational users who share this route. Guidance from DCR and the State’s Historic Preservation Office which oversees impacts to National Register properties [the Charles River Basin] is essential.
It should include good facilities for walking/running and biking, landscaping, and places to rest and view the river. This modern standard for Charles River parks has already been set by DCR in designing paths along Memorial Drive in Cambridge.
We need to understand the river’s currents, rate of flow, volume of water entering from storm drain retention basins, and methods of making the rivers edge more natural and safe for aquatic plants and animals.
Although runners, walkers and cyclists use the path for recreation and commuting, nobody can access this mile-long stretch of park or make any cross connections. Bike/ped access could be provided in the at-grade highway plan via bridges connecting riverfront paths to Commonwealth Avenue, BU and Brookline.
To give space for paths, rests and landscaping, a narrow strip of the 500-foot wide river could be filled or a structured path could be built over the water. This would allow for both running/walking and biking paths, as well as safe separation from the highway. In the past, the river was filled to create the Esplanade. We should rethink the best way humans can approach and respect the riverbank.
MassDOT's Allston Interchange Project page; the document page lists all task force notes, presentations, and the official Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR)
People's Pike has great resources as well as a list of articles about the project for more background.
LivableStreets has a project page that gives more talking points and ways to get involved.