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Comments on Cambridge Discovery Park EOEA #13312 Final Environmental Impact Report

Comments on Cambridge Discovery Park EOEA #13312 Final Environmental Impact Report

November 7, 2005

Secretary Steve Pritchard
Executive Office of Environmental Affairs Attn: MEPA Office
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900 Boston, MA 02114

RE: Cambridge Discovery Park, EOEA #13312 Final Environmental Impact Report

Dear Secretary Pritchard,

We were pleased to review the Final Environmental Impact Report for the Cambridge Discovery Park. It is gratifying when a project proponent makes considerable effort to comply with EOEA’s certificate.

EOEA’s DEIR certificate called for identification of pedestrian sidewalks, footpaths and bicycle facilities for the proposed development. As shown in the plans provided in the FEIR, the proponent indicates that they will construct all of their off-site pedestrian improvements as part of Phase I of the project, thus making these facilities available to help set non-auto commuting patterns.

The Proponent has agreed to take on significant responsibilities for constructing pedestrian pathways in and near the site. Especially noteworthy is the commitment by the proponent to construct and maintain a path through DCR’s Alewife Reservation on land lying between the proponent’s project and Alewife Station. This path will be wide, well-lighted for pedestrian safety, and maintained in all weather by the proponent.

The proponent has also agreed to take responsibility for improvements to the intersection of the EB Route 2 off-ramp and the entrances to the MBTA’s Alewife Garage. This intersection is of critical importance to pedestrians because several pedestrian pathways – both existing and proposed – will intersect: the Minuteman Bicycle and Pedestrian Path, the new pedestrian path from the proponent’s site through DCR’s Reservation, and the proposed Fitchburg cut-off pathway from Belmont. All three of these routes currently lead pedestrians through an unsignalized intersection that has heavy peak-hour traffic adjacent to the MBTA station. The improvements to be provided by the proponent are a major step in making the intersection safe for pedestrian access to the MBTA Alewife Station.

We remain concerned about maintenance of the sidewalks from the proponent’s site to the Alewife MBTA Station via the Route 2 off-ramp. Although sidewalks exist and may be improved by the proponent, WalkBoston is concerned that this pedestrian route may not be adequately maintained because of the overlapping responsibilities of governmental organizations and the proponent’s position that future developments by abutting landowners should bear incremental or additional costs for maintenance of this walkway. The lack of existing development on abutting land should not relieve the proponent of responsibility for maintaining the sidewalk until such time that another developer is on the scene and an agreement for sharing responsibility is reached.

The DEIR Certificate called for the creation of a pedestrian access master plan that takes a longer-range look at the area and develops a future pedestrian path network. The FEIR does not include this long- range plan. We request that it be added, and that it include three elements that would improve pedestrian access this site:

  1. The proponent has agreed to make a contribution of $400,000 toward the design and construction of a footbridge (which would be constructed by others) over the Little River to the south bank multi- use paths. Since a plan for this footbridge is being actively pursued, it would be useful to know how paths from the proponent’s property would access it, even if the information must be tentative or diagrammatic. Possible locations for the bridge or paths are not shown on the maps.
  2. The existing footbridge over Route 2 is not included or discussed in the planning for the site, even though it is noted on FEIR maps. All of the FEIR pedestrian facility maps (Exhibits 5-8, 5-9, 5-10, and 5-11) show the existing footbridge over Route 2. In addition, one of the maps (Exhibit 5-13) shows a bus stop on the north side of Route 2 that will require connection via the footbridge to the site. We wonder whether there are other pedestrian connections to the footbridge that should also be shown on a long-term plan for the area, such as through Thorndike Field in Arlington; or paths connecting the footbridge over Route 2 with the Minute Man Bike/Pedestrian Path. If such paths exist or are planned, it would be useful to show them on a long-term plan for the area to indicate options for people walking to the site from the Arlington side of Route 2. Again, the connections could be tentative or diagrammatic. The benefit of an Arlington footpath to the bridge would be to provide a shorter route to get to the proponent’s site and avoid a route that requires walking to the Alewife MBTA Station and backtracking to get to the site.
  3. A pedestrian connection to the site from the west through Belmont via Frontage Road and Acorn Park Drive has been briefly mentioned as a longer-term goal. This should also be a part of the master plan for pedestrian facilities in the area. As part of this investigation, consideration might also be given to a sidewalk parallel to the south side of Route 2.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this project.

Sincerely,

Wendy Landman
Executive Director

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