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Unchoked: Dual Paths included in MassDOT’s plans for massive Allston I90 Project!

Unchoked: Dual Paths included in MassDOT’s plans for massive Allston I90 Project!

“Unchoke the Throat!” – the rallying cry to improve the Charles River park and river edge in the I-90 Allston Interchange project – grew out of WalkBoston’s call for separate paths for people walking and biking along the river within a landscaped park. Joined by the Charles River Conservancy and community residents, the idea came to life when Sasaki produced drawings showing a vision of how it could be done. WalkBoston produced a video showing how the massive highway project could be an opportunity to create a better place for people running, biking, and walking along the Charles River.

People from around the region wrote letters to MassDOT expressing their support for dual paths and a better park in the Throat. Of the 500 letters MassDOT received during the FEIR public comment period, over 150 referenced our “#UnchokeTheThroat” video proposal.

MassDOT listened! The notion of dual paths, nonexistent in most of the planning prior to #UnchokeTheThroat, is now in nearly every paragraph of Transportation Secretary Pollack’s explanation of her January 10th decision to pursue a new concept for the Throat (see today’s Boston Globe Mass. Pike in Allston, Soldiers Field Road are set for a major overhaul”).

The chosen plan makes dual paths and a wider park possible with an at-grade Turnpike and placement of Soldiers Field Road on a new, smaller viaduct above the Turnpike. A more generous, straightened park is also included as part of the plan that extends commuter rail to Cambridge via the Grand Junction line across the Charles River. Each of these improvements will help to reduce noise and visual intrusions into the riverside park.

What’s next?

WalkBoston’s advocacy is not done! We have tracked this project since its beginning in 2014, and we will continue our efforts to make it better.

Our focus, along with other advocates and community partners, is to convince MassDOT of the need to prepare for the traffic disruption during construction by enhancing transit access to and from the west and protecting Allston and Brookline neighborhoods from cut through traffic. Maximizing express bus and commuter rail services in the corridor served by the Turnpike and the Framingham/Worcester Commuter Rail Line will be critical. New service should include West Station to enhance public transportation options that provide additional capacity when vehicle lanes on the Turnpike are removed from service during the years of construction. Local bus connections are needed to provide a web of services that get commuters to final destinations; the stations further out, too, will need to be considered, as they will likely see an influx of new riders hoping to avoid driving delays in the construction area. Pedestrian connections to all new or supplemented services are essential.

Work on the project – some call it “the biggest highway project since the Big Dig” – goes on. It is, of course, much more than a highway project. It is a major development with public transportation components that lead outward from West Station, with repercussions that stretch all the way to Worcester – encompassing the Western Corridor and the major employment centers of Harvard Square, the Longwood Medical Area, Kendall Square, Back Bay and Downtown. Boston will gain a whole new neighborhood that will add over 10 million square feet of new employment and residential buildings that will make the area another of the region’s most important destinations over the next few decades.

The Allston I-90 Project is a once in a generation project that Massachusetts needs to get right. It is our move to call attention to everyday issues that can be improved to make it safer and easier to get around now and in the future.

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