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Comment Letter on Paul Dudley White Construction Period

Comment Letter on Paul Dudley White Construction Period

February 7, 2019

Stephanie Pollack
Secretary of Transportation
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Transportation Building
10 Park Plaza
Boston, MA 02116

Leo Roy
Commissioner
Department of Conservation & Recreation
251 Causeway Street
9th Floor
Boston, MA 02114

Dear Secretary Pollack and Commissioner Roy:

We, the undersigned organizations, applaud MassDOT’s decision to rebuild the interchange of I-90 in Allston by reconstructing the Turnpike in a way that will result in wider riverside parkland and, we anticipate, restored riverbank. In addition to its environmental benefits, this will enhance facilities for the walkers, cyclists, and runners who flock to the area for recreation and commuting. We write to respond to the announcement that construction of the I-90 Intermodal Project will require an extended closure of the Paul Dudley White (PDW) path.

We urge you to develop a plan to retain the path during the construction period. We acknowledge that the project design next steps involve extensive mitigation, that stakeholders will continue to actively participate in stakeholder discussions, and that there is an immediate need to flag concerns regarding the PDW path.

The construction of the I-90 Project cannot and should not require closure of the Paul Dudley White (PDW) path for 8-10 years. The number of people who use the path and rely upon it as a commuter route is simply too large (and growing) to result in PDW users’ diversion to Cambridge. The proposed detour routes through Cambridge are difficult to maneuver and involve unsafe situations where path users will be forced to cross dangerous intersections and cyclists will be directed toward narrow sidewalks causing hazardous conditions for pedestrians sharing the walkway.

Our understanding is that closure of the PDW is an anticipated result of construction in the Throat area. We also understand that other parts of the project site, which are not as confined, offer places where the PDW path can be integrated safely with the highway construction. The law requires that MassDOT implement “all possible planning to minimize harm to the . . . recreation area” during and after construction. To comply, MassDOT and DCR must mitigate construction impacts in the Throat area allowing the PDW path to remain open for as much of the construction period as practicable, preferably on land or, if there is no other option, on a temporary structure in the Charles River.

In the past short temporary boardwalks have been built in the Charles River — for example, to bypass the Bowker interchange reconstruction. Temporary boardwalks have been used safely and effectively in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore park in Indiana, Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh, New York, and at beaches in the Cape Cod National Seashore and in Duxbury and Sandwich, Massachusetts.

We urge you to incorporate plans to ensure access to the PDW path on the Boston side of the Charles River as you proceed with the difficult design work in the I-90 Throat area. The provision of a temporary Boston-side walking and biking path during construction is a necessary and legally required project element to mitigate any interruption in access to the permanent PDW path and prevent the safety problems that a Cambridge detour would bring to pedestrians and cyclists. Given the potentially lengthy roadway disruptions, alternative modes of transportation on the PDW will be critical to the Project’s success. We further request that the PDW path construction phase plans be added to the agenda for an upcoming Allston Multimodal Project Task Force meeting.

Thank you very much for your consideration and we look forward to your response.

Wendy Landman, Bob Sloane, WalkBoston
Margaret Van Deusen, Pallavi Mande, Charles River Watershed Association
Laura Jasinski, Harry Mattison, Charles River Conservancy
Staci Rubin, Conservation Law Foundation
Michael Nichols, The Esplanade Association
Galen Mook, Executive Director, MassBike
Becca Wolfson, Boston Cyclists Union
Stacy Thompson, Livable Streets

CC: City of Boston, Mayor Marty Walsh, Chief of Streets Chris Osgood
City of Cambridge, Mayor Marc McGovern, Transportation Program Manager Bill Deignan
Town of Brookline, Transportation Board Chair Chris Dempsey
FHWA, Division Administrator Jeff McEwen, Assistant Division Administrator Ken Miller
Senator Joseph Boncore
Senator William Brownsberger
Senator Sal DiDomenico
Representative Michael Moran
Representative Kevin Honan
Representative Jay Livingstone
Representative Tommy Vitolo

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