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Category: Comment Letter

WalkBoston Comments on the South Boston Seaport Strategic Transit Plan

WalkBoston Comments on the South Boston Seaport Strategic Transit Plan

July 24, 2020 | WalkBoston Comments on the South Boston Seaport Strategic Transit Plan

To:
Brian P. Golden, Director Boston Planning & Development Agency
Chris Osgood, Chief of Streets
Councilor Wu, Chair Planning, Development and Transportation
Councilor Flynn, District 2

WalkBoston appreciates the opportunity to comment on the plan and are glad to see that a broad set of options are under consideration. We also are glad that a diversity of perspectives is represented by the four criteria used: Expand, Rely, Respect and Equalize.

We offer the following comments and look forward to hearing from you with responses to our comments and the opportunity to comment again as the plan is advanced.

  1. We are pleased that Improving Pedestrian Connections has emerged as one of the top candidates for short term implementation and agree that this strategy will serve many people and improve transit access and use for a broad range of users and locations.
  2. After reviewing the options for short term strategies that are now under consideration, we believe that an evaluation that gives greater weight to Equalize as a value would better serve the needs of the District and of Boston as a whole.

The strategies with the highest Equalize ratings are:

  • Expand Off-Peak Transit Service 100 points
  • Dedicated Transit Corridors 70 points
  • North Station – South Station – South Boston Seaport Direct Bus or Shuttle Service 61 points
  • Bus or Shuttle connection from Nubian Square to South Boston Seaport Link via Broadway 60 points
  • Bus or Shuttle connection from Central Square to South Boston Seaport via LMA and Nubian Square 58 points

While we are pleased that Expanding Off-Peak Transit Service has been flagged as one of the top strategies, we are concerned that Extend Private and Consolidated Shuttles on A St to Broadway has also been given a top rating as this is the ONLY strategy among all of those evaluated that received a negative rating for Equalize, and that it actually increases travel time for many transit users.

We believe that the Bus or Shuttle connection from Nubian Square to South Boston Seaport Link via Broadway or the Bus or Shuttle connection from Central Square to South Boston Seaport via LMA and Nubian Square (# 2 and 3 in overall ratings) should be included as one of the strategies to be advanced. These two options also directly serve some of Boston’s neighborhoods with the greatest number and density of people of color.

  1. There seems to be a disconnect between this BPDA Plan and the work of the Public Works Department on the Northern Avenue Bridge. As WalkBoston and a number of our fellow advocates have commented, we strongly disagree with the plan to allow shuttle buses to use a new Northern Avenue Bridge because it will negatively impact people walking and biking on the bridge, will require that the bridge be very large and expensive, and because it provides very little benefit to shuttle users.

None of the numerous bus service improvements suggested and reviewed in the South Boston Seaport Strategic Transit Plan (short or long term) are shown to be using a future Northern Avenue Bridge. The bridge itself is called out as a strategy, but it is not incorporated into any of the other strategies – all of the routes that cross the Fort Point Channel are shown using the Summer Street or Congress Street Bridges. We urge the Public Works Department to look again at its proposal and eliminate the use of the bridge for shuttle buses.

WalkBoston looks forward to working with you as this plan progresses.

Joint comment letter regarding Arborway Parkways Improvement Project

Joint comment letter regarding Arborway Parkways Improvement Project

Department of Conservation and Recreation
Office of Public Outreach
251 Causeway St 6th Floor
Boston, MA 02114

CC: Senator Chang-Diaz, Representative Nika Elugardo, Representative Liz Malia, City Councilor Matt O’Malley, Chief of Streets Chris Osgood

July 10, 2020

Dear Mr. Jeff Parenti and DCR staff,

Thank you for hosting another meeting concerning the Arborway Parkway Improvements Project We are glad that DCR is prioritizing this project and dedicating time and money to implementing short-term improvements and embarking on a rapid “long-term” process to dramatically improve the way the Arborway functions for vulnerable road users, especially in Murray Circle and improve park access for all.

In addition to the comments we provided in December 2019 and this spring, we propose the following suggestions to the short-term improvements and overall planning process from the meeting on June 24:

1) Changes to the proposed short-term improvements

We are pleased to see an aggressive timeline to have a design by the start of 2021 and construction to begin in 2021 — don’t let up! However, we are concerned about short-term bike accommodations not being implemented this year. We want to be sure this opportunity is used to create a safe, connected route to and through the Emerald Necklace Parks. As stated in our previous letter last December, short-term improvements should calm traffic and reduce crashes while also encouraging greater usage by people walking and biking. Toward that end, we reiterate our request for short-term improvements to include a lane removal on the carriage roads between Murray and Kelley Circles to accommodate a physically separated bike lane in the reclaimed space. We also remain concerned about the lack of a plan to improve safety for people biking through Murray Circle. Murray Circle is a critical gap in the network, and is plagued by crashes that impact safety of all road users.

2) Concern About CTPS Modeling Projections

We are concerned that this project is planning to accommodate an increase in vehicular traffic despite a 2019 study showing a decrease in daily traffic volumes since 2014, and despite Boston and Massachusetts’ goals to shift mode share away from personal vehicles.

In last month’s meeting about this project, DCR cited a CTPS study showing a slight increase in morning traffic. However, that same study found a decrease in evening traffic. As a result, we are deeply skeptical of the CTPS model projecting an increase in overall volume from 2020-2030. We would like to remind you that traffic models have again and again overestimated future volume. In one notable example, in 2018 CTPS projected that inbound traffic on the Longfellow Bridge would double from pre-construction levels once the bridge fully reopened that year; in reality, traffic volumes fell by almost 30% during the morning rush hour relative to 2008. The projection for outbound traffic was even further off-base. CTPS estimated a morning rush of 2,121 vehicles — nearly five times more than the actual peak of 442 measured in September 2018. We also would like to remind you that we must build for the future we want to see! Designing this road to accommodate more traffic will only create more induced demand for driving at a time when that’s the last thing needed on Boston’s already congested roadways.

As you move forward conducting traffic studies, we encourage you and the consultant team to not only consider current vehicle demand to predict future behavior, but to take into consideration that a design that encourages walking/biking can actually get people out of their cars. Both the Commonwealth, under the Global Warming Solutions Act, and the City of Boston have ambitious goals (e.g., Boston reducing emissions and car traffic in half by 2030) that relate to reducing the number of cars on the roads. Emissions from the transportation sector have stayed steady in the state and are not meeting the reduction goals set; as a State agency who has custody and control of the roadways, DCR must be a critical partner in meeting these goals.

3) A robust public engagement process

Especially given the history of previous planning processes for the Arborway and the frustrations expressed by the public at the first meeting, we suggest extra communication and time with the public and believe that this will lead to the most successful process and outcome. We appreciate, for example, the robust public comment period held during the first meeting and are glad to hear that there is a communications and facilitation team for meetings moving forward.

We ask for a publication of a timeline for the project that outlines expected meetings, other public engagement opportunities and milestones (25% design, construction, etc) as soon as possible and for you to stick to the promised dates and timelines. We strongly feel that this will go a long way in building trust and transparency with area-residents. We hope the process is as concise as possible and includes regular communication so residents continue to engage productively in the planning and discussion.

Finally, we suggest including walks — which can be planned in a way to allow for safe social distancing — as a public engagement tool. We have seen that people who currently only drive through the area have a very different understanding of the safety and connectivity needs when walking or riding a bike there.

4) Coordination

a. Given resident concerns about traffic being diverted to side streets, we suggest including those neighborhood side streets in Jamaica Hills and the Jamaica Pond neighborhood in traffic studies and projected traffic patterns to demonstrate to residents the hopefully minimal impact it will have on their streets.

b. Thank you for the coordination and communication you have had with the City of Boston around this project. We hope this will continue so the City can partner around implementing some traffic calming at intersections or side streets that will be impacted.

c. We understand that Centre/Walter St and Arborway are proceeding at the same time. We ask that DCR consider the impact one project will have on the other and ensure that both consultant teams are sharing information and plans. We ask that public meetings on either project share consolidated updates on the other related process.

5) Other overall comments

We are glad to see one of the goals of this project is to “Create a continuous and comfortable bicycle and pedestrian connection between the Arboretum and Pond”. We ask that the bicycle facilities be physically separated the entire length, regardless of whether they are a shared-use path, off-road or on-road facility. Protected or physically separated bike lanes have been shown to improve safety for not only people who bike, but for all road users. A 2019 study by researchers at the University of Colorado Denver and the University of New Mexico found protected bike lanes reduced injury risk to cyclists by 90%, while reducing fatal crashes overall by 44%. Moreover, countless studies have found that a majority of Americans are interested in biking, yet the primary reason why people don’t bike is the fear of being hit by a car. To create a truly “comfortable” bike route that encourages many more people to ride bikes, you must implement protected/separated bike lanes.

Thank you for your consideration of our suggestions. We look forward to continuing to work together around our shared goals for this project.

Becca Wolfson Boston Cyclists Union
Ambar Johnson, LivableStreets Alliance
Brendan Kearney, WalkBoston

Joint Comment Letter – Recommendations for Boston’s Healthy Streets COVID Response

Joint Comment Letter – Recommendations for Boston’s Healthy Streets COVID Response

Below is the letter Boston Cyclists Union, MassBike, LivableStreets Alliance and WalkBoston sent to Chief of Streets Chris Osgood regarding Boston’s Healthy Streets plan on June 16, 2020.


June 16, 2020
Chris Osgood, Chief of Streets
1 City Hall Square, Room 603
Boston, MA 02201

Dear Chief Osgood,

On May 12th, the Boston Transportation Department (BTD) presented a plan to the City Council for adapting streets for COVID-19 response and recovery. However, we are concerned about the focus and scope of the first phase of the Healthy Streets plan that the Transportation Department announced on May 30th, and want to ensure these issues are addressed before future phases of the plan are implemented:

Equity

The most glaring issue with the Healthy Streets plan is the lack of attention paid and investment made in the Black and brown neighborhoods that are disproportionately suffering from the health and economic impacts of the pandemic. As early as April, members of this group reached out to BTD staff with specific recommendations for tactical interventions in the most impacted communities. These recommendations came directly from community leaders and individuals in Mattapan, Hyde Park, Roxbury, and Dorchester. Almost none of these recommendations have been included in the first phase of the Healthy Streets plan.

Additionally, the City has offered no transparency or criteria for how they chose the first phase projects and no timeline or criteria for how they will choose and implement additional phases of the plan. This seemingly arbitrary approach has already compounded the pre-existing inequitable investment in streets in our communities of color, and will likely only exacerbate these existing inequities of investment if not addressed explicitly and immediately.

Bike Network

The Healthy Streets plan only includes implementation of bike lanes on downtown corridors. We know that a network of bike lanes are essential infrastructure for safe travel — at all times, as well as during this time of physical distancing. The recent death of a person biking on Cummins Highway on June 9, 2020 only underscores the urgency of building safe infrastructure in all neighborhoods, not just in the city’s core. While protected bike lanes on downtown streets are long overdue, the corridors laid out in the Healthy Streets plan do not build out the network that is required for people to travel safely throughout the city. Go Boston 2030 provides a clear plan for where interventions are needed. We recommend prioritizing these corridors for quick-build protected bike lanes in Phase 2 of the Healthy Streets plan:

  • Cummins Highway
  • Malcolm X Boulevard, from Nubian Square to the Southwest Corridor
  • Albany Street, from lower Roxbury to South Boston
  • Western Ave, in Allston and Brighton
  • Hyde Park Avenue
  • Dorchester Avenue
  • American Legion Highway
  • Columbus Ave, from Mass Ave to the Downtown Network
  • Columbia Road
  • Columbus Ave, in Roxbury
  • Cambridge Street in Allston, from Union Square to the Charles River
  • Commonwealth Ave from the BU Bridge to the Bowker Overpass
  • East Broadway and Summer Street, in South Boston

As street space is reconfigured to allow for outdoor dining and retail, it’s important that plans for protected bike lanes are incorporated into the new layouts. For example, Charles Street is a key corridor in the protected bike network, but the neighborhood civic association is calling for a lane reduction that only accommodates outdoor dining, not protected bike infrastructure. Neighborhood associations should not be given the power to supersede years of public process that identified the need to create a critical bike network link on a corridor like Charles Street. It is clear that both outdoor dining space and protected bike infrastructure could be achieved there.

Many Main Streets and business associations are in support of swiftly repurposing parking lanes into cafe seating (as was installed on Hanover Street in the North End), which leaves the travel lane to be repurposed for critical mobility access. Improving safety for people walking and biking to Main Streets and other commercial districts is a key goal of Go Boston 2030, and COVID-19 response and recovery plans must align with this goal.

Enforcement + Policing

We have already provided several recommendations to Mayor Walsh regarding the role of policing and enforcement on our streets (see attached for reference). As outlined in the general recommendations to follow, it’s important that any adaptations to streets for COVID-19 response and recovery do not require police enforcement. As has been made so apparent in the last several weeks, policing is not a solution for street safety in communities of color. It’s important that the City develop a plan for how these interventions can be maintained and enforced without a police presence. We recommend that the City facilitate a community-led program which can be maintained by local organizations and residents.

Pedestrian Experience

The City should prioritize automatic recall of WALK signals in low-income and communities of color which have been most impacted by COVID-19, as well as WALK signals that are close to the most heavily used bus stops (which are already highlighted on the City’s Healthy Streets map). This work should be included in Phase 1 and should begin now. It is a long overdue and basic adjustment to all signals in Boston.

We already recommended in mid-April that BTD automate WALK signals so pedestrians do not have to push buttons. It is one less surface to touch and potentially contract/spread disease. Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville have already implemented this effort.

Lack of Engagement with Community Partners

We understand there are staff capacity limitations for rapid response and tactical implementations, especially due to COVID-19. As many other cities have done, we believe it is critical for the City to partner with Main Streets organizations, community groups, advocacy organizations, and other partners to implement, manage, and help communicate about these interventions.

We have offered, on numerous occasions, to deploy our own staff to act as a liaison to community groups and to engage with community members to help identify neighborhood needs. As you know, the City has already worked with us to conduct community outreach and support City-led efforts in the past. We have community trust and a track record of success. Without explicit collaboration with community partners, the City will not be able to implement and manage tactical streets interventions at the scale and pace needed.

Communication, Data Collection, and Measuring Success

While we support the concept of “the pilot is the process,” this does not mean implementing quick-build or tactical projects without a proper strategy to inform the community, collect feedback, and measure success.

Many other communities have strong, established strategies for communications and measurements of success for these projects that can be used as models for Boston efforts. The City should develop a strong plan for monitoring these interventions, including relying on staff, consultants, and volunteers to count people walking and biking (and collect gender and race data), and using automatic technology to measure vehicle speeds and volume. The City can coordinate with employers to better understand how workers are commuting.

In addition, clear coordination between BTD’s Transit Team and Active Transportation Team is critical to ensure that the needs of transit users are balanced with the safety needs of those who are walking and biking (and those who would if there was a connected network). The Transit Team is overdue in developing a clear bus network plan that is based on public process, data, and analysis that takes equity, safety, and mobility needs into account. The City must balance rapid response with adherence to long-standing network plans, and ensure that building out the bus priority network does not preclude a safe bike network and safe pedestrian infrastructure.

We look forward to working with the City to ensure that we adapt our streets as rapidly and effectively as possible to respond to the current health and economic challenges.

Sincerely,

Becca Wolfson, Boston Cyclists Union
Stacy Thompson, LivableStreets Alliance
Galen Mook, MassBike
Stacey Beuttell, WalkBoston

CC: Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Boston City Council

Comment Letter on Waltham High School Project #16097

Comment Letter on Waltham High School Project #16097

June 19, 2020

Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen Theoharides
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA)
Attn: MEPA Office, Page Strysky
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston MA 02114

Dear Secretary Theoharides, 

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Waltham High School Project #16097 for Waltham High School located at 554 Lexington Street in Waltham, MA. WalkBoston and the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition (MassBike) would like to submit the following comments based on our reading of the DEIR as submitted on May 15, 2020.

Though we appreciate the work involved in relocating and constructing a new high school which will have significant impacts for the City of Waltham for generations to come, our primary concerns arise from the fact that unless the site is designed so that motor vehicle trips are replaced by safe and sustainable modes of walking and biking to and from school, this project will unacceptably increase the amount of expected car and bus traffic coming to and from the site on a daily basis and will have dramatic impacts to worsen the congestion on Lexington Street and increase greenhouse gas emissions.

We implore you to rethink the decisions to a.) remove bike lanes on Lexington Street and b.) raise the speed limit on Lexington Street without other traffic calming measures. As we shared previously in our letter dated November 26, 2019, the TMP noted that the Waltham Police Department identified speeding “as a significant issue” on Lexington Street. However, when a speed study was conducted for the high school project, the 85th percentile speed recorded was 41mph, leading to a new design speed set at 45mph. This does not mitigate the existing problem of speeding drivers on Lexington Street, but instead legitimizes it. The purpose of this project should not be to maximize vehicle speed and throughput. On the contrary, the goal must be to create a safe access to the new high school for all modes and ages, especially the most vulnerable on foot and on bike.

The DEIR states:

 “It is not possible to accommodate an exclusive bike lane through this portion of Lexington Street without taking private land along the right-of-way, which the Project will not pursue.” 

This is a misleading statement, and this project is only not accommodating exclusive bike lanes due to the addition of vehicle turning lanes. We are extremely concerned that adding turn lanes to “mitigate delays” will reduce safety of people who are walking and biking to the site. The DEIR also makes statements of “smooth flow,” “to ease traffic congestion,” “improve travel time reliability within a corridor, and reduce congestion,” but makes no mention of safety of students, staff, and faculty who are walking or biking to school. Instead, the DEIR is proposing “shared lanes” on Lexington Street, essentially a “sharrow” which does nothing to separate bicyclists from fast moving traffic. We believe forcing high school students to ride in “shared lanes” on Lexington Street is a dangerous option.

In contrast to “mitigating delays” of traffic, the roads around a community school should be safe for residents to get around, whether by walking, cycling, using transit, or in a vehicle. That safety and comfort is impacted by the design of our streets and intersections. All existing elementary schools in Waltham currently participate in the Massachusetts Safe Routes to School Program, which encourages students and their parents to walk and bike to school, something they hopefully would continue through high school. Yet we are not confident this roadway design allows for safe bicycling and walking, especially for students, staff, and faculty coming to the school early in the morning. Please take a moment to ask yourself: Would you want a 14-year old student riding a bike at 6:50am in a “shared” lane, or crossing a multi-lane road that has a design speed of 45mph?

Many students walking to and from school will have to cross Lexington Street, with a design speed of 45 mph, which obviously is not consistent with safe crossing by pedestrians. Yet Lexington Street has the opportunity to see more students walking and bicycling to school in the years to come: a proposed new K-8 public school may occupy the site of the existing high school. With additional vulnerable road users in this area, it is important to ensure that anyone driving on Lexington Street is doing it at a safe speed, and that safe and comfortable facilities are provided for vulnerable users. The City should consider expansion of the 20mph School Zone on Lexington Street to include all three schools, or through creating a 20mph “Safety Zone,” which was established in 2016 under Mass General Law Chapter 90, Section 18B. 

The DIER does mention the placement of bike racks for 5% of the building occupants, though without detail if these will be protected or covered or otherwise secure, and building occupancy can be up to 1,830 students, teachers, and staff, plus 600 field spectators. We see no analysis of trips being taken to and from the site by people on foot or on bike, only that dedicated bike lanes outside the entrances and exits will be removed, and crosswalks and ADA accessibility will be studied further. This omission is telling that this project goes completely against the goals of Safe Routes to Schools, and the mode-shift goals that Massachusetts is attempting to pursue. This project, as described in the DEIR, will be a detriment to the sustainable and safety goals that are so essential to mitigate dangers of traffic and the climate crisis, and goes against our goals for Safe Routes to Schools. We feel that the City of Waltham should be constructing a school that facilitates and exemplifies safety and sustainability for their students, staff, and faculty.

Thank you, 

Brendan Kearney, Deputy Director, WalkBoston
Galen Mook, Executive Director, MassBike

Joint Comment Letter on the Allston Multimodal Project

Joint Comment Letter on the Allston Multimodal Project

June 19, 2020

Stephanie Pollack
Secretary and CEO, Massachusetts Department of Transportation
10 Park Plaza, Room 4160
Boston, MA 02116

Jeff McEwen
Division Administrator, FHWA
55 Broadway, 10th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02142

MassDOT Board of Directors

MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board

Dear Secretary Pollack, Administrator McEwen, MassDOT Board of Directors and MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board:

We appreciate that you will take our comments into account in the decision making process that leads to a final Allston Multimodal Project design. We want to be your partners and allies in building support for a truly bold, visionary and future-focused reconstruction of this area. We believe that the opportunity exists to set the stage for meeting the needs of the next ten years while also working toward the transformation of our transportation system and riverfront to meet the needs of equity, climate change, and environmental resiliency.

This is more than a viaduct replacement project.  We hope that this project will be transformative and help knit the community of Allston back together and connect it to the Charles River. Therefore, we feel strongly that replacing the MassPike viaduct is not a viable or appropriate option – even if it is technically feasible. 

While much collaborative work is needed with MassDOT, FHWA, advocates, residents, and other agencies to develop the final project design we agree on: 1) the alternatives that should be analyzed; 2) a set of common criteria to form the basis for evaluation; and 3) the project components that should be included in every alternative.

We fully recognize that this is a complex project and that there are no straightforward solutions. Therefore, in order to ensure the best possible outcome for those who live in the community and who utilize I-90, we recommend that you study both the surface option and hybrid option as briefly described below.

We agree that the following roadway options should be studied in the throat area.

  1. All at-grade roadways with a total of 12, 11, 10, 9 and 8 total vehicle lanes, using the narrowest feasible lane and shoulder widths. A 12-lane cross section would include 8 lanes on the MassPike and 4 on SFR. Because reducing I-90 to 6 lanes for several years of construction is feasible, study is needed to consider why I-90 capacity should be increased by one-third when construction is completed. 

The reduction in the number of lanes could be accomplished through elimination of lanes on either roadway. An 8-lane option would include 6 lanes on the MassPike and 2 on SFR.

As we understand from the many sketch alternatives produced over the last 5+ years, a 12-lane cross section would require approximately 30-feet of encroachment on the Charles River (for a length of approximately 700 feet) to provide space for riverbank restoration and the provision of separate walking and biking paths. The elimination of a vehicular lane would yield approximately 10 feet of roadway width – thus an 11-lane cross section would reduce encroachment into the river of approximately 10 feet. A 9 or 8-lane cross section would likely allow the riverbank restoration and PDW paths without any encroachment into the river.

  1. A modification of the “Modified Hybrid” scheme identified by the Independent Review Team that includes a slightly below-grade MassPike and with SFR on a viaduct above the eastbound MassPike, including the lane counts mentioned above. This alternative can be modified to significantly reduce its impact on the Charles River and its parklands, simplify its construction process, and make it a useful alternative for evaluation.

The common criteria for analysis of each alternative should include the following elements.

  1. Improvements to public health, active recreation, and transit-oriented urban design
  2. Mode-shift from single occupancy vehicles to transit, biking, and walking
  3. Environmental and travel impacts of construction
  4. Environmental and transportation impacts and benefits of the completed project
  5. Construction and post-construction mitigation of project impacts
  6. Climate impacts including flooding impacts to the project site and surrounding areas from sea level rise and precipitation in 2030 and beyond
  7. Location of construction
  8. Duration of construction
  9. Total lifecycle cost of construction
  10. Annualized maintenance costs

We agree that the following project elements should be included in all project alternatives.

  1. Enhanced public transit
  • 4 tracks at West Station
  • 2 tracks on the Worcester Line remaining open throughout construction
  • 2 tracks dedicated to a Grand Junction connection
  • Reconstruction of the Grand Junction Bridge over Soldiers Field Road
  • Design of a Grand Junction Bridge over the Charles River, with 2 rail tracks and walk/bike space
  • Anticipation of electric trains and high frequency service.
  • A reassessment of the need for a layover yard given Regional Rail service on the Worcester Line as called for by the FMCB
  • Worcester Line modernization to encourage mode-shift during and after construction (high level platforms, two-track stations, expanded parking or other forms of improved access at suburban stations)
  1.   Bike and pedestrian connections so that neighbors and neighborhoods would be reconnected to the river and transit. 
  • By adding pedestrian/bike connections in Allston: one in the vicinity of Agganis Way; one at the BU Bridge/Comm Ave nexus; and one serving the new neighborhood east of Cambridge Street.
  • The People’s Pike walk/bike path from the Franklin Street Footbridge to West Station and the Agganis Footbridge.
  • Paul Dudley White (PDW) path in service throughout construction.
  • A final design that includes a Paul Dudley White path with separated walking and biking trails.
  • PDW path in the river during construction and permanently should be studied but could be justified only if it can be accomplished in conjunction with river and riverbank restoration in a way that improves the overall ecological integrity of the river.
  • The number of lanes in the street grid and on/off ramp in Allston should be reduced to reflect the existence and use of the West Station transit facilities which will reduce vehicle trips and increase walking and biking trips.
  1.   Any encroachment into the river should be for the primary purpose of ecological restoration; no vehicular encroachment into the Charles River during construction and in the final design.  
  • River restoration measures should consider co-location of other public benefits such as stormwater mitigation and public access. Due to the project’s close proximity and significant impact on the Charles River and surrounding parklands, river restoration should be a key element of the project.
  • The riverbank should be naturalized along the southern bank between River Street and the BU Bridge by creating a natural floodplain or living shoreline.

Why the time is right to evaluate a variety of roadway capacities in this corridor:

First, we believe an evaluation of post-COVID roadway demand is critical for all the options due to the massive change in commuting patterns and assumptions in the post-COVID era.

  • Anecdotally, some businesses that never considered work from home policies are not only experiencing them but say they will never go back to requiring all employees to work on site.
  • A recent MassINC poll found that 41% of workers who are able to do so said they would prefer to continue to work from home, and 29% said they would do so if asked. A previous Pioneer Institute poll found that 63% of respondents would prefer to work from home at least one day per week after COVID-19 vaccine is available, with most saying they would prefer to work from home 2 or 3 days per week.

Second, in light of Boston and Commonwealth stated transportation and greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals we believe that it is imperative to evaluate a variety of roadway capacities to deter-mine how they will contribute to meeting these critical climate, health and transportation goals.

  1. Prioritize investment in public transit.
  2. Transform roadways and travel corridors – MassDOT, municipalities, and other roadway owners should redesign them to prioritize person-throughput rather than vehicle-throughput, so that limited corridor capacity is allocated to moving as many people as possible, while accommodating mobility alternatives.
  3. Better manage traffic congestion The Commonwealth must consider a full set of options to address roadway congestion, including improvements to public transit, better systems operations, and the consideration of congestion pricing. The Commonwealth should prioritize and target investments in public transit and other high-capacity transportation modes to make these more efficient, attractive, and reliable to reduce single occupancy vehicle (SOV) use, particularly on our most congested roads in the urban core.

The Future of Storrow Drive/Soldiers Field Road

During the course of the planning and design efforts undertaken for the I-90 Allston project, there has been discussion about the ways in which the Charles River Reservation from Leverett Circle to Watertown is compromised by the presence of a high-speed, multi-lane roadway with numerous underpasses and overpasses all of which cut the City off from the river.  There should be a separate, serious, and concurrent study of the future of Storrow/SFR from Charles Circle to Watertown. The purposes and objectives of the study should be to explore ways to improve the parkway and surrounding parkland and the river that borders it to facilitate human enjoyment, natural restoration, and safe and effective travel for all modes of transportation.

The scope should include: methods to calm the traffic so it returns to a parkway (including potential for the use of signalized at-grade intersections); enhancement of pedestrian and bike travel throughout, specifically to achieve dual ped and bike lanes for as much of the length as possible; restoration of the river edge to enhance the ecological health of the entire river; enhancement of parkland along entire length; the number of lanes and width of roadway for entire length; financing mechanisms that could involve substantial public/private partnerships to supplement state funds for this underfunded parkway area; significantly improved access for peds and bikes at all intersections including underpasses for bikes and peds at bridges where none currently exist (River, Western) and where design is 25% complete and approved by the Massachusetts Historical Commission (Anderson).

The results of this study should be integrated into the I-90 Multimodal Project in the area from the BU Bridge to Western Avenue in a timely manner with the ongoing federal and local process for the Allston Multimodal Project. The work should be managed jointly by MassDOT and DCR, with committed funds from MassDOT. The scope should be developed collaboratively with active participation by municipalities, other state agencies (such as DEP), major private institutions along the river and parkway, abutting neighborhoods, groups concerned about the river, parks, and parkway, and others. The study should meet strict deadlines so results from this study and I-90 can move forward in a compatible manner. The study should be funded with sufficient resources to enable the hiring of a multimodal consultant staff to reflect the broad purposes of the study, to create a continuing, active, and meaningful advisory process and to conclude with an action plan to implement specific improvements.

Conclusion

The reconfiguration of the Allston interchange is the chance of the century to transform the options for multi-modal transportation, help the Commonwealth meet its absolutely necessary climate goals, and rectify long-standing deprivation of public amenities and degradation of the environment by transforming the Allston section of the Charles River Basin into a stunning urban park with a restored river’s edge that is connected to adjacent communities and that enhances, rather than pollutes, the river itself.

Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to turning this vision into reality.

Allston Brighton CDC, Jason Desrosier, Task Force Member
Allston Civic Association, Anthony D’Isidoro, President, Task Force Member
Charles River Conservancy, Laura Jasinski, Executive Director, Task Force Member
Charles River Watershed Association, Emily Norton, Executive Director, Task Force Member
Conservation Law Foundation, Staci Rubin, Senior Attorney
LivableStreets Alliance, Ari Ofsevit, Task Force Member
Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, Galen Mook, Exec. Director, Allston Resident and Task Force Member
WalkBoston, Wendy Landman, Senior Policy Advisor, Task Force Member
Harry Mattison, Allston resident, Task Force Member
Jessica Robertson, Allston resident, Task Force Member
Steven Miller, Cambridge resident, LivableStreets Alliance
Fred Salvucci, Allston/Brighton resident
Bob Sloane, Brookline Resident, WalkBoston
Jack Wofford, Cambridge resident
Douglas Arcand, Allston resident