Tag: Allston I90

Modified “At-Grade” Option for Allston I-90/Project Is A Go

Modified “At-Grade” Option for Allston I-90/Project Is A Go

WalkBoston is pleased at the news that MassDOT is advancing the modified “at-grade” option for the I-90 Interchange Project. There is still a lot of work to be done and details to work out, but we are happy with this direction. The modified “at-grade” option shown at the recent I-90 Task Force meeting includes a wider, 20-foot-wide boardwalk along the Charles River in the “throat” section and walking/biking connection to Agganis Way at Boston University.

WalkBoston has been one of many groups working to make this happen. So many have dedicated countless hours, megawatts of brain power, and tireless energy to making this project more than a highway project. We only wish that our friend, WalkBoston founder, and the creative mind behind reframing the conversation about the walking and biking paths, Bob Sloane, was here to hear this news. Bob passed away this past May, and many people have mentioned that a section of the paths should be dedicated to his memory. We think that sounds like a wonderful tribute.

To read more about the project, see some of the coverage below. 

Boston Globe: “Mass. Pike in Allston will be grounded, state says, vowing to move forward with mega transportation project

Commonwealth Magazine: “State embraces all-at-grade Allston Project

Streetsblog MASS: “MassDOT Picks ‘At-Grade’ Option for Allston/I-90 Project” (if you need a refresher, check out the updated overview of the entire project.)

Advocates letter re Allston I-90: Next Steps (March 2021)

Advocates letter re Allston I-90: Next Steps (March 2021)

March 30, 2021

Jonathan Gulliver
Highway Administrator
Massachusetts Department of Transportation
10 Park Plaza, Suite 4160
Boston, MA 02116

Subject:  Allston Multimodal Project Recommended Next Steps Regarding Upcoming Notice of Project Change

Dear Administrator Gulliver:

Thank you for convening the recent Allston Multimodal Project Task Force meeting, and for your request for ideas to make Task Force meetings and the environmental review process more productive moving forward.

As evidenced by the voluminous formal comments made to MassDOT last October, as well as the letters from our coalition, there is a demonstrably strong consensus for the Modified All At-Grade option from stakeholders across the region. Based on that strong consensus and in response to your request for ideas to improve the public process associated with this transformative project, we write today with a few specific suggestions requesting they be incorporated now into the upcoming Notice of Project Change (NPC):

  1. Please refine the Modified All At-Grade to ensure no roadway in the river—and include that version in the NPC. MassDOT’s most recent drawings (shared in the fall of 2020) showed about 4-feet of roadway intrusion. Members of the coalition have worked collaboratively and individually, on numerous occasions, to offer design modifications that avoid unnecessary incursion into the river. Refining your current design will allow for continued productive collaboration with stakeholders and ensure that the NPC begins with a refined, improved, and community-supported design.
  2. Please develop a list of issues requiring further analysis to be included in the NPC. Despite several years of hard work by both the project team and the public, this coalition and other stakeholders strongly believe that a number of key issues have yet to be fully developed or presented to the Task Force. We suggest the top three issues on such a list should include:
    1. Constructability and maintenance for all Build and No-Build options, as well as the Substantial Repair Option to temporarily repair the highway viaduct in its current location initially introduced by MassDOT in November 2020;
    2. Methods of mitigating construction and traffic impacts; and
    3. Details for the remediation of the degraded riverbank, infrastructure upgrades needed to address untreated storm drainage, details about ecosystem services, such as constructed wetlands, and the integration of the improved river edge and the Paul Dudley White Path with the Agganis Connector, Cambridge Street South promenade, and River Street into a unified high quality urban design, as well as broader corridor-area analysis to minimize impacts on the Charles River and optimize mobility and open space access.

We know you and the team have a lot on your plate and are up against important and fast approaching deadlines. We are happy to work with MassDOT to identify a more comprehensive list of issues needing further analysis so that the MassDOT project team can maintain its ambitious schedule, while also continuing to resolve outstanding questions to keep us on a positive path to improved communication.

In short, we believe that advancing an improved All At-Grade Option as well as a list of issues requiring further analysis in the NPC will lead to a productive process—and the most ideal outcome for the project.

We look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure the success of the project.


A Better City
Allston Brighton CDC
Allston Civic Association
Boston Society for Architecture
Charles River Conservancy
Conservation Law Foundation
LivableStreets Alliance
Sierra Club of Massachusetts
Kendall Square Association
Anthony D’Isidoro, Allston resident and Task Force member
Harry Mattison, Allston resident and Task Force member
Jessica Robertson, Allston resident and Task Force member
Fred Yalouris, Cambridge community representative on the Task Force

CC: Secretary Tesler, Project Manager Davidson, Secretary Theohardes, Ken Miller, Commissioner Rooney


People’s Pike October 2020 Letter to Secretary Pollack

People’s Pike October 2020 Letter to Secretary Pollack

October 30, 2020

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

Dear Secretary Pollack:

The decade of construction and final result of the Allston Multimodal Project will have lasting impacts on every community between Boston and Worcester. It will change how people travel on the Commuter Rail, on I-90, and on local streets and paths. It will also change the quality of life and health for nearby residents, and the ecology and accessibility of the Charles River.

We recognize the significant challenges and complexities this project presents and your urgency to move forward. In this spirit, we recommend that you advance the project for environmental review in the following ways:

1. Select the ​Modified All At-Grade Option​ as the ​Preferred Alternative ​because it works for all modes of transportation and yields long-term benefits for the adjacent community, for commuters, for the river and parks, and the environment.

We reiterate our opposition to the Highway Viaduct, both the no-build option to repair the existing viaduct or the build option to construct a new Modified Highway Viaduct. We agree with the September 23 letter from BPDA Director Golden and Chief Osgood that the All At-Grade option is the right choice to leave a lasting positive legacy for Boston and the region. The All At-Grade option merits the most focus over the year ahead with detailed analyses about ways to minimize impacts to the Charles River.

The ​Modified All At-Grade Option​ has many advantages over the other alternatives, including the following:

  • Only the All At-Grade option relieves the toll payers on the Mass Pike and the taxpayers across the State from the very expensive burden of maintaining, repairing and eventually replacing a lengthy viaduct—a cost we are all bearing today.
  • While each option seeks to address the noise from the thousands of cars and trucks that can be heard across sections of Allston, Brookline, and Cambridge, only the All At-Grade option eliminates the additional noise generated by cars and especially trucks accelerating up and braking down the slope of an elevated viaduct, and takes away the raised platform from which this noise is projected.
  • It is the best choice to connect Boston and Brookline to the Charles River. It improves the urban design and development potential of the entire project area and it has the most support of any option under consideration both from the Allston residents who are most impacted by the highway and the hundreds of people from across the region who have voiced a preference during years of comment periods and public meetings.

2. Prioritize transit-centered mitigation and build for a transit-centered future.

A strong mitigation plan will benefit Metrowest residents and people living and working in Allston, Brookline, and Cambridge as well. A construction mobility plan focused on improved rail and bus services, with increased parking at suburban locations, is needed to provide realistic alternatives for the commuters who will be impacted by the reduction in turnpike capacity during construction and reduce cut-through traffic that threatens to overwhelm roads in Allston, Brighton, Newton, Cambridge, Brookline, and beyond if drivers seek routes around the Allston interchange during construction. MassDOT should identify when I-90 lane closures will begin and what transit improvements can be implemented before this impact occurs. Additionally, it is important to ensure that two Worcester Line tracks and six Turnpike lanes are available for peak travel throughout construction. Increased transit service during and after construction, along with other mitigation measures, must be binding and not subject to negotiation with the contractor.

Transit enhancements are supported by and benefit all stakeholders. We strongly recommend building a four track, three platform West Station as soon as possible in the construction process. In this project, MassDOT is currently not planning to include reconstruction of the Grand Junction Rail Bridge crossing the Charles River to accommodate two-track service. Extension of passenger service to Cambridge and beyond using the Grand Junction corridor is an important future project that will serve the Commonwealth’s economic development, climate change, and mode shift goals. Completion of a two-track bridge over Soldiers Field Road for the Grand Junction (Little Grand Junction Bridge) as part of this project is an important next step toward implementing this service, while also providing space for extension of the Paul Dudley White Path under the rail bridge and removing a segment of the path out of the narrow river channel.

3. Take a holistic approach to resilient design to fortify the Charles River, Allston neighborhood, and beyond from the impacts of climate change.

Recent comments by MassDOT suggest the agency views the highway viaduct as the most resilient option because of its elevation above future stormwater flooding. However, flooding is only one component of the many interrelated effects of climate change. The biggest contribution the Allston Multimodal project can make toward the Commonwealth’s ambitious carbon reduction goals and climate resilience is to encourage commuters to reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips by prioritizing high-functioning, affordable mass transit options during and after construction.

A resilient design for the I-90 Multimodal project is one that prioritizes the health and needs of neighboring environmental justice communities that have been disproportionately affected by the existing I-90 highway, provides access to parkland to neighboring communities to support neighborhood health, maximizes tree canopy and minimizes impervious surface to mitigate heat effects, improves the water quality and ecology of the Charles River, considers the carbon footprint to build and maintain transportation infrastructure, and address flooding by providing green stormwater infrastructure storage and treatment. ​​These objectives are best achieved by the Modified All At-Grade Option.

To explore how all of these elements can be achieved within the Modified All At-Grade plan, several of the below signed organizations have been working with landscape architects and urban planners at Perkins&Will and CBT (please see the attached document for more details about the variety of strategies and design approaches that should be evaluated to find the best solution). ​The ecological restoration strategies suggested by ​Perkins&Will and CBT​ for the I-90 project build off the Charles River Riverbank Vegetation Management Plan (RVMP) that has been adopted by other state agencies. If MassDOT adopts similar strategies for this project it will lead to a healthier river system and a more holistic rejuvenation of the river and river banks.

The river and public access must be protected during construction to safeguard the incredible public and private investment in the river over the last three decades. Mitigation measures must be thoroughly and transparently considered for each alternative in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement to ensure the least harm and most benefit to this important regional resource.

The existing Allston neighborhoods north and south of the Pike and the new neighborhood that will rise in Beacon Park must be walkable and bikeable neighborhoods with better connections to the Charles River. This can be accomplished with:

  • Footbridges to the river at Agganis Way and at the Commonwealth Ave and Boston University Bridge nexus.
  • A linear buffer park that connects the Agganis Footbridge and a new Franklin Street Footbridge.
  • A widened Paul Dudley White Path with separate biking and walking paths that are integrated as part of the reconstituted river’s edge and potentially on a boardwalk or elevated path where necessary.
  • Improved conditions for the edge of the river esplanade complementing the Magazine Beach across the river, and remediation of the current degraded condition of the river bank, and contaminated runoff that now flows untreated into the Charles River.
  • The new local streets being designed as part of this project should be designed for the City of Boston speed limit with as few lanes as possible to accommodate projected traffic, cycling, and parking requirements.

All of these improvements are essential mitigation for the highway elements of the project, and must receive a firm commitment as integral components of the Allston Multimodal Project.

4. Continue, expand, and improve the project’s advisory process.

While not always a perfect process, the existing Task Force has been an invaluable outlet for community members, impacted stakeholders, and MassDOT to communicate directly with each other about this project. An advisory process should be established and maintained for the entire duration of the project in the following ways:

  • Continue the Allston Multimodal Project Task Force through the completion of the Final Environmental Impact Statement, the certification by the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs and Massachusetts Environmental Policy Office that the project meets all state environmental requirements, the completion of all environmental permitting, and the filing of the federal Record of Decision.
  • Convene a Construction Mitigation Group immediately. Such a committee is essential for this project to provide guidance on the mitigation plan; oversight of construction mitigation measures, including noise, air, and vibration impacts; traffic disruption; and interim public transportation measures during the lengthy construction period. This group should include stakeholders from MetroWest as well as members of the Allston, Brookline and Cambridge communities, and those focused on the interests of the river.
  • Establish an Environmental and Design Oversight Committee for the duration of construction. The Big Dig had an effective oversight committee throughout the construction phase, ensuring that environmental project commitments were accomplished substantially as approved. Allston and Brookline contain state-designated environmental justice populations. The advisory committee should include a majority of individuals from the environmental justice population and representatives who are most directly impacted by the project.
  • Create a Working Group on Charles River Restoration and Climate Resiliency. Effective rebuilding and restoration of the edge of the Charles River that considers climate change impacts will require significant involvement of agencies outside of MassDOT, including the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Department of Environmental Protection, including its Waterways and Wetlands Sections, and the Army Corps of Engineers. In addition, advocacy organizations and private groups representing the boating community, park and pathway users, and the health and ecology of the river and its watershed should be an integral part of this Working Group, which will have a major set of tasks to identify, analyze, and decide on the best future of this valuable regional resource.

Taking a comprehensive approach that begins with an All At-Grade throat that minimizes impacts to the Charles River, ensures a strong mitigation plan for the Allson and MetroWest communities, and repairs the damage the highway and viaducts have caused to the nearby residents and the Charles River over the last 50 years is necessary and achievable.

We look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure the success of this project.


350 MA Transportation Working Group
A Better City
Allston Brighton CDC
Allston Civic Association
Allston Brighton Health Collaborative
Boston Cyclists Union
Boston Society for Architecture
Brookline GreenSpace Alliance
Cambridge Redevelopment Authority
Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association
Charles River Conservancy
Conservation Law Foundation
Friends of Leverett Pond, Brookline
Kendall Square Association
LivableStreets Alliance
Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition
Massachusetts Sierra Club
Pioneer Institute
Transit Matters
Worcester Chamber of Commerce
Harry Mattison, Allston resident and I-90 Task Force Member
Jessica Robertson, Allston resident and I-90 Task Force Member
Fred Yaloris, Cambridge resident and I-90 Task Force Member

Attachments (combined as one PDF):

●  City of Boston letter
●  Boston City Council resolution
●  City of Cambridge letter
●  Cambridge City Council resolution
●  Town of Brookline letter
●  I-90 Allston Interchange Riverfront Analysis and Design Exploration Presentation

One Minute, One Slide: Allston I90 – The Saga Continues

One Minute, One Slide: Allston I90 – The Saga Continues

Below is a “One Minute, One Slide” presentation shared by a member of the WalkBoston staff.
Text provided is as prepared for this year’s annual event on September 23, 2020 on Zoom.

Bob Sloane

A long time ago, in a public meeting not too far away –

It is the year 2014, amidst a period of development in the commonwealth. Neighborhood residents and statewide advocacy organizations alike come to hear about the Allston Multimodal Project from MASSDOT, set to reshape a corner of Allston with a new VIADUCT, a gateway to BOSTON for the rest of the COMMONWEALTH. Years pass.

Advocates and neighbors alike cheered when SECRETARY POLLACK considered building the project at ground level, with newly connected neighborhoods and a vision for better transit before, during, and after construction. It was a victory for all in the MASSDOT process. Years pass. 

Now – in 2020 – a new VIADUCT is back on the table, and looms large over every discussion – wider and higher than ever before. The ground level option seems doomed. The Charles River in Allston is a tremendous asset that should be restored, enhanced, and made accessible. A new, wider VIADUCT, that would stand above the river and shade its park, will be built if a compromise is not reached.

Advocacy leaders are in agreement – let’s lower the VIADUCT to the ground and let the neighborhoods (Allston, Brookline, Cambridge, Brighton and Boston) form a level constellation so they can see each other and the river with its walkers and bikers.

Learn more about the Allston Multimodal Improvement Project (Allston I-90)

WalkBoston testimony to a joint meeting of the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board and the MassDOT Board

WalkBoston testimony to a joint meeting of the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board and the MassDOT Board

Testimony as prepared for joint meeting of the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board and the MassDOT Board, September 21, 2020. During the COVID-19 pandemic, public comment to the Boards is via short phone messages that are played to the Board members at the beginning of each meeting. The I-90 Allston Project was on the agenda for the meeting and the following comment was provided by WalkBoston as a phone message.

Good morning Board members.

This is Wendy Landman, WalkBoston’s member of the I-90 Task Force and a veteran of the many-year I-90 environmental process.

I would like to begin my comments by thanking Secretary Pollack for specifically calling out walking and biking access to the Charles, and planning for dual paths along the Charles in her recent Boston Globe op ed.

As the Board and MassDOT turn to selecting a preferred alternative for the project I would like to remind you of the following sentence from the purpose and need section of MassDOT’s I90 Scoping report:

…“including service that provides a north to south connection through the Project Area as well as for options that do not preclude future intercity rail service and transit service on the Grand Junction Rail line.”

Of the three alternatives now under study by MassDOT, only the at-grade and hybrid options rebuild the little Grand Junction bridge over Soldiers Field Road which would permit twotrack rail service along the Grand Junction line to be added in the future. Because the highway viaduct option does not rebuild the little Grand Junction bridge, future Grand Junction service would require very significant, expensive and disruptive construction in the throat area again – essentially precluding such service. Hence, the highway viaduct option does not meet the project’s purpose and need as defined by MassDOT.

Among the alternatives under study, we believe that the at-grade alternative will best meet the project’s full purpose and need. We are pleased that conversations are now underway between some advocates, pro bono design teams and MassDOT to identify an atgrade alternative that serves all modes and all users of this critical transportation project AND helps restore the health and vitality of the Charles River and the Charles River Reservation.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the project.