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Tag: charles river

Comment Letter Re: a car-free option for Memorial Drive Phase III

Comment Letter Re: a car-free option for Memorial Drive Phase III

Commissioner Leo Roy
Department of Conservation and Recreation

May 9, 2019
Dear Commissioner Roy,

As part of the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Memorial Drive Phase III redesign between Eliot Bridge and the B.U. Boat House we ask that you consider a car-free option in the planning process.

As recently highlighted by Governor Baker’s Commission on the Future of Transportation, 40% of Massachusetts’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from transportation infrastructure and vehicles, half of which come from passenger vehicles alone. The pressing need to limit passenger vehicle trips, in concert with the City of Cambridge’s 1992 Vehicle Trip Reduction Ordinance, justify consideration for a car-free Memorial Drive.

This planning process allows the State a unique opportunity to enhance regional park access by connecting adjacent parks (Riverbend Park, John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, Riverside City Park, Riverside Press Park, Magazine Beach, and others) to the Charles River. Creating truly safe and accessible connectivity between walking and biking facilities along the Charles River and adjacent neighborhoods will have lower positive impact then a car- free option. By limiting vehicle infrastructure, the State will be expanding space for new parkland and an expanded tree canopy. Limiting car access to Memorial Drive will align with ongoing climate resiliency initiatives by reducing GHG emissions, increasing green space, but also by establishing space for further flood mitigation, an ongoing issue near Magazine Beach and Micro Center.

This concept of a car-free Memorial Drive is not new, but a logical extension of the existing weekend Riverbend Park Street closures, which demonstrate the desire for this type of expansive riverfront parkland. While recognizing that over 1,000 vehicles use Memorial Drive during peak hours, we believe that ongoing transportation initiatives including the Green Line Extension, the Allston I-90 Multimodal Interchange, West Station, the Grand Junction path and regional rail concepts, and the MBTA’s Better Buses initiative will provide viable alternatives in the long-run, significantly reducing the need for Memorial Drive as a private vehicle throughway.

The existing sub-standard conditions of the Dr. Paul Dudley White Bike Path along Memorial Drive currently have high usership. There are currently over 1,000 daily bike commuters and over 1,000 daily runners and pedestrians. The existing conditions do not provide safe accommodation for existing users, and with future expansion of the regions multi-use paths, including the Watertown-Cambridge Greenway and the Grand Junction Path, this section of paths will see increased daily users. Providing safe and reliable accommodations for sustainable transportation and recreation modes should be the highest priority of the DCR.

There is precedence for a project of this scope, as when a two-mile stretch of a busy highway along the Seine in Paris, France, was permanently closed to cars in 2016, and turned into a bicycle and pedestrian promenade. This type of project could prove to be similarly iconic for the Charles River.

This is a complicated project. We recommend, along with The Charles River Conservancy and Magazine Beach Partners that a task force or advisory group be created to help better inform decisions throughout the process. The groups listed on their letter can help you provide better transparency and inclusiveness in the project. While early in the planning phase it is important to consider this highly impactful, once in a lifetime opportunity to restore Cambridge’s public shoreline. Thank you for your consideration of this unique opportunity to prioritize climate resiliency and public health.

Sincerely,

Tony Lechuga, LivableStreets
David Read, Longwood Area Cyclists
Alex Auriema, Memorial Drive Bicycle Group
Nathanael Fillmore, Cambridge Bicycle Safety
Janie Katz-Christy, Green Streets Initiative
Steven Nutter, Green Cambridge
Becca Wolfson, Boston Cyclists Union
Brendan Kearney, WalkBoston

Comment Letter on Paul Dudley White Construction Period Maintenance (02/7/19)

Comment Letter on Paul Dudley White Construction Period Maintenance (02/7/19)

February 7, 2019

Stephanie Pollack                                             Leo Roy
Secretary of Transportation                            Commissioner
Commonwealth of Massachusetts                Department of Conservation & Recreation
Transportation Building                                   251 Causeway Street
10 Park Plaza                                                      9th Floor
Boston, MA 02116                                            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 atemporary 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

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.

WalkBoston comments on Craigie Dam/Bridge Design Alternatives

WalkBoston comments on Craigie Dam/Bridge Design Alternatives

Date: January 2, 2019

To: Secretary Stephanie Pollack, Administrator Jonathan Gulliver, Andy Paul, Jackie Douglas,
James Kersten, MassDOT, Commissioner Leo Roy, Jeff Parenti, Dan Driscoll, DCR

Re: WalkBoston comments on Craigie Dam/Bridge Design Alternatives

We are relieved that MassDOT and DCR are committed to acting to improve the safety of people walking and biking on this critical roadway segment.

We have reviewed the options that were presented to the community on December 18th and have several comments that are detailed below. However, we do not think that the relatively modest improvements that are planned for Spring 2019 are adequate to providing truly safe walking and biking conditions, and we urge MassDOT and DCR to develop more significant plans for safety for the Charles River bridges.

One approach that WalkBoston would like to see explored is the adoption of a pilot 20 MPH speed limit on all the Charles River Bridges from Harvard Square to the Craigie Dam/Bridge that would test an automated speed enforcement protocol. Over the last month we have attended meetings regarding safety and operations for the BU Bridge, the Longfellow Bridge and the Craigie Dam/Bridge. In each case, the completely fixed and limited right-of-way does not allow for the provision of protected bike accommodations within the roadway right-of-way without reducing the number of vehicle lanes. WalkBoston was distressed to hear suggestions by community members at one of these meetings to dedicate one of the sidewalks to bicycles rather than pedestrians in order to free up roadway space for vehicles (a suggestion that we were pleased was simply given, but then not taken up or discussed by any of the state or municipal staff).

MassDOT has already expressed its interest in adding automated enforcement to the state’s safety tools and we urge MassDOT to vigorously support a pilot program for the bridges. Setting and then enforcing a 20 MPH speed limit on all the bridges would significantly increase the safety of bicyclists using on-street bicycle lanes while at the same time allowing the number of vehicle lanes to remain as they are today.

Comments on Design Options A and B

Craigie Dam/Storrow Drive Intersection

Take the following steps to minimize conflicts between people walking, biking and driving:

  • For turns from Craigie into Storrow Drive put in place (and enforce) a permanent No Right on Red regulation and include the permanently illuminated NRTOR sign
  • Set the vehicle for Craigie Dam traffic approaching Leverett Circle stop line back from the intersection (with Don’t Block the Box markings and enforcement) to allow bikes to queue in a bike box ahead of traffic
  • Provide marked bike lanes from Craigie to Martha Way through Leverett Circle
  • Tighten the turning radius of the corner from Craigie onto Storrow Drive and provide a bike ramp to the Paul Dudley White Path at the corner rather than having bikes get on the sidewalk before reaching the intersection. The very tight sidewalk space should be reserved for pedestrians.

Museum of Science Driveway and Museum Way/Craigie Intersection

  • Add crosswalk striping across the Museum of Science driveway.
  • Narrow the driveway to the greatest extent possible given the truck and bus movements needed for Museum of Science operations.
  • Consider signalizing the driveway entrance to the Museum of Science in coordination with the Museum Way signal.
  • Eliminate the conflicting left turn arrow across the WALK signal at the Museum Way crosswalk across Craigie.
  • Improve the street lighting of the crosswalk across Craigie at Museum Way

Craigie/Land Boulevard/Gilmore Bridge Intersection

Configure the signal timing at the Land Blvd/Craigie/Gilmore Bridge intersection to allow safe pedestrian and bike movements. A detailed description is provided below of the maneuver needed to ride a bike safely through the intersection under current conditions. This is in urgent need of improvement.

  • “At the intersection with Edwin H Land Blvd/ Gilmore Bridge, to feel safe as a bicyclist I will often violate traffic signals. The problem is that, whether traveling either inbound or outbound, if you wait for the light to change, traffic builds up next to you. When the light turns green, you are forced into the middle of a pack of fast-moving traffic, with cars and trucks rapidly accelerating and changing lanes.

    The situation is particularly dangerous when traveling outbound and making a left on Cambridge Street (a route most bicyclists take, as Route 28 gets faster and more dangerous beyond the Cambridge St. intersection). As a bicyclist, if you leave the Gilmore intersection with vehicle traffic, you then have to work your way across 2 lanes of fast-moving traffic to get into your left turn, and then must hold your ground in the middle of four lanes of outbound traffic in order to end up on the right-hand side of the two lane Cambridge St. turnoff. You can also hug the left-hand side of the road by the median strip, but traveling on the left side of the road can be dangerous too.

    I have found navigating the Science Bridge is actually safer when breaking the traffic signals. For example, when traveling outbound, if I hit the red light at the Gilmore intersection, there is a break in the signal when I usually run the red light on my bike. The break occurs between the green light for vehicles coming from Charlestown towards Cambridge, and the following green light for traffic moving inbound on 28. Taking the light this way has dangers too – at least one or two vehicles coming from Charlestown almost always speed through their red light (committing their own traffic violation), and you need to be absolutely sure those vehicles have stopped. Nevertheless, this method still allows me to make my way over to the Cambridge St turnoff without needing to cut across vehicle traffic, and feels much safer to me.”

Cc:
State Senator Joe Boncore
State Senator Sal DiDomenico
State Representative Jay Livingstone
State Representative Mike Connolly
Joe Barr, Cara Seiderman, Cambridge
Chris Osgood, Vineet Gupta, Charlotte Fleetwood, Boston
Becca Wolfson, Eliza Parad, Cyclists Union
Stacy Thompson, Steve Miller, LivableStreets Alliance
Galen Mook, Tom Francis, MassBike
Nate Fillmore, Cambridge Bike Safety

Patch – “Activists Call For Protected Bike Lane On Canal Bridge”

Patch – “Activists Call For Protected Bike Lane On Canal Bridge”

Patch: “Activists Call For Protected Bike Lane On Canal Bridge

“This isn’t a new issue to MassDOT and DCR. Transportation advocates have been discussing safe bike facilities on the Craigie Dam and Longfellow Bridge with state agencies since at least 2009,” said Wendy Landman, executive director of WalkBoston also in a statement. “Not only is this the right action to take for the safety of people biking, it is also the right action for the safety of people walking because it means that bicyclists do not ride on the sidewalk.”

Posted December 19, 2018