Tuesday’s meeting hosted by WalkBoston and the Charles River Conservancy about how MassDOT’s reconstruction of the Mass Pike in Allston can Unchoke the Charles River Throat brought out 150 people and a renewed emphasis on the need for the project to prioritize removing barriers, creating connections and healthy transportation. The project will replace the existing interchange and set a framework for a 21st century residential and office neighborhood. Removal of the 3000’ long viaduct, now nearly 60 years old, could open the opportunity to allow new and improved walking and biking access between Allston and Brookline neighborhoods and the river.
The initial design review period closed in February, which generated over 550 comment letters to the environmental agencies responsible for setting the agenda for future planning on this project. (See WalkBoston's summary of the initial environmental review process).
Creative solutions are still needed to provide space for drivers on Soldiers Field Road and the Pike, trains to South Station and Kendall Square, and people to enjoy walking and biking due to the narrow right-of-way.
The forum provided the opportunity for the public to learn about several concepts to significantly enhance quality of life and economic development through a better public realm. The design firms of Sasaki and NBBJ described concepts prepared for WalkBoston, the Charles River Conservancy and the non-profit organization A Better City that represents that business and academic community, for improved paths along the historic parkway in the throat area using boardwalks or a narrow band of fill in the shallows of the Charles River adjacent to the parkway. Harvard described its concept for the “Wadsworth Path” adjoining their land along the south boundary of the project area (adjacent to the rail lines) which would include a landscaped path adjacent to a high wall that would mitigate railroad noise and vibration for the very nearby homes. The Path would provide an off-street connection from Allston Village and Harvard Street to West Station and Agganis Way, and ultimately to the river paths.
Together, the Wadsworth Path and the riverside path options would create a network of off-road paths to serve Allston, Brookline, BU and the 100-acre property that will be developed with institutional, commercial and residential uses. This network would provide an exciting and needed addition to the I-90 Interchange Project and help to undo the damage to the public realm and neighborhood connectivity that the Turnpike and rail yards have caused for the last century.
NOW WE WANT YOUR HELP to make sure that the Allston I-90 Project really does Unchoke the Throat. Massachusetts has often led the way on enlightened thinking about transportation projects - now is the time to do so again. Let's use the re-building of the Allston I-90 Interchange to create new and improved multi-modal transportation options that include a Charles River Allston Esplanade that provides safe, pleasant and memorable environment.
2. Attend the next Joint Meeting of the Fiscal & Management Control Board and MassDOT Board on April 23, 2018 at 12pm in the State Transportation Building, 2nd Floor, Transportation Board Room, 10 Park Plaza. Let them know why this project is important to you. Public comment takes place right at the beginning of the meeting!
3. For more from Tuesday’s forum, look at the hashtag #UnchokeTheThroat