Allston Multimodal Project

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is planning a one-billion dollar reconstruction of the Mass Pike interchange in Allston. This project will replace today’s tangle of highway ramps with a new street grid and allow development on the dozens of acres of land owned by Harvard University that today is trapped under the sprawling interchange. The project also provides a once-in-a-century opportunity to improve the conditions of the parks, paths, and river’s edge in Allston.

For sixty years, the river path between the BU Bridge and River Street Bridge in Allston has been one of the worst stretches of the Charles River parks – a skinny strip of asphalt with a limited view of the water and dominated by the adjacent Soldiers Field Road and elevated Mass Pike viaduct. The viaduct mars the view from Magazine Beach, increases noise pollution as truck engines labor up and and down the steep slope of the highway, and prevents access to the Charles from the BU campus and Commonwealth Avenue.

Image courtesy of WalkBoston.

The Charles River Conservancy, along with a coalition of environmental and mobility organizations, advocates for the creation of an “Allston Esplanade” of new park space and improved paths as part of MassDOT’s “Allston Multimodal Project.”

#UnchokeTheThroat CAMPAIGN

The section of the Paul Dudley White Path between the BU Bridge and River Street Bridge in Boston, termed the “throat,” is a key artery of transportation for pedestrians and cyclists. However, its limited space and poor conditions make it over-crowded and unpleasant to use. In a sense, the path is “choked.”

We’ve joined forces with our partners at WalkBoston to help #UnchokeTheThroat. In January of 2018, we worked with designers at Sasaki to develop alternative proposals for the “throat” section of the project. Thank you to the Solomon Foundation and to the donated services of Sasaki for making this work possible. View the designs.

We used the visuals to energize our constituents, and mobilized 150 people to write letters to MEPA in time for MEPA’s review of MassDOT’s DEIR. As a result, MEPA required MassDOT to consider additional measures to enhance the river’s edge parks and pedestrian and bicycle connections. Watch our campaign video:

INDEPENDENT REVIEW

The Charles River Conservancy, along with other mobility and park advocates, opposed MassDOT’s decision to rebuild the Allston I-90 Interchange on a viaduct. A new highway viaduct would continue to create noise pollution across the river at Magazine Beach and limit the Allston and Brighton community’s access to the river’s parks and paths.

In response to relentless advocacy, in June of 2018, MassDOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack agreed to commission an “Independent Review” to determine alternate design options.

The Independent Review, completed in September 2018, proposed a new improved design option that grounds the Mass Pike and elevates Soldiers Field Road. The new design allows for increased rivers edge park space while also accommodating pedestrian/bicycle overpass bridges to connect the Allston-Brighton community with the Charles River.

Read the Independent Review Executive Summary.  

Rendering of the “Hybrid Variant” design developed by the Independent Review Team.

GET INVOLVED

PRESS

UPDATES

December 12, 2019: Over 800 constituents and advocates, including the CRC, submitted comment letters in response to the project’s NEPA Scoping Report. Read the CRC’s comment letter.

November 6, 2019: MassDOT and the Federal Highway Administration published the project’s Scoping Report for NEPA.

September 16, 2019: The CRC teamed up with our partners at CLF, CRWA, WalkBoston, and MassBike and testified at MassDOT’s Board Meeting regarding the agencies plans to build a temporary trestle bridge extending 50 feet into the Charles River during construction. We urged the agency to minimize impacts and maximize mitigation for the river and submitted a comment letter outlining our requests.

June 20, 2019: MassDOT informed the task-force that the project’s construction plan includes building a temporary trestle bridge extending 50 feet into the Charles for Soldiers Field Road and Paul Dudley White path traffic. The temporary bridge would likely be in place for a decade, the expected duration of construction.

November 30, 2018: The CRC submitted a comment letter in response to the Independent Review Team’s report.

October, 2018: The Independent Review Team completed their 90-day Independent Review. Read the I-90 IRT Executive Summary.

June 27, 2018: MassDOT secretary Pollack convened an independent team of engineers, designers, and permitting experts to conduct a 90-day independent review of possible versions of viaduct and at-grade options for the throat.

February 9, 2018: Deadline to submit comments on the I-90 DEIR to Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Matthew Beaton. The CRC encouraged parkland supporters to write letters, and close to 50 did! The CRC also submitted our letter of comment.

January 24, 2018: Harvard University offers to nearly double its financial contribution to $58 million for the construction of West Station in a letter to the Department of Transportation aimed at accelerating their plans. Harvard wants some of its contribution to fund an interim version of the station for open by the mid-2020s.

November 30, 2017: MassDOT filed a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR). The document makes public MassDOT’s plan to postpone the construction of West Station until 2040 and their reconstruction proposals fail to create a parklike riverfront with adequate pedestrian and bike paths.

February 7, 2017: A group of Allston residents and advocacy orgs, including the CRC, hosted a community meeting about the I-90 Allston project. Watch a recording of the meeting. The Harvard Crimson published “Residents Express Planning Goals at Mass Pike Public Meeting.”

January 19, 2017: Our friends at the Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association hosted a meeting about how the I-90 project will affect Cambridge residents at the Central Square Library, beginning at 7:00 pm. View the presentation and watch the video.

December 22, 2016: The CRC submitted comments in response to the most recent design plan presented at a December 8th public meeting.

October 18, 2016: The Boston Planning and Development Agency released the I-90 Allston Interchange Placemaking Study.

September 17, 2015: MassDOT invited LivableStreets and A Better City to present alternative layouts for the reconstruction of the I-90 Interchange area. Download the LivableStreets presentation and view the ABC presentation.

November 12, 2014: MassDOT recently submitted an Environmental Notification Form (ENF) about the project. The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs accepted comments on the ENF before issuing a scoping letter to DOT – read the CRC’s comments.

Lead photo courtesy of WalkBoston.