Allston I-90 Interchange Improvement Project

Photo credit from the People’s Pike.

BACKGROUND

Since 1965, the Allston I-90 viaduct and surrounding road infrastructure have separated communities and individuals from each other and from the Charles River parklands. Nearly fifty years later, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has begun the process to replace and realign this now-crumbling highway by 2020.

With this realignment comes many stakeholders. Harvard University owns the land that many of the loop ramps now sit on, that would be freed up for development by a straighter turnpike. There are a number of rail lines in this area, including plans for West Station, a new commuter rail stop. Neighborhood and transit advocacy groups, including the Conservancy, are pushing MassDOT to include cycling/pedestrian connectivity, public transit improvements, and parklands as part of the project’s scope.

 

Updates

February 7, 2017: A group of Allston residents and advocacy orgs, including the CRC, hosted a community meeting about the I90 Allston project. Watch a recording of the meeting. The Harvard Crimson published, Residents Express Planning Goals at Mass Pike Public Meeting.

January 19, 2017Our 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 here and watch the video

January 4, 2017: Renata von Tscharner and Rafael Mares in the Boston Globe: Unlocking the Charles River.

December 22, 2016: The CRC submitted comments in response to the December 8th public meeting. Read the letter here.

December 13, 2016: In the Boston Globe: Mass. Improves plan for Allston, but transit challenges remain unsolved.

December 8, 2016: MassDOT hosted a public meeting about the project.  The purpose of this meeting was to provide the public with the opportunity to become fully acquainted with progress made over the course of 2016 on concept development for the replacement of the I-90 Allston Interchange and to provide information regarding the next phase of project development.

March 9, 2016: See Renee Loth discuss the I-90 project at the Conservancy’s River Stories: LIVE event from December 2015.

February 28, 2016: In the Boston Globe: Get BU on board for West Station transit

February 25, 2016: In the BrooklineTAB: Town wants voice in renovation

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.

August 6, 2015: In the Boston Globe: In Beacon Yards, will the highway trump the neighborhood?

December 15, 2014: In the Boston Globe: Allston Esplanade could emerge from Pike Project

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 final comments.

In the Allston-Brighton Tab: Allston Brighton residents call for continued involvement in Interstate I-90 project

 

THE OPPORTUNITY

MassDOT’s most up to date concept for the interchange.

The upcoming viaduct reconstruction also presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to positively reshape the Charles River parklands. The highway and nearby roads have squeezed out any opportunities for expanded green space between the River Street Bridge and the BU Bridge for decades.

The Charles River Conservancy is committed to advocating for parkland improvements as part of this massive infrastructure project. With this in mind and with an eye towards cyclist and pedestrian-oriented Charles River parklands, the Conservancy has pledged its support towards the following goals:

  • The relocation of Soldiers Field Road between the elevated Mass Pike viaduct and the Doubletree Hotel away from the river, allowing for several new acres of parkland. The road is currently too close to the river to allow for an adequate amount of parkland.
  • The creation of new parkland between the viaduct and the BU Bridge by moving several lanes of the adjacent Soldiers Field Road under the new Mass Pike viaduct. If the road were moved under the viaduct, the narrow ribbon of parkland currently straddling the road and the Charles River could be substantially widened.
  • The creation of a new cyclist and pedestrian river crossing at the Grand Junction Railroad Bridge, accompanied by a 2nd set of railroad tracks for future transit service between West Station and Kendall Square. These improvements would drastically increase transit and cycling/pedestrian connectivity between Allston and Cambridge.
  • The construction of “West Station” to improve transit options for the existing community and any new development built as a result of the reconstruction, and the construction of decking over the new rail yard to allow for future development, parkland, and public access. [Update: Governor Patrick recently announced the inclusion of West Station in the I-90 Improvement Project scope! Read more on MassDOT’s blog.]
  • The establishment of ample width for all new paths in the Allston Esplanade and in neighborhood connections, for the safe and comfortable accommodation of all users, including handicapped users, walkers, joggers, runners, strollers, and cyclists.

You can read the full letter with these pledges here. We will continue to work in coalition with the People’s Pike, WalkBoston, the LivableStreets Alliance, and other advocacy organizations to ensure that these goals are included in MassDOT’s final reconstruction plans.

 

Aerial view of the existing conditions of the I-90 interchange in Allston.

Aerial view of the existing conditions of the I-90 interchange in Allston.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

 

 

For more information on the Allston Esplanade and the People’s Pike, “Like” them on Facebook and check out their website.

 

To support the work of the Charles River Conservancy, please consider making a donation today!