Thursday, April 13, 2006

Cambridge City Council Listens to Massachusetts Dept of Comm's & Rec. on Storrow Drive Work, 4/6/05

Edited by Bob La Tremouille

1. Introduction.
2. Marilyn Wellons Reports.
3. Kathy Podgers Reports.

1. Introduction.

The Cambridge City Council conducted a meeting at 11 am on April 6, 2005 on the Department of Conservation and Recreation's plans for Storrow Drive.

You will recall that, while the DCR will discuss integration of the project with the publicly favored Longfellow Bridge project, the DCR refuses to discuss coordination with the highly destructive work on Memorial Drive.

Both projects are clearly precursors to the DCR work on Storrow Drive.

2. Marilyn Wellons Reports.

This is an abbreviated report:

Karst Hoogeboom, Deputy Commissioner for Planning and
Engineering was the ranking DCR representative at the
hearing [Ed: in front of the Cambridge City Council, April 6, 2005, 11 am. Next to no notice was given and the meeting was conducted in the day, minimizing public knowledge or participation]. Others included engineering and public
relations consultants. DCR planner Karl Haglund used
the March 27 and 29, 2006, Power Point presentation

Councillor Kelley was chair. Councillor Davis, Deputy
City Mgr. Rossi, Police Commissioner Watkins, Asst.
City Mgr. for Traffic & Paarking Susan Clippinger, and
City Clerk Margaret Drury attended.

The presentation included the table with data
supporting the DCR's statement that Memorial Drive is
at 21% (low, am inbound) to 57% (high, pm outbound)

However, in response to Commissioner Watkins's
question about the effect of Mem Drive's traffic
lights on traffic flow, the DCR's traffic engineers
said the traffic signals render the table's data
meaningless. The DCR will have a better idea of Mem
Drive's capacity by September.

Officials praise the DCR for its open process but if
they present data they know are flawed, what does
"open process" mean? Someone please remind me when
the next public meeting is--I hope it's before
September so they can correct the table for public

The results of other traffic surveys, including the
origin-destination study (suggested by a member of the
public--not the DCR--at the very first meeting in
February at the State House), will be done this
spring. On that study, Watkins noted the DCR plans
indicate no traffic count at the Pike exit into
Cambridge. DCR responded that not all counting spots
are on the DCR's map shown in the presentation (the
Pike exit was shown).

As we know, the Power Point presentation focuses on 4

A3: Rehabilitate Existing Tunnel to Achieve 40-Year
Service Life;
B4: At-Grade Parkway with Traffic Signals;
C2: Old and New Tunnels, No Arlington Street
Westbound Exit (with vent buildings);
D2: New Tunnels with At-Grade Local Traffic (without
Vent Buildings).

Haglund said the size of vent buildings in option D2
would depend in part on traffic volumes--lower volumes
mean smaller vent buildings. I take that to mean
success in the DCR's previously stated goal of
permanently reducing traffic on Storrow by 30,000 to
50,000 vehicles per day could make option C2 more
attractive, especially to people in Boston.

At the Cambridge City Council hearing, the DCR seemed
to back off the goal of a permanent reduction, saying
they're looking at whether it would be possible. They
did say traffic on Storrow is heavy all day long. If
so, would whatever traffic is diverted to Mem Drive,
whether temporary or permanent, assume this pattern?

Responding to a comment from the public, Haglund
asserted that the Storrow tunnel is in imminent danger
of falling down, hence the urgency of the
environmental review and choice among options.

However, at earlier meetings the DCR has said there
can be no work on the Storrow tunnel til the
Longfellow Bridge is fixed, and mentioned a five-year
timeline. When I asked Haglund about the connection
of the Storrow work with the Longfellow work and work
on Mem Drive, he didn't comment on the bridge but said
the Mem Drive "Historic Restoration" wasn't connected
to the Storrow work.

(The DCR repeatedly refuses to discuss the timing of
these three projects or their relation to each other.
After a transportation meeting in Boston April 12, an
EOT consultant thought it reasonable to assume the DCR
is waiting for the results of the Harvard-funded
study, "Transportation Alternatives in Allston,"
before going public with its own plans to tie in to
that component of the whole puzzle. The Allston
report will be out in 6-8 weeks--the scope was
recently extended, not completely recast, as I
previously have reported.)

Of course these projects are physically and logically
connected, even if, as Haglund said of the Mem Drive
"restoration," they're bureaucratically separate. He
commented that the Mem Drive project reduced the
number of travel lanes as though that would mean
reduced traffic--but Storrow has two lanes in each
direction and carries a very intensive load. More
important than the number of lanes is limited access
(like Storrow now). Mem Drive, with the removal of
over 300 parking spaces between the BU and Longfellow
bridges, has much more limited access than before that
phase of "restoration." (The Director of EOT plans
couldn't figure out why, if the DCR's goal was to
reduce traffic on Mem Drive, they would would limit
access as they did by removing the parking spaces.)

Further plans for the "Historic Restoration" call for
straightening out Mem Drive in addition to adding the
westbound turns (toward the BU Bridge) from the Mass
Ave. Bridge outbound already accomplished. And of
course cutting down hundreds of trees will improve the
sight lines while providing the DCR cover for its
actual increase in Mem Drive's capacity ("the original
plans for Mem Drive didn't include all those trees").

The DCR presents its Storrow tunnel crisis as a
problem but also as an opportunity. I believe all
Storrow tunnel options are said to increase parkland,
some, obviously, more than others. This, as we know,
if a powerful argument. Increasing parkland has
allowed the DCR to eliminate all that public parking
on Mem Drive even as they work to make it Storrow's

Failing at maintenance, allowing its assets to
deteriorate, and then billing the crisis as an
opportunity sounds like the DCR's very familiar method
with its parkland. This keeps its planners in
business, sopping up money from mere snow clearing,
trash pickup and other maintenance of swimming pools
and their former skating rinks.

The DCR elides the problem that new tunnels couldn't
support canopy trees and that such trees would be
destroyed to construct the tunnels. Again, this
recalls the DCR's work on Mem Drive, where hundreds of
mature canopy trees will be cut down, even without a
tunnel. So many opportunities, so little actual green.

Cambridge Deputy City Manager Rossi asked about who
would bear the costs of policing traffic during the
construction and whether the state would pay for a
traffic consultant for Cambridge. Answers were The
State to the first question, Don't Know to the second.
(Boston has also asked for a state-funded traffic

Police Commissioner Watkins was most concerned with
the effect of all this on traffic and on the Mem Drive
roadway surface itself.

Marilyn Wellons

3. Kathy Podgers Reports.

Briefly, we met in Sullivan Chambers, and Craig Kelley seemed to be a main leader. we, the public, were all allowed to speak twice. The slide show seemed to be the same as at the Morse school.

Several new people came and spoke. When I mentioned that Mayor Reeves told me that I cannot use City Hall to announce the address of my blog, several folks came up to me and asked for it.

One thing interesting to me, was the presence of Police Commissioner Watson, who seemed to have been invited there for the purpose of supporting the claim we needed "mitigation" as funds to "repave" Memorial Dr after all the years of diverted Storrow Drive traffic tears it up.

This seems to be a maneuver (by those who claim they represent folks in Cambridge) to hi-jack my comment that the DCR needs to listen to folks in Cambridge and talk about our issues.

One thing is sure, I do not want mitigation to be more money for more highways, parkways or whatever! Enough already!

One thing I mentioned was wanting to hear "bird song." I pointed out trees were not enough, we needed understory.