Monday, January 19, 2009

Comments on Urban Ring Environmental Review Due Feb. 10, available on Line

1. General.
2. The Urban Ring Explained.
3. Filing Requirements on this Document.
4. My Status.

Bob La Trémouille reports:

1. General.

Please remember that the Urban Ring RDEIR/DEIS may be downloaded from

2. The Urban Ring Explained.

The spelled out acronym is Revised Draft Environmental Impact Report / Draft Environmental Impact Statement, I think. Basically, this is a very important submittal in the ongoing bureaucratic efforts to put in a massive bus system rather than putting in needed heavy rail subway in Boston. The bus system includes some strikingly environmentally destructive aspects on the Charles River which are included in one of the two rapid transit options for the Urban Ring subway concept in Boston.

I have worked on the Urban Ring since about 1985 because it is an excellent concept. The idea is to take pressure off the increasingly overloaded central subway system in Boston. The idea is to create a new subway line connecting the existing spokes so that people do not have to go into Downtown Boston to go from one outer point to another outer point.

There are two possible crossings of the Charles River, the Kenmore Crossing (which I first suggested in 1986), and the BU Bridge crossing. I suggested the Kenmore Crossing because the BU Bridge crossing is so destructive to the environment of the Charles River. As it has developed, details have come out under which the Kenmore Crossing is increasingly more superior. So naturally, the dirty tricks have started, especially from people with visible or not visible connections to the Cambridge City Manager.

The Urban Ring subway would run from Charlestown / Somerville to Roxbury. There are variations as to how far it would go in either direction.

The environmental problem is at the Charles River. The two possible crossings each connect proposed stations in Cambridge and in the Longwood Medical Area. The Cambridge station which is not controversial would be at Massachusetts Avenue where Massachusetts Avenue crosses what is now the Grand Junction railroad track. This track is located between Albany and Vassar Streets, near the heart of the MIT Campus. The Longwood stop seems to be getting firm at Avenue Louis Pasteur and Longwood Avenue.

The Kenmore Crossing would proceed under the tracks and then turn south under the MIT playing fields and under the Charles River to Kenmore Square. It would have a station under Brookline Avenue over the Massachusetts Turnpike. At that point, it would connect to the three Green Line branches going to Brookline, Newton, and Allston, and to the Commuter Rail coming in from Framingham and Worcester. It would provide a covered connection between the Commuter Rail Yawkey Station and the existing Kenmore Station. This station would provide excellent connection to Fenway Park. It would be heavy rail, Orange Line technology, which would allow the trains to run as alternate service / extensions on the existing Orange Line as well.

The BU Bridge Crossing would be light rail, streetcars. It would have two additional stops. It would stop in Cambridge at the end of Putnam Avenue where it hits the railroad tracks near Fort Washington Park. It would then, by the original plans, proceed under the Charles River. This passage would cause severe damage to the environmentally sensitive area where the Charles River White Geese and other animals live whereas the other crossing is environmentally neutral.

There would be a stop at Mountfort and St. Mary’s. This is one block from the heart of the BU Campus, Morse Chapel and directly against the Massachusetts Turnpike. At this point, it would connect to the Commonwealth Avenue (B) branch of the Green Line and connect to the Framingham-Worcester line. Connection to the Commonwealth Avenue line would be by a tunnel under St. Mary’s Street to the northern sidewalk of Commonwealth Avenue. Commuters would then have to cross Commonwealth Avenue traffic exposed to the weather to get to one of the three Green Line branches.

Commuter Rail would not have direct connection to the other two Green Line branches, and would overload the Commonwealth Avenue line during morning rush hour. The original plans called for Yawkey Station to be moved away from Fenway Park so that it would be next to Mountfort Station, drastically reducing support for Fenway Park.

The line would proceed to a new station located under Park Drive about two blocks away. The new station would directly connect to the existing Fenway Park station on the Riverside (D) branch on one side and to a new station under Beacon Street on the Cleveland Circle ( C ) branch.

Thus the connections to the three western Green Line branches would be accomplished by two stations two blocks from each other, commuter rail transfers would be made drastically inferior, support for Fenway Park would be drastically inferior, and the purpose of the Urban Ring would be drastically degraded because light rail is incredibly slower than heavy rail. Additionally, Green Line vehicles would not be able to switch off onto the Orange Line.

In addition to pushing buses and environmental destruction for an area which should have the heavy rail subway, the existing proposal would make the heavy rail subway impossible in favor of the far inferior light rail subway.

3. Filing Requirements on this Document.

Comments on the document must be submitted in writing (oral comments made at the public hearing will not be recognized by the MEPA office). A 60-day comment period has been established. Comments must be received no later than February 10, 2009. Written comments must be addressed to:
Secretary Ian A. Bowles
Director of Program Development
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Attn: MEPA Office, EOEA #12565
Richard Bourre, Assistant Director
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114
617-626-1181 (fax; please follow up with a print copy of the fax)
Email comments should go to:

Commenters can copy the Project Manager at EOT:

Ned Codd
Director of Program Development
Executive Office of Transportation and Public Works
10 Park Plaza, Room 4150
Boston, MA 02116

To request a print or CD version of the RDEIR/DEIS, please contact Regan Checchio, Regina Villa Associates, at 617-357-5772 x14 or by email to
It is a bit late to go for hard copy or CD, I would think.

4. My Status.

I myself am far into my draft. It is about 9 pages long so far with heavy analysis of the environmental chapter, which has major defects.

So far, I object to the failure to formally include heavy rail or light rail among the alternatives studied, and to the failure to formally include a Green Line spur from the BU Bridge / Comm. Ave. to Harvard Station as an alternative in Allston transportation.