Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Cambridge City Council Committee defers action on Grand Junction Highway Proposal very destructive to Charles River White Geese

1. Summary.
2. My Comments.
A. Introductory.
B. Environmental Impact.
C. Urban Ring.

1. Summary.

Yesterday afternoon, Monday, August 6, 2012, the Cambridge City Council’s Economic Development, Training and Employment Committee chaired by Councilor / Representative Toomey deferred action for a month on its discussion of a small vehicle highway proposal on the Grand Junction Railroad line which would be highly destructive to the Charles River White Geese.

While a wide variety of councillors attended the meeting at one point or other, Councilor / Representative Toomey was the one member whom I recall being present throughout. I could have missed other extended participation.

Deferral of action pretty much seemed to be taken unilaterally by Toomey. Toomey was the only member of the Cambridge City Council who aggressively opposed from the beginning passenger use on the Grand Junction. Passenger use was ultimately tabled by the Department of Transportation after active manipulations by the Cambridge Machine which seemed to be trying to maneuver the public into acceptance of passenger service.

I will be providing a link to this report to the Cambridge City Council, so, while the report will hit the points I made, they will be slightly fleshed out. The detailed written comments I promised will be much more intense on the environmental and animal abuse harm of the proposal to the Charles River White Geese and the Charles River. My follow up will be copied to the state’s Departments of Transportation and of Conservation and Recreation.

The detailed follow up will include an appendix on the outrage at Alewife by the City Administration with city council funding. Alewife also included key omissions to the City Council. Alewife involves ongoing manipulations by “activists” with City Administration connections. My time factor for my follow on comments is quite short because the Cambridge Machine “activists” are manipulating the situation such that Cambridge could have no alternative to further massive destruction and to more large scale animal killings at Alewife.

My comments to the Cambridge City Council Committee, with fleshing out, were as follows.

2. My Comments.

A. Introductory.

My comments will be followed up by a much more detailed written analysis. It would be impossible at this time to go into the detail appropriate on this matter to this committee.

The proposed small vehicle highway, for environmental, animal abuse, and cost reasons, should not go south of Memorial Drive. It should turn east just prior to the buildings on Memorial Drive on either side of the Grand Junction. It should be built between the building on the corner of Memorial Drive and Vassar Street and the building behind it on Vassar Street. There is an ample undeveloped area there to get the route to Vassar Street where it could connect to Memorial Drive.

This route would remove major harm to the environment and to the Charles River White Geese. It would give bicyclists much more direct access to Memorial Drive and would significantly reduce costs.

B. Environmental Impact.

This small vehicle highway would have major, destructive impact on the Charles River both on the Cambridge side and on the Boston side.

Impact of environmental destruction of this nature has already been condemned by a joint report of the Department of Transportation and the Department of Conservation and Recreation. The report concerned the corresponding proposal for a small vehicle highway on in the Cambridge side of the Charles River. This package was sold as “underpasses.”

The joint committee condemned this proposal in its report on Charles River Connectivity issues which was issued last fall.

C. Urban Ring.

[ed. I went to the meeting with no intention to speak. The comments on the Urban Ring by City Administration representatives gave me the incentive to speak.]

The City Administration once again gave the impression that the Grand Junction corridor is the only alternative under consideration for the Urban Ring rail transportation concept. This is not only false, but is directly contradicted by funding provided by the State Legislature.

To express the situation in the nicest possible light, the City Administration’s position is that the only route being considered for the Urban Ring is that route now called the BU Bridge crossing. At absolute minimum, this position is 20 years behind the times.

Also under consideration is the Kenmore Crossing, an alternative I first proposed in a public meeting in 1986 concerning the Urban Ring because of the environmental and Cambridge destructiveness of the BU Bridge Crossing. The Kenmore Crossing was independently picked up by the state in 1991 and has, ever since, been considered, along with the BU Bridge Crossing, as one of two alternative Charles River crossings for the Urban Ring rail proposals.

The BU Bridge Crossing pushed by the Cambridge Administration would be Green Line / streetcar technology. It would cross the Charles River east of the BU Bridge and east of the Grand Junction railroad bridge with major environmental harm and harm to resident animals.

The Kenmore Crossing would use Heavy Rail / Orange Line technology. It would travel a considerable distance in the Grand Junction right of way, constructed underground. It would turn off the Grand Junction and travel under the MIT playing fields and then under the Charles River to a station between and connected to Kenmore Station and Yawkey Station. It would be constructed under the Brookline Avenue bridge over I90, the Massachusetts Turnpike.

This station combination would create one megastation which would provide excellent connections to Fenway Park, to the three Green Line branches to Brookline, and to the Framingham / Worcester Commuter Rail, all with covered walkways.

By contrast, the BU Bridge Crossing alternative would require moving Yawkey station and the Commuter Rail stop to Mountfort Street and St. Mary’s Street a half a mile to a mile west of Fenway Park. Commuter Rail passengers would be connected to the Green Line / Boston College line ONLY rather than to all three branches.

Connection to the Green Line would be made by a tunnel under St. Mary’s Street ending at the south sidewalk of Commonwealth Avenue across from Boston University’s Marsh Chapel. Commuter rail passengers would walk across traffic in all kinds of weather to the already overloaded Boston College line in the median of Commonwealth Avenue.

The legislature has subsidized the reconstruction of Yawkey Station in place to the tune of millions of dollars. This subsidy also constitutes a subsidy for the far superior Kenmore Crossing of the Urban Ring with its excellent Kenmore - Urban Ring - Yawkey megastation.

The Yawkey / Urban Ring / Kenmore megastation would be an ideal terminus for First Stage construction on the Urban Ring as an Orange Line spur. This First Stage would function as a spur coming out of Ruggles Station on the Orange Line with an intermediate Harvard Medical Area stop at Longwood Avenue and Louis Pasteur. Such a First Stage route would provide the Harvard Medical Area and Fenway Park with direct excellent connection to Boston’s downtown over the Orange Line. This connection would function in the same manner as the Quincy / Braintree branch provides Quincy and Braintree with downtown connection on what was a Dorchester - Cambridge Red Line heavy rail subway.

And, as I said, the legislature has subsidized the Kenmore Crossing with the millions of dollars it is spending upgrading Yawkey.

With that money put into upgrading Yawkey Station, Yawkey Station WILL NOT BE MOVED, and the Kenmore Crossing would appear to have a very major leg up on the Cambridge Administration’s favored BU Bridge Crossing.

And, somehow, the City Administration still communicated in that meeting the very clear message that the Kenmore Crossing alternative does not exist.