Sunday, July 30, 2006

Report on Urban Ring Advisory Committee Meeting, 7/25/06

Marilyn Wellons reports:

I attended the most recent Urban Ring Citizens Advisory Committee meeting, July 25, 2006, at the State Transportation Building. Again, the Executive Office of Transportation officials at the meeting reviewed the time table for hiring consultants to revise the Draft Environmental Impact Review/Statement and finish the revision for filing by November, 2007. That's not very long from now for that kind of work.

Members of the CAC were very concerned that they would have only an advisory role in the hiring of the consultants. Again and again they came back to that problem. I believe the problems with the Big Dig were hanging heavy over the entire meeting.

I stated my own interest in keeping the Grand Junction rail bridge in operation
for freight, and passed on to the meeting the Rail Committee of the Regional Transportation Advisory Council concern about keeping the Grand Junction open for freight and passenger service (by which I assume the Rail Committee mean the MBTA's current use of it).

Interestingly, when Codd, the EOT project manager, asked for a show of hands for
how many people were interested in Phase 3 (rail), the City of Cambridge representative raised her hand. As with previous Cambridge positions, I take this to reflect Harvard's desire for its own version of an Urban Ring Phase 3, i.e., light rail crossing the Charles over the Grand Junction bridge, connecting a spur from the Allston campus to the rest of the ring. Harvard's Allston website shows this connection (mode is unclear)

No official plan to date has showed anything of the kind. MBTA documents (MIS,
DEIR/S) and consequently the Secretary's Certificate refer to river crossings
in Phase 3 by tunnel only--whether the rail is light (Green Line) or heavy (Red
or Orange). A year ago a Sierra Club officer floated the idea that light rail over
the Grand Junction bridge was Phase 3. I and others responded that it was not any
official version of Phase 3.

The idea's definitely out there, though, gaining strength, probably with the
EOT-Harvard consultants and with them, EOT.

In general, EOT Urban Ring officials Codd and Woelfel did their best to say the
CAC should stick to Phase 2 and not follow up except tangentially on the Secretary's
May 20, 2005 Certificate for the DEIR/S suggestion to consider rephasing segments
of the Urban Ring, specifically, to advance Phase 3 rail in the central segment.

When I asked Woelfel after the meeting if he meant to discourage a serious consideration of rephasing, he said he didn't care if the CAC recommended it. However, there are problems with timing: if the feds think rephasing changes the "goals and purposes" of the Urban Ring, the project will have to start all over again from the very beginning, whereas now it's been in line for all these years. I think the point is that no one should be so foolish as to be held reponsible for
bringing the whole thing to a halt like that.

So the momentum among the EOT staff is definitely for buses.

I don't know enough about the MPO bureaucratic process to know if the "goals and purposes" of the Urban Ring change by phase. As Woelfel stated them from memory to me, they sounded as though they would be identical for all 3, almost by definition--public transportation in the Urban Ring corridor. This would almost certainly be true for the segment from Assembly or Sullivan Squares to Longwood and Ruggles, i.e., the river crossing, since the MBTA Major Investment Study says Phases 2 (bus) and 3 (rail) are redundant, and that if Phase 3 is built, Phase 2 seervice goes away. (All other segments of the Ring are "additive," and remain.)

Bumpy Remembered, Pond Dedicated

Bob La Trémouille reports:

Sunday, July 23, 2006, a number of us met in the parking lot at Magazine Beach near the new body of water created by the Department of Conservation and Recreation / City of Cambridge.

Participants included me, Marilyn Wellons, Ben Beckwith, Ellin Sarot, Ann Toop, Bill Cunningham, Annie Butler, Lois Martin, Lydia Vickers, Alcides Vidal, the new photo editor of the Cambridge Chronicle, Chris Dunham, and Barbara Allen, MWRA Public Relations. I have omitted at least 5 people, perhaps more like 8.

The event ran three hours, basically dominated by informal conversation among participants. The most exciting part of the meeting concerned the two resident white ducks and is separately reported.

Participants brought favorite photos of Bumpy and of the gaggle (including a couple of mine, brought by somebody else, which I appreciated).

The Chronicle attended and did an excellent photo spread on page two in their July 27 edition.

Two new residents at Magazine Beach, a pair of white ducks, apparently arrived Saturday, July 22. They were on the receiving end of behavior the Cambridge City Council would be “neutral” on, with a wink and a nod (see separate report on these beautiful animals). A dog tried to kill one of the ducks. The two little guys ran as fast as their little legs could, but the dog caught up and had his teeth on one’s neck. I disabused him with vigor.

As I recall, the Cambridge City Council or a committee of the Cambridge City Council wants dogs to run free on Magazine Beach. It may have been a committee chaired by most environmental destructive member, Henrietta Davis.