Thursday, May 10, 2007

Fenway / Kenmore and the Urban Ring Plans

Bob La Trémouille Reports:

Last Friday, May 4, MOVEMass had a meeting at Fenway Park in which people involved in planning for the Fenway Park neighborhood presented their ideas for that neighborhood.

One of the many things impacting the environment of the Charles River is the Urban Ring subway / bus planning.

As usual, there is one excellent option, both environmentally and from a transportation point of view, and there is the option the City of Cambridge is fighting for.

On April 25, I summarized the various subway options in a report entitled “Urban Ring Options - Detailed Maps.” The report includes my evaluation of proposals for Harvard Allston and my alternate proposal. I have tweaked that report since then based on input from readers.

On April 27, I provided my evaluation of the subway options in a report entitled “Analyses of Urban Ring - Phase III.”

Of major importance to the Fenway Park neighborhood is the future of Yawkey Station on the commuter rail line to Worcester and Framingham. Yawkey Station is located perhaps 200 feet from Fenway Park and is named after the Red Sox longtime owner.

I summarized for the group the truly excellent Kenmore stop on the Urban Ring subway’s Charles River crossing called the Kenmore crossing. The technology used for trains would be heavy rail in the manner of the MBTA’s Orange Line.

This alternative would have a subway stop under Brookline Avenue over the Massachusetts Turnpike. This station would be about half a block from Fenway Park. It would be attached on the Fenway Park end to Yawkey Station and on the other end to the existing Kenmore Station on the Green Line (streetcar technology). Kenmore is the point at which three Green Line branches combine to go into town.

The location of the station and its connections would provide ready, easy transfer for hundreds of rush hours commuter rail passengers to all three Green Line branches, truly excellent transportation planning.

As I detailed this alternative, I could hear the audience repeating my details with pleasure.

I then informed the audience of the river crossing option which the state's representatives are pushing now, the BU Bridge option for crossing the Charles River using Green Line technology, streetcars. Through details of the Urban Ring phase II, buses, the state could make the Kenmore crossing impossible. The state plans for the BU Bridge option would move Yawkey station several blocks further west to St. Mary’s Street, thus severely hurting the plans ongoing for the Fenway Park neighborhood.

From a transportation point of view, the relocated station would have far inferior connections to the rapid transit system. Passengers would walk through a tunnel over the Mass. Pike to the sidewalk on Commonwealth Avenue and then have to walk through traffic and the elements to the Green Line's B Branch in the middle of Commonwealth Avenue, further overloading already overloaded streetcar service on that one line several times an hour during the morning rush hour.

The state's transportation representative to the meeting quickly assured people that plans for Phase II are up in the area and will not be firmed up for a year.

But we had a developer at the meeting who presented extremely well thought out plans for construction on top of Yawkey Station next to Fenway Park.

The people in the room were not at all happy with the possible change to the detriment of the Fenway Park area.

On the other hand, Boston University, the City of Cambridge and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology see major developer advantages to the BU Bridge crossing. Harvard, as I will include in a subsequent report, has very major benefits being sneaked through in the fine print.