Saturday, March 13, 2010

MassDOT Meeting, March 9, on the River St. and Western Ave. Bridges, Morse School, Cambridge

1. Bob La Trémouille reports.
2. Marilyn Wellons reports:
Part I.

1. Bob La Trémouille reports.

I had to leave fairly early during the public comments.

MassDOT presented their plans to a meeting at the Morse School near Magazine Beach in Cambridge.

The presentation was not changed from that made to the Allston meeting.

The attendance was perhaps double that in the Allston meeting. The Allston meeting filled that conference room. The Morse School Cafeteria is quite a bit larger than the conference room in the Honan Allston Library.

Representatives Walz and Wolf took credit for getting MassDOT to make a presentation in Cambridge.

I spoke on a number of issues.

I commented that the River Street / Western Avenue project is a responsible project on the state side. By contrast, the DCR’s BU Bridge project is very much environmentally destructive. Silence on the meetings on the BU Bridge project being conducted in Boston and Kendall Square allowed the DCR to keep that environmental destruction secret from the Cambridge residents most affected.

I commented that plans being proposed by friends of the State Reps for a small vehicle highway under the bridges with Memorial Drive access would be environmentally destructive and would duplicate an existing small vehicle highway on the Boston side. That small vehicle highway is a haven for muggers and rapists, and has signs warning people not to use it at night.

I objected to related plans for lighting at night at the water level. These would be historically destructive, environmentally destructive and harmful to animals feeding.

My initial comments were on the highway markings on the River Street Bridge. I was the second member of the public to speak. I followed a resident at 808 Memorial Drive, at the Cambridge end of the bridge, who objected that existing signage is dangerous. I followed up repeating my Allston comments, that people are making left turns from the middle lane onto Memorial Drive because signage at the Boston end violates signage manual requirements that one way streets be marked to tell people on one way streets that they are on one way streets. People are driving in the middle lane and turning left off it because they think they are on two way streets.

Councilor Davis left after I spoke without speaking. She gave me a dirty look, perhaps she also wanted to take credit for the Cambridge meeting.

2. Marilyn Wellons reports:

Part I.

In addition to the elected officials Bob has named, City Councillors Seidel and Cheung arrived after he left.

Councillor Wolf led off the question and answer period. She asked about improvements for pedestrians and cyclists on both sides of the river around the bridges. She also asked whether DOT work would affect vegetation there.

DOT pointed out that the Accelerated Bridge Program (ABP) under which the work is funded defines the scope of the work as the footprint of the bridge. (The footprint is the dimensions of the existing structure.) Possible changes to the "multipurpose path" beyond the bridges themselves and their intersections are therefore limited. As for trees, DOT said they aim for as little destruction as possible, but need staging areas. They identify trees that must be removed during design of the repairs.

In response to this question and others about the "multipurpose path," in particular about tunnels for it through the bridges' abutments that had been proposed at the Allston meeting, DOT said they were studying the question. Whether tunnels prove to be feasible or not in the work now, they would aim at a design that would not foreclose that option in the future.

Many people cited safety problems for peds, bikes, and motor vehicles at the complicated intersections on both ends of the two bridges, and especially for River Street, where traffic from Soldiers Field Road and the Turnpike continues at high speed. And on Western Avenue, traffic backs up to Central Square and along Putnam Avenue.

Part II to follow.