Saturday, July 17, 2010


Archie Mazmanian reports, Bob La Trémouille ed.:

Mark Twain has been in the news recently with reports that Volume 1 of his autobiography will be published this November, 100 years following his demise pursuant to his directions. This brings to mind the premature publication of Twain’s obituary that triggered his cable from London stating: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

I attended the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting on the Urban Ring on July 13, 2010, its first public meeting since January 11, 2010, that I reported on at this Blog. The January 11th meeting was followed with MassDOT Commissioner Mullan’s two letters of January 15th and 22nd to MEPA in effect suspending many aspects of Phase 2 of the Urban Ring from MEPA review.

Finally on June 22nd, MEPA responded to Mr. Mullan. Prior thereto, with several Emails, I had prodded MEPA about responding to MassDOT. MEPA’s response [ed: Archie will provide the link with installment 2 of the report.] is quite detailed, pointing out concurrence with Mr. Mullan’s proposals in his letter but also reminding him that MEPA compliance may be determined to be required from time to time for various aspects of actions proposed to be taken on certain segments of Phase 2. After several readings of MEPA’s response, I can understand why it took five (5) months.

Attendance of CAC members seemed quite sparse at its July 13th meeting and a quorum may have been lacking. However, there were many MassDOT department personnel present, including a new spokesperson from MassDot for the Urban Ring.

I do not plan with this submission to summarize the meeting but wish to point out how disjointed it was. There were suggestions that perhaps subcommittees or select members of the CAC had been meeting with MassDOT and the compact communities following the January 11th meeting. During the public comment period, I mentioned the need for the CAC to be in compliance with both the Open Meeting and Public Records Laws of the Commonwealth as down the road the public may be addressing such compliance. Tom Nally, CAC Chair, said he would look into whether such Laws apply to the CAC.

The elephants in the room remain: (1) the Charles River crossing and (2) the Longwood/Fenway area. Since the January 11th CAC meeting, MassDOT has completed certain CSX acquisitions. Newspaper reports spoke of the Framingham commuter rail tracking to North Station, presumably via the Grand Junction Rail Line (GJRL) under the BU Bridge. My public comments made reference to this, pointing out possible physical conflicts with two lanes for 60-foot long BRT Buses somehow maneuvering from a reconstructed trestle to then go over the rails on the Boston side from the west to the east side of the BU Bridge by means of a short tunnel to surface at Boston University’s Academy site along University Road to cross Commonwealth Avenue to the Carlton Street Bridge in Brookline (and on to the Longwood/Fenway area). At present, the trestle provides only a single set of tracks; it would seem that a double set of tracks would be required for what could be a busy commuter rail line to justify MassDOT’s investment.

The Phase 2 route from the Charles River crossing to and through the Longwood/Fenway area continues on hold. Meantime, traffic and transportation issues in that area continue to pile up and will worsen once construction starts on Parcel 7, Kenmore Square, air rights over the MA Turnpike Extension, a humongous development. And of course the BU Bridge construction will be with us for at least another year.

I shall submit further reports on the recent CAC meeting. (Its next public meeting is tentatively scheduled for October 13th.)

Like Mark Twain, the CAC may be saying: “Reports of the death of Phase 2 of the Urban Ring are greatly exaggerated.” But how effective may be the CAC’s CPR?

Archie Mazmanian