Tuesday, March 29, 2011


By Archie Mazmanian

One day on a Charles River walk with my children, when we came to the Harvard Bridge (which I had known as – and still call - the Mass. Avenue Bridge) we decided to cross it. I had been over that bridge many times before on public transit and by automobile, but this was my first time on foot.

Fairly quickly when we got to the western sidewalk, we noted what seemed to be strange markings on the sidewalk, arousing our curiosity. As we tried to understand these markings, a gentleman passing by told us that they were the result of a prank of MIT students some years earlier who used a classmate as a measure for the span of the bridge. This student, Oliver Smoot, would lie down at the beginning on one side of the bridge and his classmates would mark his length on the sidewalk. Smoot and his classmates continued this process to the other side of the bridge. My children were excited as they heard this story and took turns lying down to see how they measured up to a Smoot. In the course of this, I recalled the incident had been reported in local newspapers. Over the years, MIT students were “guilty” of many public – and private – pranks that were quite imaginative. The Smoot as a measure for these to-be-scientists/engineers contrasted with the metric system integral to science/engineering, but perhaps was related to old English measures like the “foot.” [Note: Those interested in the Smoot incident will find details via Internet searches, including a reenactment in recent years. Such searches should be extended to other MIT student-pranks that involved scientific/engineering skills.]

But on this first trip on foot across the Mass. Avenue Bridge, our focus on the Smoot markings kept us from examining and enjoying the views of the Charles upstream and down; on later trips we were thrilled with such expansive views from this bridge as well as other bridges that cross the Charles. The answer to the old riddle “Why did the chicken cross the road?” does not adequately address why we cross bridges; yes, we want to get to the other side, but take the time to examine the wonderful vistas of the Charles and the Boston and Cambridge sides at the same time.

After getting to the Cambridge side, we headed westerly towards the BU Bridge. While the banks were not as readily convenient as on the Boston side, the views of Boston were from a difference perspective than we had been accustomed. I also noted a building on Memorial Drive that looked familiar. It was the Sancta Maria Hospital building where in the summer of 1945 just prior to my 15th birthday I had been a patient for a hernia repair. Back then my thoughts were not of the Charles River. But I most likely got there by taxi from our apartment in Roxbury over the Mass. Avenue Bridge.

When we got to the area of the Hyatt Hotel, we noticed the white geese along the river’s shore (which was then unimpeded by vegetation subsequently planted to thwart the white geese’s access). A lot of people including children were seated along the bank watching the geese and their goslings. So we joined them. This was my first contact with the Charles River White Geese. There were quite a few geese, which was in contrast to the small number of ducks (usually in pairs followed by ducklings) we had observed on the Boston side of the river. When a young child out of curiosity would venture too close to the geese, the geese would honk and if the child continued to approach, the geese would advance to protect their goslings, just as we parents protect our children. What a joy this was for my children, to be so close to the geese in a natural environment. Back then I didn’t think to question what the geese were doing there. It just seemed so natural. This was in the days before Canada Geese had invaded the area for other than fly-overs. It wasn’t until years later, via the Charles River White Geese Blog, that I learned of their history in the area of the BU Bridge and the plight they were facing as a result of actions of State and Cambridge governmental agencies. [Note: Perhaps our Editor can provide a link to that history for visitors unfamiliar with it.]

My children enjoyed the geese on our Charles River trips for several years thereafter until their activities and interests changed as they got older. Now, the very existence of the Charles River White Geese is under challenge. Over recent years, some of my contributions to this Blog have focused upon their plight. I commend our Editor and his associates for their efforts in bringing this to our attention. Hopefully this Blog is reaching quite a few persons who have an interest in the Charles River ready to take up the cause of the Charles River White Geese. We have to shame the responsible (actually irresponsible) public officials for their actions and inactions. In protecting the Charles River, our jewel, it is important to protect its weakest, right now the Charles River White Geese who are fighting for survival. Our children and grandchildren should be able to enjoy these geese in such a natural habitat. What message are these irresponsible public officials sending to our children and grandchildren with their tactics?

[Note: This does not conclude this series despite the “sermon” in the last paragraph. Part VI will explore trips to the Esplanade as my children got older.]

Prior reports:

Part IV, 3/7/11: http://charlesriverwhitegeeseblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/charles-river-memories-part-iv.html.

Part III, 2/19/11: http://charlesriverwhitegeeseblog.blogspot.com/2011/02/charles-river-memories-part-iii.html

Part II, 2/5/11: http://charlesriverwhitegeeseblog.blogspot.com/2011_02_05_archive.html

Part I, 1/29/11: http://charlesriverwhitegeeseblog.blogspot.com/2011_01_29_archive.html

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Worcester Planning Board assists Harvard’s destruction on the Charles River.

1. Introduction.
A. General Ruminations.
B. The importance of the Beacon Yards.
2. Worcester Planning Board Meeting, March 23, 2011.

1. Introduction.

A. General Ruminations.

Last Wednesday, I leafleted a con game meeting being conducted by the City of Cambridge at the Cambridge Main Public Library. Meetings of this sort fool well meaning people as to which side of environmentalism Cambridge, MA is on. These con games are very much non stop.

Cambridge maximizes the publicizing of LOCALLY next to meaningless “initiatives” while keeping their very destructive REAL LOCAL record as secret as possible. This in turn fools the very significant number of Cambridge voters who would be very deeply offended by the real situation in Cambridge, and the fact that nine out of nine city councilors are on the wrong side.

B. The importance of the Beacon Yards.

At the same time I was leafleting people, Marilyn Wellons was at a planning board meeting in Worcester, MA. This meeting concerned Worcester’s gaining a freight yard expansion as their part of the removal of Beacon Yards to Worcester. Beacon Yards is, for all practical purposes, visible from Magazine Beach.

Harvard bought Beacon Yards and the Mass. Pike off ramps to Allston a few months after state transportation people completed a study which showed that the Grand Junction bridge could be used as an off ramp from the Mass. Pike, and thus that the Mass. Pike off ramps could be moved from their current location.

A significant part of the environmental destruction on the Charles River can be explained as stemming from Harvard’s plans for Allston. The Beacon Yards and the Mass. Pike exit ramps would appear to be Harvard’s anticipated future home for Harvard Medical School. Harvard purchased a very major part of Allston in secret.

Moving Harvard Medical School, in turn, would allow expansion of various Longwood / Harvard Medical Area hospitals which are very much pushing at their boundaries in their expansion. Harvard Medical School is an obvious location for expansion of the Hospitals. It abuts Boston Children's Hospital in one direction. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is across the street, and it abuts Brigham and Women's Hospital on two sides or more.

The Harvard School of Public Health, located between Harvard Medical School and Huntington Avenue is openly planned for movement to Allston in the near future.

Harvard Dental School also abuts Harvard Medical School and, really, has less reason to be in the Longwood / Harvard Medical Area than do the other two schools.

Marilyn’s report on the Planning Board Meeting follows.

CSX is the railroad owning the rail operations.

2. Worcester Planning Board Meeting, March 23, 2011.

CSX appeared before the Worcester Planning Board to ask for a Special Permit for a 10K gallon fuel storage tank at their expanded freight yard there.

In their presentation to the Board, CSX invoked the MEPA Environmental Notification Form and the MEPA Secretary's subsequent Certificate to reassure that all was well with the project, including emissions.

You may remember the ENF for this expansion relies on reduced diesel emissions from Beacon's closing to argue that increasing emissions from Worcester will be a net benefit to the region. The Secretary accepted that argument. At the same time he rejected the need for a wider view of effects on regional air quality, e.g., from greatly increased truck traffic within I-495. The Secretary's response invoked court rulings that physically separate projects cannot be considered together when analyzing environmental impacts. That is, analyzing interaction between the two facilities is not allowed--yet CSX did so and the Secretary accepted it.


If CSX didn't need the reduced emissions at Beacon to set against the increase at Worcester it surely wouldn't have used them. That the Secretary accepted this analysis despite the court rulings he invokes to the contrary, leads me to believe air quality at Worcester will be significantly degraded. And the inconsistency raises nasty questions about the integrity of the process, I believe.

At Wednesday's Planning Board meeting, residents worried about emissions and increased noise at the eastern end where the expansion's taking place. I asked the Planning Board if they couldn't offset noise reduction at Beacon against noise increase at Worcester, the thinking the Certificate accepted for air quality. When the Chair asked what purpose that would serve, I said it would reassure people.

The Secretary's Certificate requires CSX to report on air quality three months after opening the expanded freight yard, with CSX to decide on reports thereafter. The expanded yard will not be at full capacity within three months (CSX's own filings refer to an ultimate buildout at an unspecified date). Public reassurance does seem to be the name of the game here.

CSX will also report noise complaints and what it does about them to DEP as CSX chooses.

An articulate and knowledgeable Worcester resident asked the Planning Board to require, among other things, CSX's direct and regular reports on air quality and noise complaints to Worcester. He asked how long CSX would take to phase in expensive new cranes that reduce noise and pollution; and observed that calculations of air quality are for increased freight only, not for the proposed increase in commuter rail.

So we have two major flaws in official analysis of air quality following the proposed expansion. One is the use of data from Beacon to justify the work at Worcester. The second is omitting a full picture of what's proposed for Worcester itself.

I left before the end of the meeting so missed the Board's decision. It would be surprising if they required any significant mitigation, like independent monitoring of noise and emissions as that Worcester resident proposed.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Letter on Destructive Group Bannered

The most destructive private entity on the Charles River (after public destroyers, Massachusetts and Cambridge) is the falsely named Charles River Conservancy.

A week ago, we posted at http://charlesriverwhitegeeseblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/marilyn-wellons-responds-to-article-of.html the response of Marilyn Wellons to a Cambridge Chronicle front page Q&A which included significant self praise by the falsely names Charles River Conservancy.

The Chronicle dominated its editorial page with Marilyn’s letter, page 8, March 24, 2011 edition.

Thank you.


They have posted it on line at: http://www.wickedlocal.com/cambridge/news/opinions/x1161127983/Letter-River-group-s-goal-not-noble#axzz1HcmdmzJx.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Marilyn Wellons responds to article of Praise for Environmental Destroyer

1. Introduction.
2. Marilyn Wellons letter.
3. Link.

1. Introduction.

The most destructive private entity on the Charles River is a developer funded group which uses the strikingly false name “Charles River Conservancy.” The Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the City of Cambridge are more destructive.

Last Thursday, March 17, the Cambridge Chronicle frontpaged a question and answer session which, by its answers, continues the lie that this destructive organization is an entity worthy of respect.

Marilyn Wellons has submitted the following response to the article.

2. Marilyn Wellons letter.

To the Editor:

In your March 17, 2011 interview, we read the Charles River Conservancy’s goals are to involve more people “in taking care of the parklands” and “making the river swimmable.”

The CRC morphed from a discredited Friends of Magazine Beach after participants in the annual cleanup learned they’d been cleaning the fields for BU’s graduation, not the public. Some FOMB board members reformed as the CRC, ostensibly to provide volunteer services to the DCR.

The DCR argues underfunding prevents it from successful stewardship, as though limited resources were not a constant in all government activities. Neglect of its assets and their costly subsequent “restorations” to what never was have kept a core bureaucracy, its consultants and contractors fed despite the agency’s loss of responsibility for police, water resources, and now some roads and bridges.

The CRC raises money for large concrete projects (skate park), light pollution (bridges), and for planting “non-native,” “invasive” species (daffodils). It mobilizes people who care about the river—and who doesn’t?—for what’s called maintenance, all to help keep this game going.

A court order and watershed municipalities, not the CRC, are working to make the river swimmable. The DCR polluted the river with algae fed by runoff from 6 acres of new sod on playing fields near MGH in Boston. The CRC said nothing. When the DCR and Cambridge installed 7 acres of the same stuff and an algae-filled “lagoon” at Magazine Beach, the CRC applauded and said that would help swimming there.

Like its maintenance campaign against “invasives,” e.g., false indigo (sustainable North American plants cultivated since 1724 to hold riverbanks), the CRC campaign for swimming distracts people from the DCR’s incompetence (or worse). How many eroded acres have we lost for sightlines for the Head of the Charles?

We know Massachusetts needs $20B to maintain the entire state’s existing transportation infrastructure. Pushing for new underpasses at the bridges, the CRC plays to the bicycle lobby and relies on the Department of Transportation to be the grown-up and say No.

We read the CRC wants beauty on the river. When the public objects to the DCR’s clearing shade trees, cherries, crabapples—anything beautiful and loved—if the CRC isn’t silent, it applauds.

Beauty, historical or scientific accuracy, public economy, even logical consistency don’t seem to figure in this. How long can the CRC persuade some of us DCR stewardship is a luxury we can afford?

Yours sincerely,

Marilyn Wellons

3. Link.

I may have missed it, but I have not been able to find this article on line.

If anybody can provide the link, I would be pleased to post it in this location.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Photos of the freed up Goose Ghetto

On February 13, I took a number of photos of the Destroyed Nesting Area of the Charles River White Geese.

The state has completed the work on the BU Bridge which required destruction of a 50 foot area for access to the lower portions of the bridge.

No remediation was provided although it would be simple to allow the Charles River White Geese to return to their home for most of the last 30 years. All that is necessary is

1. To chop down the bizarre wall of introduced bushes which now block access between the Charles River and Magazine Beach. This bizarre wall is the only vegetation bordering the Charles River basin which is not chopped down twice a year. The key manager has bragged that this wall starves the Charles River White Geese. He has spent ten years claiming no intent to harm them, but more recently has announced that his definition of harm does not include starving them.


2. Rather than dumping poisons on Magazine Beach to keep alive sickly stuff which been introduced there, to seed Magazine Beach with the healthy native grass which survived there for the better part of a century until the truly bizarre work which has been inflicted on the area was accomplished. Replacing poisons with the environmentally responsible grasses the state and Cambridge destroyed would allow the playing fields to be enlarged to the area they occupied before the project. A massive drainage system has replace much of the playing fields to drain off poisons which should not be dumped on the banks of the Charles River.

As of February 13, a major part of the Goose Ghetto has been freed up. All we need is city and state governments worthy of our respect to return this area to nature.

I am enclosing five of the 15 photos which I took. All 15 are posted on the Charles River White Geese page on facebook.

The first two photos, published near the top of this report, show the wasteland from below and above. The two photos just above show these beautiful animals cavorting in the Charles near the the bottom of the walled off area. The final shot shows Whites and Canadas on land from which the DCR has destroyed all ground vegetation, admiring the river.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Organized Charles River destroyers claim broad support for new highway destroying riverbanks, vegetation and animal habitat.

The developer funded and badly misnamed Charles River Conservancy claimed in its March newsletter that it has support of the following pols for their new highway:

“Supporting elected officials include U.S. Representative Michael Capuano; State Senators Sal DiDomenico, Anthony Petruccelli, and Stephen Tolman; State Representatives Ruth Balser, Jonathan Hecht, Kevin Honan, Kay Kahn, Michael Moran, Marty Walz, and Alice Wolf; and City of Boston Councillor Mark Ciommo; and all seven Cambridge City Councilors - Mayor David P. Maher, Vice Mayor Henrietta Davis, Leland Cheung, Marjorie Decker, Craig Kelley, Kenneth Reeves, Sam Seidel, Denise Simmons, and Timothy Toomey, Jr. “

The destroyers organization does report that responsible parts of the state government have opposed their attempts to insert this new highway under the Anderson (Harvard Square) Bridge over the Charles.

The level of anti-environment control in Cambridge is no surprise. It is a shame to see the most recent City Councilor joining his openly destructive fellows.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Monteiro and the Charles River White Geese

It is difficult to overstate the venality of the anti-liberal situation in the government of the City of Cambridge, MA.

The reality is that public opinion in the city is forged by a massive combination of organizations which commonly spouts “facts” which are strikingly different from reality, and a city council whose real record is strikingly at odds with its own and its organizations’ self praise.

Cambridge has a very concerned electorate.

Cambridge has a city government whose real policies are strikingly in conflict with the wishes of the electorate. The council stays in office by lying.

The council brags about saving the world in matters which have next to nothing to do with their responsibilities as a city government. They heavily publicize these next to meaningless actions.

The council’s real policies, those meaningfully concerned with the government of the city, are commonly rammed through as secretly as possible and kept as secret as the massive organizations can achieve.

The situation in the civil rights action entitled Malvina Monteiro v. City of Cambridge is a breath of fresh air.

A judge and jury looked at the City of Cambridge from outside and called it “reprehensible.”

The city council is spending millions of dollars appealing that decision but has chosen not to get an independent and knowledgeable attorney to tell them whether judge and jury are right. As usual, the city council does not want to know what it is doing, or, more importantly, does not want the electorate to know what it is doing.

I have briefly summarized Monteiro at http://charlesriverwhitegeeseblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/should-cambridge-city-manager-be.html. This letter to the editor was published in the March 10, 2011 Cambridge Chronicle.

The pattern of lies is not dissimilar in the environmental sphere. This is why this very bad city council is doing the terrible things it is doing on the Charles River, at Fresh Pond, at Alewife, and in so many other projects in the City of Cambridge.

But a house of lies is a house of cards.

One judge, one jury can knock it all down.

For the judge’s key opinion, in detail, please see http://charlesriverwhitegeeseblog.blogspot.com/2009/04/judge-issues-decision-denying.html.

And a city council which calls itself pro-environment and pro civil rights might possibly be replaced with a city council that is pro environment and pro civil rights, but there is a very massive machine which must be kept out of any new government.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Should the Cambridge City Manager be employed by Cambridge, rather than raising his pay?

The following letter appeared on line in the Cambridge Chronicle on March 10, 2011. It is posted at http://www.wickedlocal.com/cambridge/news/opinions/x2011254672/Letter-Healy-overpaid#axzz1G8n67k92. It appeared on page 11 of the hard copy.


Cambridge Chronicle

The comments about how much the City Manager should be paid are strange.

The city council regularly ignores the City Manager’s real record on civil rights and the environment while bragging about matters which have next to nothing to do with their responsibilities to the City of Cambridge.

Key to how much the City Manager should be paid is whether he should even be employed.

In Malvina Monteiro v. City of Cambridge, now on appeal, a judge and jury have very clearly spoken.

Malvina Monteiro was the head of the city’s Police Review Board. She and others filed civil rights complaints. She lost the discrimination complaint, but she won on her claim that the City destroyed her life in retaliation for her filing the complaint.

The jury awarded about a million dollars in real damages plus $3.5 million in penal damages. The numbers have passed $6 million and are growing.

The judge wrote an excellent opinion supporting the jury. She quoted the City Manager’s testimony at length and found him “reprehensible.”

The City Council should want to know whether or not judge and jury are correct.

The City Council can still can hire an independent, knowledgeable lawyer to review the case. The expert could tell the City Council if it should fire the City Manager or continue the appeal.

Instead, the City Council does not want to know if it is true, as the judge and jury found, that the City Manager is “reprehensible.” The City Council just spends millions on the appeal and considers raising his pay.

The City Council could settle the Monteiro case. The City Council could get an order from the judge authorizing the City Manager to be fired for his behavior. The judge’s order would certainly find his Golden Parachute void on public policy grounds.

The judge might also authorize a small extension of existing law and authorize the firing of the City Manager without pension. Such a small extension of law would probably be determined legal or illegal on appeal, but they are on appeal anyway.

We hear a lot of noise about how much to pay the City Manager. More important is whether he should be fired without golden parachute and, possibly, without pension.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Marilyn and Cher on Trees

1. Marilyn.
2. Cher.

1. Marilyn.

The following responds to a few postings:

Hi Cher, et al.,

Unfortunately destroying those trees is part of a DCR "restoration" of Memorial Drive to a previous plan that had been superseded by intervening history. In its ongoing drive for projects, the DCR planted additional shade trees, crabapples, and cherries during the intervening 100 or so years.

Now, to keep the old pork barrel rolling, it is cutting them down and planting some new ones. Talk about waste and mismanagement: the plan I saw included cutting down healthy zelkovas the public paid the DCR to plant maybe 20-25 years ago. I'll try to take a look, to compare what's happened so far with the plans for the "restoration."

I'm curious to know where DCR got the money for this work. The agency wanted to use 2009 Obama stimulus money for it, and lied to the public and the Patrick administration about why all those trees needed to go. Public objections seem to reached Gov. Patrick, and the Obama money went to some other DCR project in western MA.

Not to be deterred, the DCR seems to have bided its time and used other funds to help out its planning department and little contractor friends.

This is all ostensibly for the purity of design and historical accuracy, mind you.

On that point, one reason the DCR is so vague about trees in the original plans for the Anderson Bridge is that they may have included Norway maples. Those are the trees I mentioned before as favored by the Charles River parkland's original designers and now on the Verboten list. Consistency is not the DCR's strong point, but we may have to grant it to them here. We will have no cherry trees or Norway maples on the Charles, if the DCR has its way.

2. Cher.

Those trees by the way were not diseased, and provided much needed shade for the hot top imo. The beauty they provided is just so blatantly obvious to all. This is for lack of a better term, again almost sacrilegious, a crime against nature and humanity. I bet if we polled people you would not find one of the area or even passers-by in cars, that would wanted to have that done. I see more deeply into the wise words of you and Marilyn all the time. c


By Archie Mazmanian

In the mid-1970s, ventures to the Charles River with our four (4) infant/toddler children were by auto to Magazine Beach in Cambridge, a hop, skip and a jump from our home in Brookline’s Cottage Farm neighborhood, via the BU Bridge. Convenient parking was provided. It was sort of like the picnics my family used to go to at Spy Pond in Arlington, or Camp Ararat in Maynard in the 1930s/40s, except that Magazine Beach was so close to home we did not have to pack food. Magazine Beach was much friendlier and comfortable back then than it is today. (Its deterioration in recent years has been well documented at this Blog). There might be a softball game; or tag; or climbing trees; or investigating the shoreline. A few hours of the open space and the water view, including boaters and aquatic birds, was very comforting. And it was so close to home.

In a few years as the children got older, trips to the Charles would be on foot through BU’s campus at the Marsh Chapel via the footbridge over Storrow Drive. (I was wary of the long staircase off the easterly side of the BU Bridge not only for the safety of my children but myself.) The children would spend a few minutes on the footbridge watching the heavy and noisy traffic below. But once we got to the Charles, there was all that open space, with plenty of running room, and quiet. Fortunately the children’s short legs made it easy watching over them. At this point, the expanse of the Charles is quite wide. And there were many sailboats, some from BU’s sailing pavilion adjacent to the BU Bridge, gliding smoothly with the breezes.

It was at this time that I paid attention to the railroad trestle under the BU Bridge that years later I learned was part of the Grand Junction Rail Line (GJRL). I never saw a train crossing the trestle. I had no knowledge of its purpose. But it served as a passage limitation with respect to large boats on either side as the trestle is not a drawbridge. (Years later with the proposal of the Urban Ring project that might utilize the GJRL trestle, I became very active in challenging the BU Bridge area as the Charles River crossing for Phase 2 of the project that led me to the Charles River White Geese Blog, including contributions of commentary on the plight of the Geese and the Urban Ring.)

I pointed out to my children that there was a bridge under the BU Bridge, which seemed funny, at least to me. But the children were more focused on exploring the shoreline, watching the ducks and other seabirds. Sometimes we would see ducklings trailing their parents. We were fascinated by the seabirds serenely floating on the River and suddenly disappearing below the surface, and then bobbing up some distance away after apparently feeding on fish. We started timing the dives and guessing where the seabird might surface. We were enjoying nature so close to our home.

We weren’t alone. There were joggers, skaters and bikers who remained on the paved paths. Some were picnicking. And some were doing exercises or yoga. All were enjoying this expanse of open space and water, ignoring the speeding traffic on Strorrow Drive. I enjoyed the view to the Cambridge side of the Charles, noting architecture that I overlooked while driving on Memorial Drive. The Hyatt Hotel I imagined as a pyramid along the Nile as in the song “You Belong to Me” made popular by Jo Stafford. I saw all of this through the eyes of my young children, with their innocence. But for them, I might not have been there, or even if I were, I would not have taken the time to fully enjoy the Charles. It was all so close to home, so quiet and peaceful. Usually we made it to the Harvard Bridge, where we watched the golden carp near the Muddy River dam, and then headed back home, sometimes to Brigham’s on lower Beacon Street in Brookline for ice cream or a cold drink.

As the children got a little older and their legs longer, we would extend our discoveries of the Charles beyond the Harvard Bridge along the Boston shoreline or crossing over to the Cambridge side, viewing the Boston skyline, and returning home via the BU Bridge. (Part V will reveal our discoveries of Oliver Smoot and the Charles River White Geese.)


Prior reports:

Part III, 2/19/11: http://charlesriverwhitegeeseblog.blogspot.com/2011/02/charles-river-memories-part-iii.html

Part II, 2/5/11: http://charlesriverwhitegeeseblog.blogspot.com/2011_02_05_archive.html

Part I, 1/29/11: http://charlesriverwhitegeeseblog.blogspot.com/2011_01_29_archive.html

Urban Ring Citizens’ Advisory Committee Meeting, March 3, 2011, part 1.

1. Introduction.

I passed a short notice on this meeting on facebook, passed to me by Archie, who could not make it.

The meeting was in the Boston Redevelopment Authority board room on the ninth floor of Boston City Hall, a striking change from the conference rooms on the main floor of the State Transportation Building on the far side of Boston Common from Boston City Hall.

Marilyn attended. The following are the first segments of her notes:

UR2 refers to Urban Ring “Phase 2,” the silly buses rather than the full scale Orange Line subway needed in the core part of the Boston region to connect the Orange Line north, Green Line north, Red Line, commuter rail west, Green Line west and Orange Line south, with a key stop at the Longwood Medical Area.

2. Marilyn’s report.

I was able to attend and took lots of notes but as you may know the acoustics are not good in that room. Please take this report with that in mind.

Very few people attended. The Chair remarked that the change of time and venue may have cut down on attendance. He started the meeting around 20 past 3.

I have an extra copy of the DOT UR Planning Progress Report dated February 28,2011. It indicates deadlines and tasks for UR2 advocates.

UR2 has not been included in the Regional Transportation Plan, hence is not eligible for federal transportation funds. There will be a Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) vote on a new RTP in June, 2011.

The MPO draft Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) is available for public review at www.ctps.org/bostonmpo/index.html. The workshops for it were held in Feb. The Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) is the implementing arm of the LRTP and is financially constrained. That is, funding needs to be identified for a project to make it to the TIP.

Upcoming work in the Progress Report matrix is for Central Transportation Planning Staff and Transportation Planning and Programming Committee (TPPC) to develop a universe of projects for radial and circumferential corridors by the winter of 2011; for TPPC to vote on [LRTP?] recommended projects in May; public comment on that to end ca. 30 June; MPO final vote to be in August 2011.

Notable for us are the Northern Tier entries for the CSX ROW acquisition that as we know includes the Grand Junction between Beacon Park Terminal in Allston and Chelsea.

The first closing to include that was last June. DOT has begun a "study to evaluate transit service opportunities on right of way" that will "continue through Spring and Summer2011"; and it "has conducted preliminary outreach targeted at key stakeholders in Cambridge and Somerville" that will continue through the end of the study.

[I was alarmed to learn after the meeting from Wig Zamore that light rail trolleys can run on the same gauge tracks as heavy rail, i.e., both commuter and Orange Line trains. (If I ever knew that I dismissed it because I believe federal safety regulations prohibit the use of Green or even Orange line cars on the same tracks as truly heavy, i.e., commuter rail. But of course if freight on the Grand Junction goes away, so would that problem.)

[BU rep responded to Zamore that Harvard wants DMUs, not Green Line, on the Grand Junction. It occurred to me later that Green Line would need electrification along the route, and as we know electro-magnetic emissions and presumably moving metal from any of the above would affect MIT's instruments (and LMA's in the Southern Tier).

CTPS pointed out that advocates may work to get UR2 included in the TIP as an Illustrative, i.e., unfinanced, Project. The BU rep kept asking what the financial plan for it is, and kept getting the answer that there isn't any. He asked where such a plan would come from; answer is from MA DOT for the whole thing, but for individual segments? At this point Chair Tom Malley said they needed a price tag for each.

In the past segments could be entered into the TIP if they stood alone and were financed as such.

Richard Garver said individual segments may or may not trip thresholds for listing in the TIP (increase capacity or >$10M). The important thing is not to lose capacity, to take a strategic approach. If in the past ones that could stand alone got built, that may be too ambitious in hard times.

There was some discussion of a different way to rank TIP projects so UR2 could make it back into the list: qualitative, sustainability, emissions reductions? They discussed needs assessment in each corridor.

As for UR2 segments, CTPS said that Massport will design,construct, and maintain a grade-separated haul road between Logan Airport and the Chelsea Street Bridge. UR2's LPA would use this roadway. EOEA Secretary issued a MEPA Certificate for the haul road 1 December 2011 requiring no EIR. Construction is to start this spring and go 14-18 months.

Whether this is the same haul road that CTPS is studying a Silver Line extension I don't know without further checking, but it looks like it: "CTPS is conducting a study [begun in May 2010] to evaluate transit improvements in the Logan Airport/Chelsea area that would make use of the proposed East Boston Haul Road." [Silver Line, UR2, which is which in this case and does it matter? This is like the Mass Pike U-turn and the Cambridgeport Roads Project, both elements of UR2 done outside any comprehensive review.]

The draft report on the Silver Line extension shows "various options would increase system-wide linked trips between 240 and 620 per day in 2010." I don't know how that compares to data for this segment in the various phases of UR in the MIS. The Silver Line report is to have been finished last month.

Chelsea Street Bridge is underway, to be finished January 2012. Boston Transportation Department is "overseeing the redesign of Sullivan Square"; "[w]orking through the MPO TIP process to identify funding for 25% design."

At Assembly Square the project is in final design. MBTA Board has an MOA with Federal Realty, the developer, to work with the same, MA, and the FTA to get funding. MBTA wants to put out an RFP for construction this year. Opening would be spring 2015. [This week the Cambridge Chronicle reported agreement to move the Lechmere station east of the highway and that PanAm railway will help pay for it.]

Southern Tier:

Charles River crossing/Cwlth Ave. bridge/Turnpike viaduct: "Major infrastructure projects in the . . . basin will create construction-related congestion which would negatively impact transit service."
Accelerated Bridge Program has created a . . . Basin Traffic Management Group which meets bi-weekly. . . . focused on maintaining traffic flow . . . and includes [cities and the MBTA].
MBTA has "explored" increased Green Line and No. 47 bus service but funding not available for that. "ABP/CTPS analysis of these measures showed modest results."
MBTA doesn't see re-routing BU Bridge bus routes would improve service.

Mountfort Street: Boston and MA DOT are working to reconfigure "Mountfort St., Carlton St, Comm. Ave., BU Bridge intersection" prompted by "Comm Ave reconstruction over the MassPike and Comm Ave Phase 2 Streetscape Plan."

"Stakeholder conversations beginning on conceptual designs. Working cooperatively with MassDOT to preserve the UR ROW." "Full public review will follow review by key stakeholders."

Parcel 7/Yawkey: design for Parcel 7 ongoing, including reconfiguration of local roads and improvement of Yawkey station, for which design/build groundbreaking was in Nov. 2010. "Project to include full length platforms that are fully accessible with elevators/access to Brookline Ave and Beacon Street." Work for UR2 advocates is "preservation of surface routing alignments for future Urban Ring and related bus service." Also, "Rosenthal is permitting the first phase of overbuild (building deck and office). Goal is to start construction Spring 2011."

LMA tunnel. DOT is standing by the tunnel technical memo that was part of the RDEIR despite "concerns" about a tunnel here. MASCO is conducting "[a]dditional evaluation of alternative tunnel routing" and Boston is also involved but apparently not paying.
Ruggles: MBTA's 2011-2015 Capital Improvement Plan included up to $2.5M for completed assessment of the additional Ruggles platform and that CIP has been approved. The draft 2012-2016 CIP includes $2.5M for same. Preliminary engineering to begin this spring.

Melnea Cass: Boston Trans. Dept. designing bus priority lanes and a segment of the South Bay Harbor Tunnel; selecting a contractor. The design "calls for a busway element as outlined" in UR2 RDEIR. Value of RFP to bring project to 100% design is $600K. $6M federal earmark for construction.

I'll stop for now. Section on Grand Junction discussion to follow.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Response to Marilyn’s Letter to the State on the Anderson Bridge.

1. Marilyn’s report.
2. Cher.
3. Your Editor.
4. Marilyn.
5. Cher responds to Marilyn.
6. Editor.

1. Marilyn’s report.

Yesterday, I published Marilyn’s letter to the state environmental people concerning the Anderson Bridge work.

The Anderson Bridge is the third highway bridge (plus one pedestrian bridge) over the Charles River west of the BU Bridge. Its problems are all part of a package of destructiveness and incompetence shared by the state, the City of Cambridge, and their never identified agents.

The letter may be found at: http://charlesriverwhitegeeseblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/anderson-bridge-project-comments-to.html.

Please note that Cher has responded to Marilyn. Posted at the bottom.

2. Cher.

Sticking my nose in after reading this. Why did theyy remove all the old trees from the grassland barrier? I just don't get the things these people do? These were marvelolus old trees thata everyone looked forward to passing by. Have you seen it?


3. Your Editor.

In their mentality, the old trees have no value.

Nobody has been paid to plant them in years.

Value is what is paid to the contractor in the mind of these incompetents.

4. Marilyn.

Sorry I'm not familiar with the trees Cher is talking about. Not that that would keep me from opining:

I can only say they might have been mature trees of species the DCR or any developer can pay its contractors big bucks to cut down, chip, and cart away, and then say they're replacing 2-for-1 with today's fashionable trees. The mature trees' problems are usually that they were someone else's fashion.

For example, Norway maples, Acer platanoides, was a favorite tree of Olmsted and his disciples. They're good urban trees that survive pollution and compacted soils, are hardy in cold climates, and make fine, architectural "statements." One of their survival strategies for success in such environments is to disperse lots of seeds.

If, as has been the case, MDC/DCR maintenance has not been good and kept the lawns around them mowed, these seeds become saplings, become big trees, and make more seeds. Read: "invasive." DCR solution is to cut the big ones down regardless of their demonstrable virtues over the last hundred years, public outcry, or the cost of all this.

In all my time observing the MDC/DCR the agency has mobilized support of well-meaning people who love our public parklands by

a. claiming it's chronically underfunded, hence can't be a proper steward, hence the dismal state of maintenance of its assets;

b. declaring various widespread plants are "non-native" and/or "invasive" and should be removed to make way for new plants from its contractors' stocks (e.g., see above at Norway maples);

c. hijacking the energy of the attentive public--people who care--to divert them from the agency's failures and set them to whacking and ripping out, for free, the "non-natives" and "invasives" too small for the paid contractors to bother with. An example would be the false indigo along the Charles River's edge--a "native" plant, incidentally, introduced into cultivation in 1724 for its ability to hold riverbanks against erosion. (Its very success at that job makes it undesirable!)

As for DCR's budget problems, please note no government agency has all the funds it wants. That the MDC/DCR has lost responsibility for water resources to MWRA, police functions to the State Troopers, and roads and bridges to Mass Highways/DOT is the mark of a failing bureaucracy.

In this decline, the remaining urban parks division holds ever more closely to self-perpetuation. Rather than focus on maintenance of mature landscapes and historic structures, its core function (Plans) implicitly becomes the neglect of its assets and explicitly their "restoration" according to plans that keep these people at work.

The agency's public relations arm, the Charles River Conservancy, works to mobilize support for these "restorations."

As long as you ignore the actual consequences of this dynamic in the real world--destruction of those beautiful trees, for example--it's fascinating. For those bothered by the waste of resources, the loss of beauty, and the number of passes the agency gets from top state authorities, it can look a lot like corruption.

5. Cher responds to Marilyn.

Thank so much Marilyn for your observations and expertise. You are very knowledgeable about all of these issues and I consider myself lucky to be learning from you all. I had the same general thoughts as did my Mom, the first time we saw these massive trees being cut down and in deed cut up and tossed into chippers! I saw tiny trees being replanted but don;t recall the species of either. Am I mistaken that there were oaks in that area? The area I refer to is the long strip along Memorial drive separating the roads on either side, one going towards Cambridge and one away from. (not good at directions).

I also recall when we saw the trees tagged, and we wondered why> We can't think of one good reason why these trees which beautifully lined in particular one side of Memorial drive closest to the Charles. I had once commented to a museum owner that I would like to photograph those trees on the other side if it were not for all the cars parked there. She advised that at 4 am the ara is usually vacant of cars. Anyway, these trees aer surely beloved by the people in the area. I just don’t understand why people don’t take a stand for what they love.

Apparently all you have enlightened me wit excuses by DCR et al, have been fed successfully to enough people. In general folks do not want to 'get involved" with matters of the government but I surely would think that this was opposed by many as the area is full of people of culture who imo have to respect nature and after. I realized there is a large population of students there, but would think that many of them would also opposed this as many of these students are involved with issues in the community etc. Arrgh. Its so frustrating. I am not from the area but as you probably know, I am by there and frequent there all the time so I take interest in it. It is historic, and these trees were historic., I don’t think any of us will ever live to see the day when one of the twigs they have planted, grows to be as large or magnificent or as strong and vital as the ones they cut down.
Thanks so much for your very valuable input. I'm one of those people who feel very sad when I see trees cut down, especially trees such as these.


6. Editor.

The situation in Cambridge simply cannot be imagined by normal people, including a lot of people who live in Cambridge and who are victims of the ongoing con games.

A very bad city council stays in office by lying about itself, directly or through a very large combination of political organizations.

The lies are very sophisticated:

Do not look at my destruction of the Charles River. Do not look at my heartless animal abuse. Do not look at the ongoing destruction of Fresh Pond. Do not look at the imminent destruction of Alewife. Do not look at all the trees needlessly destroyed by Cambridge and its friends.

Look at my fancy light bulbs, and when you look at them, do not look at the fact that they amount to billions of containers of mercury being spattered around the world.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Anderson Bridge project, Comments to Environment People

Marilyn Wellons has submitted comments on the Anderson Bridge project to MEPA. Her comments include deficiencies in the BU Bridge project as well.

Her comments follow:

March 4, 2011

Secretary Richard K. Sullivan, Jr.
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Attn: MEPA Office
Deirdre Buckley, EEA No. 14702

Dear Secretary Sullivan:

Please note that the stormwater system for this project is still to be determined. The ENF proposes a retrofit of the existing outfall between the Anderson Bridge and the Weld boathouse in Cambridge. Other outfalls along the Charles are so degraded, however, that such a plan may not prove practicable. The plan is contingent on a “practicability” yet to be determined. It seems unwise to proceed without fuller review of what amounts to a blank check here.

At the BU Bridge, the stormwater system chosen by DCR and adopted by EOT/DOT expanded the footprint of the bridge, contrary to ABP controls. It permanently destroys riverfront public parkland. The new Chapter 91 license necessary for the expanded footprint prevented the Cambridge Conservation Commission from requiring an alternative to the hydrodynamic separator and headwall. There is nothing in the ENF before you that would prevent a similar outcome in this instance.

Please also note that the proposed strip along the spandrel walls designed to prevent trees from growing there may expand the bridge’s footprint and require a new Chapter 91 license.

The planned removal of trees and the “restoration” of the landscape is said to be consistent with the DCR’s Master Plan, whose factual errors about species and habitat inform the ENF’s errors. Here, where many beautiful mature trees must fall for legitimate reasons, the plan resorts to doublespeak grounded in the Master Plan, to assert the hawthorns’ threats to “public safety” or the cherries’ Asian provenence as reasons to remove them. These overwhelmingly gratuitous removals reflect current fashion and not—as the ENF itself admits—historical accuracy. The “positive vistas from the travelway” cited to justify the removals will be traffic on the two riverfront highways, not of these beautiful established elements of the historic landscape.

We are led to believe that reducing motor vehicle lanes on the bridge to allow for bike paths will not add to congestion or degrade air quality. Absent supporting documentation, that seems unlikely.

You are charged with responsibility for thorough environmental review of this project. For these reasons above I urge you to require an Environmental Impact Study.

Yours sincerely,

Marilyn Wellons

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Further thoughts on the MassDOT Presentation in Cambridgeport

Marilyn Wellons passes on the following additional thoughts about last week’s MassDOT presentation to the Cambridgeport gathering. They were prepared to brief a third party:


A young man from DOT who's nominally in charge of studying the proposed commuter rail service passed around big satellite views of the Grand Junction line. One was from the Beacon Yards in Allston and showed the bridge over the Charles. Another showed the northern portion of the line, to North Point.

He gave the history of the state's acquisition of the right-of-way. There have been 7-8 community meetings in Cambridge and Somerville. A ridership study is underway.

He said nothing was set, everything was being looked at. He couldn't confirm a total of 20 trains daily as had been reported. Nothing is settled.

A more senior DOT official was there. He's been the DOT point man for the Urban Ring, state rail, and state freight studies.

There was general concern about noise, congestion at the level crossings, possible pedestrian deaths, questions whether there would be a stop in Cambridge; whether there could be a parallel bike route along the line of rail. All are being studied, but on the last point DOT said such a route would require a large buffer between trains and bikes. Since this goes through dense neighborhoods that would seem to be very difficult.

On a possible stop in Cambridge, although they said everything was being studied, I've learned that establishing such a stop would likely trigger an environmental review, which DOT doesn't seem to want. No such review seems required now, at least for Cambridge. Mind you, DOT didn't make this point although it would have been possible to say so when people asked if there would be an environmental review.

This would reinforce the point that the entire project, from Worcester to North and/or South Stations, is, so far, segmented so as to avoid full environmental review.

Questions were whether there was space at North Station for the trains from Worcester as commuter trains now idle outside North Station because they can't all fit. DOT said they're holding to plans to tear down the post office at South Station for a South Coast rail expansion.

State Representative Marty Walz was there and asked if their study included anticipated peak use of commuter rail to the Garden for Celtics or Bruins games and the ca. 80 concerts a year there. The answer was no, but the study can look more deeply into that.

Preliminary results will be out in the late spring. MA DOT will then decide what to do.