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Unfortunately destroying those trees is part of a DCR "restoration" of Memorial Drive to a previous plan that had been superseded by intervening history.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:

Part II, 2/5/11:

Part I, 1/29/11:

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 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.