Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Environmental Secretary: Harvard Business School expansion on Charles allowed without review

This week’s Environmental Monitor provides a notice (http://www.env.state.ma.us/mepa/mepacerts/2011/sc/ad/harvardao.pdf) that Harvard can build in the last open space facing the Charles in the Harvard Business School for “Tata Hall.” No environmental review will be required.

This construction would create pretty much a continuous row of buildings facing the Charles River on the south side (Boston / Allston) between the Anderson Bridge and the Western Avenue Bridge, filling in what has been a nice lawn.

Clarification of candidate’s night question concerning Cambridge City Manager

I have just read the Cambridge Chronicle’s on line report, at http://www.wickedlocal.com/cambridge/news/x488549132/Cambridge-city-manager-becomes-an-issue-at-candidate-debate#axzz1XC8mzarb concerning the candidates night last Wednesday, August 31, 2011. I have commented on the Cambridge Day report of this event at http://charlesriverwhitegeeseblog.blogspot.com/2011/09/cambridge-day-city-manager-is-key-issue.html.

There is a key difference in the approach of the two reports from my perspective. Cambridge Day’s report was marked preliminary, and Cambridge Day does a very good job getting things out fast. The difference between the reports can come from editing for space, and really most people would not be reading the report with the legal eye I am applying to it. You simply cannot expect legal perfection in a news report.

The Cambridge Chronicle’s report did provide the exact wording of the question being answered: “Lesley Phillips, chair of the Ward 6 Committee, . . said Healy’s performance, compensation and tenure has recently become a subject of attention. She asked the candidates, if they were to be elected, what would be their position on any potential extension of Healy’s contract.”

So the failure to talk to whether or not Healy should be fired for malfeasance in office was really not in front of the candidates.

I would very strongly suggest, however, a responsible candidate talking on this subject really should note that Healy’s malfeasance in office AS DETERMINED BY COURT WITH APPEAL makes him ripe for firing under very severe conditions. But then again, this is Cambridge, MA, USA. Reality is commonly irrelevant in political discussions.

Longwood Medical Area / Windsor School Environmental Certificate Impacts Charles River by protecting Urban Ring Planning.

1. Introduction.
2. The Urban Ring.
A. General.
B. Urban Ring — Orange Line.
C. Urban Ring — Street Cars.
D. Urban Ring — Silly Bus Proposal.
E. Impact of the ENF.
3. Grand Junction.
4. Urban Ring is not dead.

1. Introduction.

The situation on the Charles River is a massive nightmare. There is so much going on, and much of it has value, and can be done responsibly.

The problem is that the destructive people keep warping good things into bad.

On August 5, the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs issued a certificate saying that expansion by The Winsor School does not require the submission of an Environmental Impact Report. The decision is posted at http://www.env.state.ma.us/mepa/mepacerts/2011/sc/enf/14720eenf.pdf.

Windsor School does not directly impact the Charles, BUT the secretary includes allowances, at pages 8 and 9, for the Urban Ring.

The comment indicates that the Winsor School project will not interfere with Urban Ring tunnel plans.

2. The Urban Ring.

A. General.

This is the game, and a very nasty game, as usual, when destructive people get involved.

If you listen to City of Cambridge related people and organizations they influence, you would be given the impression that there is one and only one possible Urban Ring route.

The very major trouble is that, like too many things with City of Cambridge friends running around, that is a very false statement.

There are two possible Urban Ring alternatives. The one the City of Cambridge and friends are fighting for is inferior from a transportation and environmental point of view. It is quite destructive to the Charles River.

The responsible alternative has received state funding for a key part of the package, making the City of Cambridge’s “only one route” nonsense that much more irresponsible.

The Urban Ring is a subway line proposal that I have been working on since about 1985.

The responsible alternative I initially proposed in about 1986. It was formerly adopted as one of two alternatives in 1991 or so.

The basic concept is an alternate subway line to get people off the central Boston subway. It would connect from Roxbury / the Orange Line through the Longwood Medical Area through the area in dispute to Cambridge Kendall station / the Red Line to Cambridge Lechmere station / the Green Line and then to Boston Charlestown / the Orange Line.

The proposal was initiated as Heavy Rail subway / Orange Line. The problem area is between an agreed upon stop at MIT / Mass. Ave. / the Grand Junction Railroad crossing on one end, and the Longwood Medical Area at the other end.

B. Urban Ring — Orange Line.

The responsible Orange Line proposal would run under the MIT playing fields and the Charles River to a new station next to Kenmore Square, and then to the Longwood Medical Area at Louis Pasteur and Longwood.

That new station next to Kenmore is key.

It would be located under Brookline Avenue over the Massachusetts Turnpike, a few hundred at most from Fenway Park. On one end, it would provide an underground connection to the Green Line station at Kenmore Station with its three branches to Brookline and Brighton on one side and its connection to downtown / Back Bay on the other. The Urban Ring Station would connect in the other direction to Framingham / Worcester commuters and Yawkey Station.

The physical arrangement would provide ideal covered connections for rail commuters to the Urban Ring and the Green Line, plus provide excellent connection to Fenway Park.

The legislature has subsidized this arrangement with about $10 million to upgrade Yawkey Station.

An initial phase could connect downtown Orange Line trains to Longwood Medical Area and Kenmore Station by a spur ending at this new station, giving excellent service to the Longwood Medical Area, one of the big reasons for the route and one of the most important centers of employment and services in the state.

C. Urban Ring — Street Cars.

Cambridge and its friends are pushing the original alignment, lying that this is the only proposal on the table.

Their streetcar proposal would continue along the Grand Junction railroad rather than going under the playing fields. It would devastate the banks of the Charles and the habitat of the Charles River White Geese.

Instead of one station, it would have two, one at Mountfort and St. Mary’s, and one under Park Drive between Beacon Street and Longwood Station.

The proposal would move Yawkey Station away from Fenway Park and Kenmore Station so that it abuts the station in the Mountfort / St. Mary’s area.

This moving of Yawkey Station has rather clearly been forgone by the state funding of upgrades in the current location of Yawkey Station.

Mountfort / St. Mary’s is a block from and within sight of Boston University’s Marsh Chapel, the center of the BU campus.

Commuter rail passengers, rather than having covered connections to all Brookline / Brighton Green Line Branches and to the Urban Ring would have to transfer at one of the two stations.

Mountfort / St. Mary’s would connect to ONE Green Line Branch at the BU Central stop by means of a tunnel under St. Mary’s street which would drop them on the south sidewalk of Commonwealth Avenue and they would walk through all kind of traffic and weather to one of the branches.

The Park Drive station would provide connection to the Riverside Green Line branch in one direction and the Beacon Street Green Line branch in the other direction by a yet another new station under Beacon Street.

So the Cambridge proposal would provide inferior transportation to the Orange Line proposal for people wanting an alternative to going downtown, streetcars v. full scale heavy rail subway, and it would be inferior for commuter rail going into Boston, and it would be far worse for Fenway Park connection, and the $10 million upgrade to Yawkey is very close to a death knell.

D. Urban Ring — Silly Bus Proposal.

The bureaucracy is pushing buses as an interim phase of the Urban Ring.

The trouble is that while buses can make excellent sense in outer locations, they are very much silly in the area of the Charles.

What makes sense in the area of the Charles is the Orange Line proposal.

The Longwood Medical Area people have put into the Urban Ring bus proposal an underground bus tunnel. It would be way underground in parts. At one end it would ALMOST go to Ruggles Station. In the middle, it would provide the station at Louis Pasteur and Longwood. At the other end, the exact route gets vague. It ends almost at Yawkey Station, and the bus proposals run around it.

This proposal is silly for buses, but makes excellent sense connected to Ruggles at one end and to the Urban Ring station between Yawkey and Kenmore at the other end, with direct downtown connection and Orange Line trains.

E. Impact of the ENF.

The Expended ENF Certificate is based on assurances from Winsor School that their project will not impact the bus tunnel which makes excellent sense as the Urban Ring Phase 1 connecting downtown to Longwood Medical Area and Kenmore.

3. Grand Junction.

I have spent a lot of time discussing Cambridge’s maneuvers on the Grand Junction.

If Cambridge can move ALL the Worcester / Framingham commuters to the Grand Junction, they will render Yawkey Station and its $10 million upgrade meaningless because none of the commuters would be going through there. And that would help their silly and environmentally destructive streetcar proposal. One step at a time, first they move a few, then they move the rest.

4. Urban Ring is not dead.

The Secretary very clearly left that tunnel in play in the Winsor School planning.