Friday, July 12, 2013

MassDOT Meeting on Longfellow / Kendall, Charles River, Cambridge, MA, USA

1. Mishka’s report on the Cambridge “meeting”.
2. Contacts, Miscellaneous.

1. Mishka’s report on the Cambridge “meeting”.

Mishka reports on the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) meeting held the evening of July 10, 2013 while I was returning from central / western New Hampshire.

Photos before destruction and Tuesday after the first of the destruction.


Part I. General context.

The meeting was predominantly about construction plans and about traffic mitigation.

The most horrifying aspect of this is that the whole project is a rushed job, whether the construction is starting before the design is completed. They called it something like "design-as-you-go" principle, or something similar.

This further increases the already high potential for schedule delays and cost overruns. I am afraid we are buying ourselves another Big Dig.

There were a lot of people representing themselves and representing all kinds of organizations (affected hotels, affected hospitals, private bus shuttle companies), and they all were quite active during the comments and questions period.

Bicycle riders and their organizations were very prominent and active, they asked first questions, and all together they asked a lot of questions. Despite that the answers they were getting from the project were not too encouraging.

I think only one comment (besides mine) was at all related to environmental concerns. Someone suggested real-time monitoring of certain pollutants which might increase due to the extra traffic congestion, the reason for monitoring being that those pollutants would cause increase of cardio
emergencies in bikers and runners.

Interestingly enough, there are traffic monitoring cameras in Boston, but not in Cambridge (Cambridge does not allow them because of the privacy concerns, and does not have
the infrastructure for them).

Part II. Trees they want to kill.

A bit more of context. There was a stenographer, there should be a record. They were also giving out forms for the old-fashioned form of comments which can be mailed, I have a blank form like that
(and it can be copied).

They did show the graphics of those underground retention tanks for the water overflow from the bridge -- those tanks look like they are quite huge.

I spoke at the end, I think only one person spoke after me. I spoke only for myself, and I was not feeling too comfortable even about that, given that all those people in that room seemed to have completely different interests (mainly how this project is going to disrupt their daily lives).


So, what I said consisted of two parts.

I complained that there was lack of transparency and not enough information shared with the public, certainly not enough for the people to be able to judge whether the tree removal is really

In particular, I noted that we were not informed whether the option of directing the overflow into the existing sewage system was considered at all, and if it was considered and rejected we were
not informed about the reasons for that.

In response they claimed that, in particular, the current modern law is that you cannot do a new construction redirecting the storm overflow into sewers.

I have no idea, whether this claim they made is correct or not. If we manage to squeeze a hearing out of these people, we would need to do our homework on this.

[Ed: more bad faith. They are giving an irresponsibly misleading argument concerning the requirement to provide separate sewers, for human waste and for street runoff. This should go into the street runoff sewers. Irresponsible argument.]


The second part of what I said was that these trees line a public way, which people (including myself) use daily to go from home to work, and what not, and that we normally would expect a Chapter 87 hearing to be held in such a situation. I said that we requested such a hearing and that the lawyers for the project claimed that there is a loophole allowing them not hold such a hearing, because the trees are on a DCR land.

I said that this is unfortunate that they did it, and this is unfortunate for a number of reasons. While they might have some court precedents to rely upon, the law is specifically written
to discourage such evasions. Section 1 of Chapter 87 specifically directs to consider a tree to be a public shade tree, if there is any doubt whether it is or it is not. Section 3 of Chapter 87 specifically states that even the owner of the land on which the tree is situated cannot cut it without Chapter 87 Section 3 if the tree is functionally a public shade tree (that is, lines a public way). I did spell this out for them.

I said that another reason why this is unfortunate is that they are missing a chance to actually be transparent about this and share the details with interested public. I noted (and they agreed) that a traffic meeting like this one would not be an appropriate venue.

Therefore, I urged them again to call a hearing on those tree, and to post a notice of such hearing on the affected trees, regardless of whether they are ready to concede that these are public shade trees, and regardless of whether they are ready to call it a Chapter 87 hearing.

Their answer (people from the contractors doing the project were leading the meeting, although state people like Stephanie Boundy were there) was that they work with this and that environmental
and conservation agencies from the state and from Boston and Cambridge, and they essentially rely on the advice from those agencies on which meetings and hearings to hold.

[Ed: they claim to be responsible because they are following advice from people who are not fit to manage environment responsibilities. Prior MassDOT initiatives have ignored these folks because they are so irresponsible — Grand Junction and the destructive bike highway. One of the very shocking things about this package is the abandonment of principles by MassDOT. One of the “environmental organizations” fighting for the outrages MassDOT has previously rejected has cooed to see the destruction start here.]

So they tried to redirect responsibility to state and city environmental and conservation agencies (I don't remember all the names they dropped) for not holding this meeting.

I said that I understand, but at the very least I'd like my repeated request to nevertheless have this hearing on the trees to be formally recorded here.

2. Contacts, Miscellaneous.

Massachusetts Governor’s Office email form:

State environmental people, DES Hotline:

MassDOT Accelerated Bridges Program: 857-368-8904 or

All Massachusetts Legislators’ emails:

Cambridge, MA, USA city councilors:

Plus the links provided in the above email.


For people listening to Boston Sierra Club endorsements of environmentally destructive members of the Cambridge City Council, you should be aware that

(1) using the world’s definition of “environmentalism,” there are no environmentally responsible members of the Cambridge City Council, and

(2) there are Cambridge Machine activists very visible and apparently very active in the Boston Sierra Club.

If you are talking to a person associated with the Boston Sierra Club, do a credibility check. Ask if they are familiar with the “Urban Ring” rapid transit proposal. This is a subway proposal designed to link the existing subway spokes. I have been working on it since 1985. Cambridge raised the project in a comment to an environmental Impact Statement in the last month or so.

If the Boston Sierra Club “expert” answers “yes,” that he / she is familiar with the Urban Ring rapid transit proposal, ask how many rail options there are. If the answer is “one,” you are getting the flat out lie put out by the City of Cambridge.

Cambridge’s flat out lie is that, of the TWO rail options, the only one that exists is the environmentally destructive streetcar option which the City of Cambridge supports. This option would be highly destructive to the environment near the Destroyed Nesting Area of the Charles River White Geese.

The reality is that THE STATE LEGISLATURE HAS SUBSIDIZED THE OTHER OPTION, the responsible Orange Line / heavy rail option, the Kenmore crossing. The state legislature has subsidized the expansion of Yawkey Station as part of the massive Fenway Park area project which has gotten recent press.

Cambridge’s nonsensical proposal would move Yawkey Station three blocks. The Cambridge proposal would not work without moving Yawkey Station. The Kenmore Crossing uses the now subsidized and being expanded Yawkey Station as part of a brilliant megastation.

You should immediately respond to such nonsense from a Sierra Club “expert” by having nothing more to do with this person. Whether the person is stupid or venal is irrelevant, the person has no credibility and is not worthy of your time.

It is frequently difficult to pin these irresponsible people down in general. The deviant behavior in my test is extreme. They are pious in their demands that, if you are politically correct and pro environment, you have to rubber stamp them. Please do not waste your time arguing about destruction they can wiggle around.

Turn your back on them and walk away fast.