Friday, April 18, 2014

To MassDOT: Harvard is trying to kill streetcar access to its new Medical School location in favor of a much more expensive Red Line spur?

1. Introductory.
2. Different target for Harvard University and its friends: kill Green Line spur?
3. Letter to Mass. DOT.

1. Introductory.

The report is the second in a series concerning a meeting conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation on April 10, 2014. That meeting concerned anticipated changes in the Massachusetts Turnpike (I90) near the Charles River.

MassDOT’s representatives anticipate tearing down an elevated portion of the Massachusetts Turnpike running near the Charles River in the Allston neighborhood of Boston, MA, across from the Magazine Beach playing fields.

The first report in this series focused on a member of the Cambridge Machine pulling the usual sort of con game, scoundrel praising scoundrels. The praising individual has a readily demonstrable bad record. That report is posted at

My recent prior reports, with photos, show the connection of Harvard’s off ramp to Cambridge to the Grand Junction Railway Bridge from the ground. The highway segments being photoed are almost all segments being considered for tearing down, and thus proving my point. You tear the highway down and it is very simple, given adequate room, to put in the off ramps.

The reports are at:, and

I spent considerable time preparing a detailed comment for MassDOT, but I got concerned about time factors, so, instead, I have written an abbreviated comment with details to come.

2. Different target for Harvard University and its friends: kill Green Line spur?

One big realization which came to me is that the off ramp over the Charles River may not be the most important purpose of Harvard and its friends. Harvard has proposed an extremely, horribly expensive deep bore Red Line Subway spur to service their relocated Harvard Medical School. There is a much less expensive and more responsible alternative, a street car Green Line Subway spur.

The game, however, is that the Green Line spur would have to be constructed in the exact area where MassDOT anticipates tearing down the Mass. Pike elevated highway. The MBTA study on connecting this area to Cambridge over the Charles River on the Grand Junction railroad bridge was very strong that the area is very confined for new construction.

It seems to me that, by going after an off ramp in this location, Harvard would be occupying room needed for construction of the relatively inexpensive Green Line spur, and thus Harvard would be forcing the state into a much more expensive deep bore Red Line project. Harvard would be giving the state no alternative to Gold plating, great for Harvard when somebody else is paying for it.

The deep bore Red Line spur being pushed by Harvard would be buried as deep underground as would be necessary for satisfactory construction. It would not be constricted by the geometries of this area.

3. Letter to Mass. DOT.

The following letter was mailed on April 18, 2014, about two hours before the preparation of this report


Patricia Leavenworth, P.E., Chief Engineer, MassDOT
10 Park Plaza
Boston, MA 02116
ATTN: Bridge Project Management, Project File No. 606475

RE: Mass. Pike (I90) Rearrangement in the area west of the BU Bridge, and the rail yards.
Public Meeting April 10, 2014


This will follow up on my comments and writings of April 10, 2014. To the extent that this conflicts with those comments and writings, I have done some very deep thinking and reevaluation.

These comments are, of necessity, presented in less detail that I am capable of doing. The problem is that the detailed analysis is getting very long and I need to get the basics to you.

I object to any rearrangement of the Mass. Pike in the area directly west of the BU Bridge, and I think that more rail yards should be constructed in the area north of the rail yards you have been discussing to support South Station to provide layover / service for Green Line streetcar service to the area.

Any and all connections from the Mass. Pike to the Grand Junction railroad bridge should be rejected for two reasons:

1. Such a route would be outrageous in its environmental destruction and heartless animal abuse.
2. Such a route would prevent use of the area west of the BU Bridge in a more functional manner at very great cost to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Additionally, any and all discussion of additional parkland on the Charles River should be rejected to the extent that such parkland moves the Mass. Pike to the south, for reason 2.

The key to reason 2 is transportation between:
1. Harvard’s Medical School, to be relocated in the current railroad yard / ramp area, and
2. Harvard’s associated hospitals in the Harvard / Longwood Medical Area.

Harvard has proposed a horribly expensive Red Line spur to be built by deep bore and requiring major reconstruction of Harvard Station. It would run from Harvard Station to the relocated Harvard Medical School to a supposed bus tunnel which would connect the Kenmore Station area to the Ruggles Station area with a stop at Louis Pasteur / Longwood.

The responsible and much less expensive alternative is a Green Line spur running off Green Line B from the middle of Commonwealth Avenue via crossovers inserted in the tracks to the west of the BU Bridge, built on air rights south of the Mass. Pike and going over / under the Mass. Pike where it turns, then proceeding underground to and under the roadway system Harvard anticipates building east of the former Charlesbank Housing, then south of Harvard Stadium followed by west of Harvard Stadium, then proceeding under the Charles River and connecting to Harvard Station by the train tunnel which continues to exist between Charles Square and the Kennedy School. An underground layover area should be created west of Harvard Stadium.

At the Harvard Station end such a facility would operate as stub end out of the layover area behind Harvard Stadium up the existing tunnel and directly and easily connecting to the Harvard Station busway from which it is separated by only a wall.

No major work in Harvard Station would be necessary.

At the Kenmore end, it should connect by walking through tunnels to a Urban Ring Subway phase 1 Orange Line spur out of Ruggles in accordance with the Urban Ring Subway Kenmore Crossing plans. This would allow direct subway service from downtown to the Harvard Medical Area at Louis Pasteur / Longwood with a temporary Urban Ring Subway terminus at Kenmore Station.

No major work in Kenmore Station for the new Green Line A would be necessary, as opposed to a major facility connecting Harvard’s Red Line spur.

This routing would be in accordance with the Kenmore Crossing alternative of the subway which was adopted as an alternative by the MBTA in 1991, after I proposed the Kenmore Crossing to the MBTA in 1986.

An expanded rail yard facility to handle route streetcars would be of great value, and possibly crucial, west / north of the South Station layover facility you propose, but the room needs to be allowed for in these plans.

My record:

I am a retired lawyer with two years administrative / managerial level railroad experience. I have written more of the Cambridge Zoning ordinance than any other person not employed by the City of Cambridge. I have worked on the Urban Ring since about 1985 and, before that, on the Red Line extension.

I am Chair of Friends of the White Geese, a nonprofit organization registered with the Attorney General’s Office since 2001. We are deeply concerned about the environment and the animals of the Charles River.

I have major victories over the administration of the City of Cambridge by vote of the Cambridge City Council using zoning as a technique for environmental protection. I have repeated victories in which I have forced responsible behavior on Harvard University as a result of votes by the Cambridge City Council and, on one key development issue, by the Cambridge Rent Control Board. At one point I obtained a preliminary injunction ON APPEAL against the City of Cambridge on a major environmental protection matter.

Most of if not all major victories defeated the organization which packed people into the meeting room.

Follow Up:

I will follow up with more exact details. I regret not being able to provide those details as rapidly as I would like, with satellite photo backup, and the MBTA Urban Ring plans in support. Please note, however, that I have posted many related analyses on my blog at

Key is that (1) there is not enough room west of the BU Bridge to both allow a Green Line route and an off ramp to the Grand Junction bridge (2) a street car layover yard should be added to the South Station layover yard, and (3) the environmental harm / animal abuse associated with highway use of the bridge must not be done. The DCR’s sick policy of killing off all resident animals it can get away with is an excellent example of the depravity of those with whom you are dealing. The ongoing deliberate starvation attack has repeatedly been described as doing “no harm” to the Charles River White Geese, as part of a pattern of lies and other corrupt tactics through which major damage is being inflicted on the river environment.

Thank you very much for your consideration.

I will follow up with responsible speed.

My past experience with MassDOT has been excellent. I consider MassDOT a breath of fresh air in comparison to the alternatives entities with which I have been faced, and [whom I (ed.)] frequently defeated over the past years.


Robert J. La Trémouille