Monday, September 22, 2014

Mass. Pike over Charles River: MassDOT Stands up to Cambridge AGAIN

1. Introduction.
2. Cast of Characters.
3. The Key Environmental Issue.
a. Background.
b. The off ramp by a different name.
c Analysis.
4. Summary.

1. Introduction.

On Thursday evening, September 18, 2014 there was a presentation by MassDOT (Massachusetts Department of Transportation).  The key portion of the presentation concerned the rebuilding of the Massachusetts Turnpike (I90) south of and above the Charles River in Boston across from Cambridge, MA.  MassDOT seemed to kill Cambridge, MA’s fight for a bike highway over the Grand Junction railroad bridge which runs under the BU Bridge, both of which cross the Charles River.  A bike highway would be a precursor to a Mass. Pike (I90) off ramp to Cambridge for the benefit of Harvard University.

On their own front, the Cambridge City Council is moving on a law supposedly to defend Cambridge against animal abusers OTHER THAN THE CITY OF CAMBRIDGE.  This is the way Cambridge resolves its own vileness: yell at the other guy and keep the rotten situation in the City of Cambridge as secret as possible.  Thus they falsely proclaim themselves saints.

2. Cast of Characters.

The people fighting for damage to the Charles River are a very tiny minority.

They, however, are joiners.  And those joiners create many different “groups” and then rope well meaning folk into joining the great sounding “groups.”  Naturally, the “groups” are carefully controlled by the “founders” or by the people controlling the “founders.”  There is no real difference in the important policies of the varying interrelated “groups.” Supposed differences exist only in the supposed points of emphasis of each “group.” The differing supposed points of emphasis make each “group” attractive to particular people without changing the core shared interest among the various “groups.”  The “founders” do their best to obfuscate reality.

In the meetings on the Mass. Pike rearrangement, there has been one key person among various “groups.”  The groups were involved in discussions concerning the work being done on the Mass. Pike (I90) on the hill above the Charles River.

The key person purportedly was speaking as a member of a particular “group”.  That group had, and I believe still has, its office on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Another of the “group”s in the meetings regularly meets on the campus of MIT.  MIT is one of Cambridge’s biggest developers and is a major beneficiary of the various attacks on the Charles River.

The creator of this particular “group” this key person was speaking for received a promotion about a year after creating the group.  The creator was promoted to a full time staff member of the City of Cambridge’s Development Department.

Early on as a city staffer, this person created a city group.  He supposedly was seeking wide participation.  He asked that group for input as to development matters which could be improved in Cambridge transportation planning.

I attended what seemed tobe the first meeting.  I have long been concerned about a subway line being planned connecting three existing Boston subways.  There have been two alternative routes for the Subway concept since 1991.  In 1991, tthe state planners adopted a second route for this circumferential subway.  It was a route which I suggested five years earlier as a second possible route.

To the best of my knowledge, the Cambridge Development Department has, ever since, denied the existence of that alternate route.  It get worse because there is a key aspect which only exists in alternative added in 1991, and the state legislature has subsidized that aspect.  Thus the City of Cambridge’s preferred and, of course, destructive alternative has become highly unlikely to be adopted.

So I suggested to this staff member and creator of this guys “group” that he, the staff member of the Cambridge Development Department, arrange it so that the City of Cambridge stops putting out a position on these subway routes which is a blatant lie, a blatant lie shared by no responsible person working on the issue.

I was pulled off the mailing list for meetings of the group where I made the suggestion.

3. The Key Environmental Issue.

a. Background.

The Grand Junction railroad runs through the foodless habitat which has been forced on the Charles River White Geese as the only place they are allowed to live.  The Grand Junction proceeds over the Charles River from there.  It runs under a viaduct containing the Massachusetts Turnpike.  It then proceeds to the railroad yard which Harvard now owns and wishes to develop.

Here is a photo of the approach of the Grand Junction Bridge to the Massachusetts Turnpike on the Boston side of the river.

MassDOT is in the process of rebuilding the Massachusetts Turnpike in this area.  In the photo, you can see the most problematic part of the work.  This is the raised viaduct on which the Mass. Pike travels.

The key issue as far as the Charles River and Cambridge are concerned is how will the future connection tbetween the railroad yard and the Grand Junction bridge be achieved.  In the photo, the tracks are on the Grand Junction Bridge.  The reconstruction of the Mass. Pike will be in the vicinity of the Grand Junction bridge in the area where the tracks are going in the photo.

The discussions in the meetings of the MassDOT advisory group on the rebuilding ran as follows:

The frontsperson for the Cambridge Machine and his friends argued for a whole bunch of work between the Mass. Pike and the Charles River, including access routes to the Grand Junction railroad bridge.  The work they pushed would insert into the area their beloved bike highways.  That beloved bike highway would be of major harm to the animal habitat on the Cambridge side, and would later become Harvard’s Mass. Pike off ramp to Cambridge.

The one thing which is clear is that MassDOT has to leave at least enough room accessing the Grand Junction railroad bridge for one track for the Grand Junction railroad track.

The analysis came in the discussion of rearrangement of the Mass. Pike viaduct.

There is a very tiny space available for everything.

Here is a photo of Boston University’s map at the edge of the nearby Commonwealth Avenue.  It does not show the Grand Junction or the railroad bridge.

Here is my markup of the Green Line A proposal.  It shows the Grand Junction but does not have the excellent detail of the BU Map.

Here is another public Boston University Map which shows the area in the upper left corner and provides a pretty good depiction of the situation there, but it also has its limitations.

Hopefully, among the three maps, you will have an adequate idea of the situation.

Additionally, my photo of the Grand Junction shows, under the Grand Junction, Soldiers Field Road, the second highway between the Boston University buildings and the Charles River.  At the bottom right is the existing bike highway on the Boston side of the Charles River.

The Mass. Pike and Soldiers Field Road are clear in the first Boston University Map, but that map does not show the railroad.  The combination of the two roads and the Grand Junction is shown on the other two maps, but the other two maps do not provide the good blow up of the key section that exists in the first BU map.

b. The off ramp by a different name.

What these latter day “activists” are fighting for is not at all surprising.

I saw the same plans when the MBTA, the local transit authority, announced them in 2004 / 2005 after its study to see if an off ramp could be built from the Mass. Pike to Cambridge over the Grand Junction bridge.

Here are a few key pictures, moving the camera along the railroad tracks / off ramp.

What the MBTA proposed was to widen the Grand Junction bridge by cantilevering a new highway right of way on the east (Boston Harbor) side of the Grand Junction bridge.

Dah, dah, the “activists” want to cantilever a new highway right of way on the east (Boston Harbor) side of the Grand Junction Bridge.

In the first two photos, the eastern addition would be to the left of the area shown.  The unused track is to the right.

The currently unused track area would be reactivated.  The existing track area would be used as a highway ramp, and the new right of way would be the second ramp.  The quiet animal area would be widened to add the new highway.

The geese are enjoying the Charles River to the west (left) of the bridge in the prior photo.  The vegetation above the geese is above the right end of the gaggle in the below picture.  The railroad track can just barely be seen through the tiny hole in that vegetation.  It runs right to left behind the tree.

Cambridge has changed the plans to make them more vile.  The Cambridge plans call for a fence between the highway lanes and the railroad which would block access between the Destroyed Nesting Area and the less visible animal habitat east of the railroad. In this photo, the overpass is straight ahead.  To the left is the destroyed nesting area.

Below, the geese are gathering in the area to the left, with the same trackage visible in the top left .

The area to the right in the above picture is less publicly known wild area to which the Charles River White Geese have been forced.

The Cambridge proposal (supported so far by Cheun and McGovern) would run a fence preventing access between left and right.

Geese looking for food under the Memorial Drive overpass.

This is the far side of the Memorial Drive overpass.  The next photo is of the same location from the overpass.

This is the alternate bike highway.  Straight ahead is the Vassar Street turn.  All the bikes have to do is travel through the cleared space.

The photo is taken back to the fence in the previous photo.

Following that fence to the left as you look at this building, and you come to the area where Cambridge's vegetation plans left room for exits from Harvard University's / the MBTA's off ramp from the Massachusetts Turnpike.

Greater analysis below of the new highway and those games.

This is the alternate bike highway.  Straight ahead is the Vassar Street turn.  All the bikes have to do is travel through the cleared space.

The second photo above is taken back to the fence in the previous photo.

Following that fence to the left as you look at this building, and you come to the area where Cambridge's vegetation plans left room for exits from Harvard University's / the MBTA's off ramp from the Massachusetts Turnpike.

Greater analysis below of the new highway and those games.

The current underpass under Memorial Drive would be widened to give the new road room to move.

Cambridge argued in 2004 - 2005 that they wanted the underpass to be wider.

After you pass the area where Cambridge’s bike highway should cut over to Vassar Street and then to Memorial Drive, you come to new Cambridge construction which is very telling.

Cambridge built a roadway behind 620 Memorial Drive, at the corner of Memorial Drive and Brookline Street, and across Memorial Drive from the goose Destroyed Nesting Area and that magnificent, now condemned tree.

The roadway was advertised to be providing access to Memorial Drive / Boston from a new office / lab area largely owned and being built on behalf of MIT.

Like Vassar Street on the east side, this new road turned as it approached the tracks.  Of great interest, however, was the tree planting plan.  Trees, trees, trees, EXCEPT for areas next to the tracks left without trees.  Those area correspond to access to and from the Mass. Pike off ramp.

I pointed out the openings to the contractor.  Not at all surprisingly, no saplings have been planted yet.

The MBTA plans and the “activists’” plans called for a highway to be built along the tracks or beyond Kendall Square.

No surprise whatsoever, not even the lies by which the new road would be created.  Lies are the norm when you are dealing with people like this.

But they need to get access to the Grand Junction railroad bridge from the Boston side.

c. Analysis.

MassDOT, in its reconstruction of the Mass. Pike is widening I90 (Mass. Pike) to bring I90 closer to current Interstate Highway standards.

In meetings before the most recent meeting, MassDOT obtained agreement among pretty much everybody to move Soldiers Field Road to the south so that it would be, at least in part, under a portion of the rebuilt Mass. Pike viaduct.

The Machine was fighting for as much open space as they can get south of the Charles River along with as much access as they can get to the Grand Junction.  These are the same people who just got $20 million out of the State House for the destruction of hundreds of trees on the north, Cambridge, side of the Charles River.

When MassDOT was making their presentation, I listened closely for their description of access changes to the Grand Junction bridge.  No such description was made.  A Machine operative who spoke after me, pretty much begged MassDOT to create room for more than just one track to the Grand Junction.

I caught the omission before he spoke.  I noticed in the presentation diagrams that they showed a lot less of Soldiers Field Road under the Mass. Pike than had previously been shown.  Thus much less space was being provided between the highway and the Charles River

Thus there was less room between the highways and the Charles River exactly where the Machine wants access to the Grand Junction railroad bridge.  You add that to no mention of greater access to the Grand Junction bridge, and I was very happy.

I effusively praised, and continue to praise, MassDOT for, yet again, standing up to outrages coming out of the City of Cambridge and its friends.

MassDOT has determined, as of the current moment, there is not enough room to do all that Cambridge and its buddies are fighting for, and that all that they will be leaving access for will be that one track for the Grand Junction.

No bike highway, no pedestrian highway, just that one track connecting to the Grand Junction bridge.

4. Summary.

This is at least the third time that MassDOT has stood up to the Cambridge for the benefit of the environment.

This position places the onus for destruction associated with the Grand Junction railroad solely on the Cambridge City Council.  The Cambridge City Council is not getting an excuse for irresponsible behavior from MassDOT.

I will go further into Cambridge’s outrage on its side of the Charles River in my next report.