MDC Modifies Plans For Drive Underpass

The Metropolitan District Commission has announced modifications of its plans for the construction of underpasses along Memorial Drive which would save 11,500 feet of park land from destruction in March, 1965.

But opponents of the underpasses said the MDC's changes dodged the real issues, and vowed to continue a last-ditch fight to block the construction.

Engineers for the MDC project have decided to shorten the proposed tunnel under Boylston Street by about 20 feet. In a recent vote the MDC also asserted that they would replant upstream from the Larz Anderson Bridge many of the 19 sycamores due to be removed.

Edward L. Bernays, organizer of the Citizens Emergency Committee to Save Memorial Drive, claimed that the decision "does not deal with fundamental issues at all." The real question involved, he said, is not a matter of saving a few feet or a few trees, but rather: "Shall access to the riverbank be maintained for Cantabridgians, shall play and recreation areas be preserved, will the present planting of trees be preserved or will a barrier be created between the residents of Cambridge and their waterfront?"

"According to highway experts," Bernays added, "the increased traffic produced by the underpasses, wider than the drive, will necessitate the drive's being widened within a year into an expressway."

He also pointed out that the MDC's promise to transplant the uprooted sycamore trees is largely unrealistic since "sycamore trees have such spreading roots that they cannot be transplanted."

Bernays, a Cambridge resident and one of the country's pioneer counsels on public relations, said the Citizens Emergency Committee is pursuing two main courses in an effort to save the Drive.

The group will attempt to get the Legislature in 1962 decision ordering the construction of three underpasses along the Drive. Since Bernays entered the fray last year, widespread public opinion has been mobilized in opposition to the construction.

"An informed public opinion opposed to the wanton throwing away of taxpayers' money and opposed to encroachment on play and recreation areas is expressing itself throughout the state and should be potent in bringing about reversal of the legislation," Bernays said.

The second course available to the Committee is legal action. When owners of property on the Drive deeded the land to Cambridge for the Drive, they inserted a covenant that the property was to be used in perpetuity as parkland.