Charging that several leading opponents of the Memorial Drive underpasses are attempting to "mutilate my family reputation," State Senator Francis X. McCann (D.-Cambridge) yesterday revived one of the underlying issues of the Memorial Drive controversy: the political split between the University-oriented segments of Cambridge and the rest of the City.
McCann, who sponsored the 1962 legislation authorizing the Metropolitan District Commission to build the underpasses, angrily declared that "I resent--and resent strongly--any individual alluding that I have collusion with a contractor."
He charged at a public hearing that Edward L. Bernays and John R. Moot '43, co-chairman of the Citizens Emergency Committee to Save Memorial Drive, did just that by their references to "politicians" and "contractors" in many of their public statements against the underpasses.
And McCann repeatedly declared that the opponents of the underpasses had been conspicuously silent on the issue of the "Inner Belt" highway, an eight lane expressway that would pass through the heart of Central Square and probably displace about 1000 families.
At the hearing in the State House McCann was one of two men to testify against three bills that would either repeal the legislation authorizing the underpasses or subject their construction to new controls. The other opponent of the legislation was Rep. John J. Toomey (D-Cambridge) who echoed McCann's sentiments.
Foes of the underpasses presented more than 20 people to support the new legislation. Quoting frequently from President Johnson and President Kennedy on the need for open urban spaces, they declared the State faced two alternatives: turn Memorial Drive into a "limited access expressway"--a move that they warned would destroy valuable river-front recreation area--or leave the drive as it is.
"There is no doubt if you spend $10 million, you can turn Memorial Drive into an expressway, but do we need it?" asked Robert A. Boyer, a professional city planner. Boyer explained that merely building the underpasses, at an estimated cost of $7 million, would only serve to speed traffic at the three intersections involved. River St., Western Ave., and Bolyston St., and that other improvements--including the probably widening of the Drive and limiting access to the drive from the City's streets--would be required to increase traffic speed along the whole roadway.
However, he stated that the imminent opening of the Massachusetts turnpike into Boston on a route roughly parallel to Memorial Drive and Storrow Drive obviated all need to make such changes.
Charles P. Whitlock, assistant to the president for Civic and Governmental affairs, said that the original 1962 legislation, specifying the three intersections where the underpasses had to be built, was "phrased in such a way that collaboration between the MDC," the University, Cambridge, and other roadbuilding agencies "has fallen apart."
The University is "not speaking of trees," he said. "The City of Cambridge is being threatened from all sides by different roadways and there is no coordination . . . It seems to me that this is the problem that must be solved.