The Harvard Allston Task Force and representatives from Harvard and the Boston Redevelopment Authority met on Wednesday to discuss issues of construction mitigation and traffic in connection with the University’s planned science complex across the river.
In a meeting at the Honan Allston Branch of the Boston Public Library, task force members cited issues concerning parking, commuting, truck queueing, and noise that would significantly impact the community once construction begins.
The Boston Transportation Department will also be working closely with Harvard and the task force, acting as an added liaison. According to Boston Transportation Department (BTD) Director of Planning Vineet Gupta, who was also present at the discussion, the BTD will schedule a meeting within the next few weeks to review Harvard’s construction drafts.
Kathy A. Spiegelman, director of the Allston Initiative and chief University planner, opened the meeting by updating those present on the recent developments in the vicinity of the future construction site.
“We have built a mock-up of the fence around construction. There are three different heights that we’re considering,” she said. “Everyone who lives by the construction site will be asked what height they prefer. The sooner we can get this feedback, the sooner we can order the materials.”
According to Exelon Associates, the company that analyzed the correlation between noise impact and fence height, increasing the height by six feet will cause the construction-related damage per second to decrease by three units.
“However, it’s not clear to me that a homeowner wants that 16-foot fence behind their property,” said Spiegelman, citing an effort on Harvard’s part to make the construction process more transparent.
In addition, according to Spiegelman, the fence will be accessible in the near future so “you can go up to it directly and experience it.”
'100 IS A HUGE NUMBER'
According to the Draft Project Impact Report, Harvard has petitioned the city to get rid of about 50 parking spaces along Western Avenue to make way for the trucks that will carry away the soil from the excavation on the construction site. Approximately 2,000 cubic yards per day will be removed, which will require between 100 and 150 trucks to come to the site daily, depending on the remoteness of the dump site that the contractors will eventually pick.
While Berkeley expressed concern that “100 is a huge number,” Kevin A. McClusky ’76, Harvard’s director of Community Relations for Boston, said that there is “no implication that the trucks are all going to be on site at the same time.”
Rather, the presence of the trucks will be staggered, so approximately 20 to 30 of the trucks will be found on Western Avenue at any one time. In addition, according to the construction management plan that is on review with the city at the moment, trucks will never be found on a residential city street.
Edward G. LeFlore, principal mitigation manager for CSL Consulting LLC—a company that currently works with Harvard and provides program management and construction public relations services—responded to concerns on the task force’s part regarding parking overflow once workers begin commuting to the construction site.
Although there are workers who already park on neighborhood streets in Allston, LeFlore said, CSL has ensured that the Western Avenuue garage is accessible to all construction workers at no cost to them or the contractors.
“It is the smaller operations that are currently doing summer work that are falling under the radar and which we are currently trying to address,” LeFlore said.
Paul Berkeley, a member of the task force, proposed that the parking problem be solved by getting the city involved.
“That is the only way we can mitigate this parking problem, whether it’s on a daily basis or in connection with the construction,” he said.
Portions of the north side of Western Avenue and parts of Soldier Field Avenue have also been designated as worker parking as an additional means of dealing with the anticipated increase in the demand for parking spots.
“The spaces we are making available to the construction workers are the supply of spaces not currently in demand by Harvard students and faculty,” Spiegelman said. In this way, about 450 spaces have become available for construction workers.
Brent Whelan, another task force member, proposed that streets and Soldier Field not be used at all, to lighten the toll the construction will take on the community.
“Harvard has a lot of property that is closer to construction and further from residential areas—can we encourage you to take advantage of that...and possibly the construction site itself, which is much larger than the outline of the building?” he asked.
LeFlore said that Harvard has the infrastructure in place to deal with any traffic problems the construction may create. In addition, a liaison from the Harvard University Police Department is working with the Boston Police to target and resolve problems that may arise as a result of construction-related traffic.
“As construction proceeds and we see things that aren’t working well, we have the protocols to address the issues,” LeFlore said.
—Staff writer Yelena S. Mironova can be reached at email@example.com.