Officials Announce $1 Billion Cost for Mass. Turnpike Project in Allston

Soldiers Field Road
Soldiers Field Road in Allston runs alongside the Massachusetts Turnpike.
The project to redesign the Massachusetts Turnpike in Allston may cost upwards of $1.2 billion and will likely break ground in 2020, state transportation officials announced at a public meeting on Monday.

The crumbling Allston viaduct—an elevated highway built in the 1960s—currently costs $800,000 annually to maintain, and would cost $425 million to replace, according to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

The three proposals on the table are to replace the viaduct completely for $1 billion, to remove the viaduct and rebuild the turnpike at ground level and add commuter rail tracks elevated above the highway for $1.2 billion, or to build both the highway and the rails at ground level for $983 million. The latter two options would allow for a new commuter rail stop, which officials and residents call “West Station.”

On Monday, the Boston Globe reported that some state officials have suggested Harvard as a prospective funder of the project.

Brian Lang, who is a member of the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board, said in the article that Harvard would benefit greatly from this project.

Harvard spokesperson Kevin Casey wrote in an emailed statement that the Allston interchange project “will yield significant public benefits” and that the proposed project will build upon Harvard’s land “at no cost.”

In 2000 and 2003, Harvard spent $226.7 million on purchasing the underlying rights to the real estate. According to Casey, the University cleared the land, which was formerly used for operations of railroad company CSX Transportation, for MassDOT to build on.

“Harvard has also paid to secure the removal of the rail spur servicing Houghton Chemical that was a significant challenge to the project and agreed to contribute to the eventual costs of West Station,” Casey wrote.

Harry E. Mattison, an Allston resident serving on a neighborhood advisory group for the project, said he thought the presentation at Monday’s public meeting signalled a “de-prioritization” of West Station. MassDOT has placed West Station in Phase 3 of the project, without a set construction date.

Mattison said Allston is “a very pro-growth neighborhood,” but emphasized that creating better transportation options is crucial for growth in the area. “You have one choice—you have to drive. That’s why rush hour in Allston is such a disaster,” Mattison said.

“It would be great for Harvard and partners to build housing and research space, but that’s not going to work with the transportation system we have that was designed in the 1960s,” he said.

Brent C. Whelan ’73, who also serves as a member of a neighborhood advisory group for this project, said that Monday’s meeting focused on choosing an engineering design, but that residents want to hear more about street orientation and commuter rail plans.

“Whether they do a good job and whether the urban design elements are as important as the highway-train business, that’s really going to be something to see. It’s too soon to tell,” Whelan said.

Some residents expressed concern about the uncertainty in the project.

“We’re unclear where the money’s coming from, and we’re unclear what it will be spent on,” Allston resident Bruce E. Houghton said.

—Staff writer Lucy Wang can be reached at lucy.wang@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @lucyyloo22.

—Staff writer Sarah Wu can be reached at sarah.wu@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @sarah_wu_.

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