Construction Plan Worries Residents

Harvard's capital campaign plans for the next few years may well enhance student life, but the University's neighbors worry that campus-wide reconfiguration will cramp their style.

In response to concerns among Cambridge residents about pedestrian and traffic safety from the upcoming renovations of Lowell Lecture Hall and Memorial Hall, Harvard officials said last week they have commissioned a study of traffic patterns in the area.

The study, which will be completed this summer by a private civil engineering firm, will evaluate the hazards of increased congestion at the intersection of Broadway and Cambridge Streets in front of Memorial Hall, said Director of Community Relations Happy H. Green.

Green said Harvard agreed to conduct the study at the neighbors' request because of the potential for accidents. The results will be made available to the Agassiz and Mid-Cambridge neighbors.

"God knows, it's like taking your life in your hands to cross there," Green said.


John Petkin, director of the Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Society, who has met with Harvard representatives about the reconfiguration of the campus, said Harvard's neighbors worry about people crossing in hordes.

"If we get hundreds of freshmen crossing the street where there are major traffic flows, that's going to create problems both for the students and for the people in the cars," Petkin said.

Since Harvard has informed the city of the structural changes contained in the capital campaign proposal, several neighborhood groups have complained about traffic problems and have held regular meetings with University officials, Green said.

City planners said they too have heard from neighbors concerned about the flurry of renovation and building which will accompany Harvard's $2 billion fundraising effort.

Neighbors List Concerns

"The neighbors have given Harvard and us a list of concerns," said George Teso, director of traffic and parking for the city.

The list asks for a traffic signal to be installed at the corner of Oxford and Kirkland Streets, for truck traffic through the area to be curtailed and for a strict enforcement of existing speed laws, Teso said.

Teso said the city has already complied with some of the demands by reducing the speed limit in the area to 25 miles per hour, by agreeing to install the signal and by applying to the state for permission to detour truck traffic from the area.

But renovations and additions at Harvard have also brought benefits to Cambridge. James P. Maloney, the city's finance director, said Harvard has been one of the city's sole builders during the recession.

Maloney said he welcomes Harvard's plans for capital improvement because construction brings money to the city through building permits.

"From where I sit," Maloney said, "Expansion on existing tax exempt land is to the benefit of the city."