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Massachusetts has denied Harvard’s request to route trucks involved in the construction of its Cowperthwaite Street graduate dormitory along Memorial Drive, Cambridge’s city manager wrote in a letter released at yesterday’s City Council meeting.
The decision means that trucks exiting the construction site will continue to travel up the mostly residential Banks Street in order to leave the area on Mount Auburn Street. Trucks headed for the Cowperthwaite site—across the street from Mather House—will still use DeWolfe Street, according to City Manager Robert W. Healy.
Residents of the Kerry Corner neighborhood, which includes Banks Street, have complained of noisy construction traffic since at least August, when several residents asked the City Council to request Harvard to reroute the trucks.
Because Memorial Drive—which usually forbids construction traffic—is part of the state-managed Charles River Reservation, the University appealed to the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to allow its trucks to travel along a 1,800-yard path before turning onto Cowperthwaite.
But the Commonwealth ultimately denied that request. City Councillor Anthony D. Galluccio said he had expected that Harvard’s political clout would have prevailed on the DCR to obtain an exception.
“The real disappointment was an assumption that...Harvard’s contacts at the state level” would have been enough to allow trucks on Memorial Drive, Galluccio said after the City Council meeting last night.
“There’s always been a strong [Harvard] lobbying effort around Beacon Hill...In the past, they’ve granted exceptions,” said Galluccio.
In the same letter, Healy concluded that the city had no authority to implement two other calming measures demanded in August by Kerry Corner residents.
The first demand—that construction crews not begin work until 9 a.m.—was impractical for a variety of reasons, according to Lisa Peterson, Cambridge’s commissioner of public works. The current start time of 7 a.m. is the same as that in Boston and Somerville, and allows crews to work for 40 hours a week during the winter, Peterson said in a letter.
Residents had also asked that Harvard use flagmen in place of beeping alarms to alert passersby to trucks backing up. But Healy determined that the alarms were not in violation of any law, so Cambridge had no authority to order Harvard to replace them.
—BRENDAN R. LINN
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