As part of a community benefits package negotiated with the Boston Planning & Development Agency, Harvard will spend up to $3.5 million constructing two bicycle and pedestrian crossings over Soldiers Field Road in North Allston-Brighton.
The BPDA approved the disbursement of the funds on Jan. 12, committing Harvard to paying for footpaths intended to increase accessibility between the Charles River parklands and the neighborhood.
“Harvard was proud to make a $3.5 million commitment to support enhanced, safe pedestrian access to the Charles River, and is excited to see continued progress towards the design and construction phases of the project,” said Harvard spokesperson Brigid O’Rourke.
Harvard’s Institutional Master Plan, which was approved in 2013, outlines the University’s 10-year plan to develop its campus in Allston. The community benefits package included in the IMP allocates $43 million to support various projects, like pedestrian crossings, in the neighborhood.
Harvard’s other projects outlined for Allston in the IMP include a $1 billion School of Engineering and Applied Sciences complex, renovations and an addition to Harvard Stadium, and a biotech Life Lab that opened this past fall. Around two-thirds of the SEAS faculty is slated to move to Allston in 2020.
The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation will manage the design and construction of the footbridges, and the BPDA aims to construct the bridges in 2018.
“This is responding to a longstanding desire on the part of the neighborhood to be better connected to the river,” Gerald Autler, BPDA’s senior project manager, said.
Currently, Soldiers Field Road—a major artery separating Allston from the Charles River—is difficult for pedestrians and bikers to cross. “The Charles River is almost inaccessible because there is no walkway across Soldiers Field Road,” said John A. Bruno, the interim chair of the Harvard-Allston Task Force.
Beyond improving access to Allston’s Herter Park and Artesani Playground, Autler said the new crossings will also support local businesses.
In 2015, Harvard paid $150,000 for a feasibility study to evaluate potential locations for crossings. The study was presented to the Harvard-Allston Task Force in September 2015.
In December 2015, the Task Force supported advancement with the design process, approving the refurbishment of the overpass at Telford Street and a new crossing at Everett Street.
The study concluded that the $3.35 million remaining after the cost of the study would cover the construction of the two crossings. However, Autler noted that these cost estimates are preliminary and subject to change.
With growth in residential population of this neighborhood, Autler said the BPDA is confident that these crossings will see heavy use.
Galen M. Mook, an Allston resident, said he will welcome the construction, referring to the Charles River as “kind of the crown jewel of Allston” and is looking forward to the completion of this project.
“It is a good project that has been discussed for several years,” Allston resident Harry E. Mattison agreed in an email. “I and many others look forward to seeing completed as soon as possible.”
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