Despite Cambridge residents’ frustrations about construction plans to renovate Gore Street, Cambridge City Council announced Monday that construction would proceed as planned, though with a plan in place to mitigate its effects.
The construction, set to begin Feb. 2, includes a new gas pipeline developed by Eversource and a new sewer pipeline developed by DivcoWest, the developer of the neighborhood Cambridge Crossing. The city of Cambridge is also installing a new water pipeline, paved roads, and accessible sidewalks, among other improvements.
The project at Gore Street, which sits between Monsignor O’Brien Highway and Warren Street, was first proposed around 20 years ago. But, the project stood at a standstill for a 10-year period, City Manager Louis A. DePasquale said at Monday’s City Council meeting.
When the city previously suggested moving the project to the another site, the Prison Point Facility, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority insisted that Gore Street was the only option.
Kathy Watkins, assistant commissioner of engineering for the Department of Public Works, said that the alternative route did not have the capacity in its system.
“The Prison Point Facility is designed to be a wet weather facility, so they do not encourage and they do not want additional dry weather typical sewer flow into that system,” Watkins said. “It has significant pumping constraints based on that.”
During public comment, some residents of Gore Street said they were concerned about potential damage to their properties, many of which are decades old and have been passed on for generations.
“There was folklore there, there was history, and many things I’ve appreciated about the neighborhood are now being threatened,” said Martha E. Kats, a longtime Gore Street resident.
Owen O’Riordan, commissioner of the Department of Public Works, said the city has experience working on “thousands upon thousands” of properties. He said that home inspections would help ensure damage would not happen.
Audrey A. Cunningham, another resident, read from a statement with more than 50 signatures from residents. The statement criticized the lack of transparency surrounding the decision to move forward with the project and argued that the construction put the “desires of a huge developer” over the “lives and and property of lifelong residents.”
“The residents of Gore Street are furious. There is a sense of outrage that we were never informed throughout the twenty plus years that this was under discussion,” added Lois E. Sullivan.
Despite concerns from residents, DePasquale said that the Gore Street construction project was not up for negotiation. The infrastructure improvements are necessary for the wellbeing of the city as a whole, he said.
“When I became City Manager, my biggest commitment was to work with neighborhoods, to try to make sure they were heard and listened to,” DePasquale said. “But this is a really tricky situation because when it comes to the sewer work and infrastructure work, it is the city’s responsibility to meet the needs of all our residents.”
Additionally, the City Council adopted policy orders to discuss the possibility of improvements to East Cambridge’s Gold Star Mothers Park and of using construction technology that could speed up the project. Councillor Alanna M. Mallon said she hopes the city can “give something back” in light of the challenges associated with the project.
“For me, at this point, it’s about mitigating the effects of what those neighbors are going to feel the next years while they are undergoing this large project,” Mallon said.
Mallon stressed the significance of more communication with residents not just for the Gore Street construction but for “all projects.” Mayor Marc C. McGovern agreed that an open discussion involving the public was important for future decisions.
“One of the things we can push the City Manager on and continue to improve on is making sure that we are engaging in the process with the community where all points of views are respected and have the opportunity to be heard,” McGovern said.
—Staff writer Patricia J. Liu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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