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Local Groups Call for Additional Analysis of I-90 Plans

Allston Construction
Construction is underway on the Allston campus.

In recent comment letters, several local residents and community groups criticized the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s “incomplete” draft environmental report on the proposed I-90 realignment, asking the agency to prepare a more extensive analysis.

The realignment, known officially as the I-90 Interchange Improvement Project, will replace the aging Allston viaduct, simplifying and straightening the ramps at the end of the Massachusetts Turnpike. MassDOT released a Draft Environmental Impact Report on the $270 million project at the end of 2017, opening a public comment period on the proposal which closed in early February.

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In her letter, Boston City Councilor At-Large Michelle Wu ’07 wrote that MassDOT’s current plan “does not reflect the needs of the community or commitments that the Commonwealth and the City have made regarding climate change and transportation.”

“The Commonwealth should prioritize making public transit-oriented, climate-ready, and equitable decision to seize this tremendous opportunity,” wrote Wu, who is also the chair of the city council’s Committee on Planning, Development and Transportation.

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Nine community organizations and residents advising MassDOT on the I-90 project wrote a joint letter requesting that the agency further elaborate on the environmental impact of its plans in a supplemental DEIR.

“Despite its exhaustive length, MassDOT’s DEIR is an incomplete document requiring further study to bring to light the full impact of this $1 billion infrastructure initiative,” the letter reads.

"The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has been pleased to work closely with key stakeholders including Harvard University, area businesses, and members of the local community throughout the design process for the I-90 Allston Viaduct Project," MassDOT spokesperson Patrick Marvin wrote in an emailed statement.

"MassDOT held over 20 meetings with the I-90 Allston Task Force, 7 public information meetings, and numerous stakeholder briefings prior to publishing the Draft Environmental Impact Report in November 2017," he added.

Several of the letters sent to MassDOT also criticized delays to the construction of West Station, a proposed community rail station to connect Allston to downtown Boston. MassDOT originally scheduled a completion in 2025 for West Station, which will be built on land vacated by the I-90 realignment. Citing financial concerns, the department announced in late 2017 that it will instead begin construction in 2040.

Joshua Safer, chairman of the Brookline Transportation Board, wrote he hoped the station would be built sooner.

“The station is needed by current residents—including those in Brookline—not just future riders,” Safer wrote.

Safer also wrote that he believes MassDOT’s current plans prioritize vehicular transport.

“MassDOT’s default should be to provide for mass transit access from all possible directions in order to foster transit-focused rather than car-dependent development. To do otherwise is to ignore MassDOT’s responsibility,” he wrote.

Wu wrote in her letter that the delay of West Station construction is “unacceptable” and “counterproductive.”

City Councilors from Newton wrote that they felt skeptical about MassDOT’s traffic predictions, which the organization used to justify delaying the construction of West Station.

“The traffic model used by MassDOT makes several assumptions about transit ridership which are hard to reconcile with reality, and the result will likely be an automobile-centered development which increases traffic volume and congestion on the Turnpike,” the councilors wrote.

Marvin wrote that MassDOT is continuing to review public comments about the DEIR and "looks forward to considering all input that is related to this project."

—Staff writer Truelian Lee can be reached at truelian.lee@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @truelian_lee.

—Staff writer Jacqueline P. Patel can be reached at jacqueline.patel@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @jppatel99.

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