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Mass. Secretary Urges MassDOT to Further West Station Analysis

Construction is underway on the Allston campus.
Construction is underway on the Allston campus. By Jacqueline S. Chea
By Truelian Lee and Jacqueline P. Patel, Crimson Staff Writers

Mass. Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew A. Beaton questioned the Department of Transportation’s recent evaluation of Allston’s West Station, urging the agency to review the hub’s planned transit use and to consider an earlier construction timeline.

Beaton's calls echo suggestions previously put forth by Harvard administrators. In a Jan. 2018 letter to MassDOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack, Harvard Executive Vice President Katie N. Lapp proposed MassDOT “reconsider” delaying the construction of West Station to 2040.

The construction of West Station forms part of a larger project to realign the Mass. Turnpike in Allston.

In Jan. 2018, Harvard pledged $50 million to fund West Station, a commuter rail stop on the Framingham-Worcester line, and up to $8 million to help construct another, interim station in Allston.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Oct. 2014 announced plans to develop Harvard-owned land near Beacon Park Yard into West Station, a transit stop meant to connect Allston to downtown Boston and the greater Boston area. In late 2017, the agency wrote a Draft Environmental Impact Report and announced that it would delay construction of West Station from 2025 to 2040 due to financial concerns.

In recent months, Allstonians have rallied to protest vehicular traffic and promote public transit.

On Feb. 16, Secretary Beaton from the Mass. Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs authorized the environmental report. Beaton recommended MassDOT build an interim station earlier in the project.

Beaton wrote to summarize trends from his review of the more than 500 comment letters he received.

“The majority of commenters, including elected officials representing Boston, Brookline, and Cambridge, urge MassDOT to construct West Station in Phase 1 of the project based on its ability to support the project’s multi-modal transportation goals and local and regional transportation needs,” Beaton wrote.

Beaton also questioned MassDOT’s low ridership estimate for West Station, noting the popularity of the nearby station Boston Landing and asking the department to re-analyze ridership estimates for 2025 and 2040.

MassDOT spokesperson Patrick Marvin wrote in an emailed statement Wednesday that, while working alongside the City of Boston and MBTA, MassDOT will perform additional analyses and complete two studies on possible transit services and ridership demand.

“The first of these will be a rapid, tactical examination of the existing impediments to reliable bus transportation through the Allston area, and the second will be a longer-term review of different potential land use scenarios and accompanying transit investments,” Marvin wrote.

Harvard spokesperson Kevin Casey wrote in an emailed statement Wednesday that the University is happy with Secretary Beaton’s response.

“We’re pleased that Secretary Beaton has asked MassDOT to investigate implementing an interim West Station,” he wrote. “It is our hope that the review requested by the Secretary, along with Harvard’s financial contributions, will result in added public transit service to the area.”

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

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

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