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Federal Highway Administrators Present at MassPike Project Meeting

Soldiers Field Road
Soldiers Field Road separates the University's main campus in Cambridge and Allston.

Representatives from the Federal Highway Administration discussed an upcoming project to rebuild a large stretch of the Massachusetts Turnpike with Allston and Cambridge residents, local activists, and elected officials at a public meeting at Brighton High School Wednesday evening.

The Highway Administration conducted the meeting in conjunction with MassDOT, which is supporting the project. In the meeting, officials went over a draft of an environmental impact scoping report for the $1.1 billion project, which will lower the Mass. Turnpike to ground level in Allston and elevate Soldiers Field Road along the Charles River onto a new viaduct.

The meeting began with an overview of the draft scoping report, which detailed several aspects of the project relevant to local residents, including information about how the project would affect the Allston environment and possible tweaks to the project’s design.

The dilapidated Allston viaduct — an elevated highway built in the 1960s — costs $800,000 to maintain every year, according to MassDOT. The project may take up to eight years to complete and will impact travel in Allston and radically change the western border of the neighborhood.

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After the slideshow, presenters opened the meeting to comments and questions from attendees.

Mass. State Representative Kevin G. Honan, whose district covers much of Allston and Brighton, commented on the volume of traffic already present in the neighborhood.

“You mentioned that there are 150,000 cars coming through our neighborhood here, through Allston and Brighton,” Honan said. “And there's so much more development, obviously, proposed once the Turnpike, I-90, is straightened out.”

“It's going to be a lot more people working in this area, living in this area, so it's pretty critical... to really upgrade public transit in our neighborhood,” he added.

Several other residents and task force members came forward after Honan to share concerns about the permanent and temporary changes the project may impose — until comments were cut short by a power outage.

In an interview after the meeting, attendee Jordan C. Meehan said he is apprehensive about the project, particularly when it comes to how the traffic may impact Allston.

“There's already a lot of people who cut through the neighborhood to beat traffic on the Pike, and it's only going to get worse by exponentials,” he said. “I'm not sure what the way around that really is — doesn't seem like there really is one.”

Meeting organizers asked attendees to participate in a public comment period on the report, which closes Dec. 12. The Highway Administration will hold another public information meeting for the project on Dec. 4 in Framingham.

—Staff writer Peter E. O’Keefe can be reached at peter.o'keefe@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @CrimsonOKeefe.

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