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Charles River Advocacy Group Discusses I-90 Project Flood Risks

The Charles River Watershed Association, a local advocacy group, hosted a webinar calling for a review of potential flood risks associated with the Allston Multimodal I-90 Project.
The Charles River Watershed Association, a local advocacy group, hosted a webinar calling for a review of potential flood risks associated with the Allston Multimodal I-90 Project. By Zing Gee
By Danish Bajwa and Michal Goldstein, Crimson Staff Writers

In a Tuesday webinar, the Charles River Watershed Association urged Allston-Brighton residents to advocate for a review of flood risks in the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Allston Multimodal I-90 Project.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation launched the Allston Multimodal I-90 Project in 2014 with the vision of replacing the Allston Interchange and improving the “livability, connectivity, and open space” in Allston, per the project’s website. The project has not yet undergone a complete state and federal environmental review.

The project currently has a Sept. 13 deadline for public comment on its most recent design, published in August. CRWA, an advocacy group dedicated to the preservation of the Charles River, hosted Tuesday’s webinar in the hopes of empowering residents to submit informed comments.

The meeting included a presentation of a climate impact review, which detailed flooding risks associated with the project’s design.

Dira Johanif, an urban resilience advocate at CRWA, began the presentation by calling attention to “climate vulnerable” populations within Allston-Brighton, such as those of low-income backgrounds and people with disabilities.

Johanif said the current project site faces many challenges — bank erosion, trash and pollution, low connectivity for walkers and bikers, and a lack of stormwater treatment.

“This neighborhood currently lives with the construction of the Mass Pike and the Soldier’s Field Road that have disconnected the community from the river,” Johanif said. “Improving connectivity is and should be an important conversation in this project.”

Renee Bourdeau, a civil engineer, discussed the three design options for the project currently under review by MassDOT. The three proposed designs to modify I-90 include either a modified highway viaduct option, a modified at-grade option, or a Soldier’s Field Road hybrid option.

The modified highway viaduct option would include a 10-foot wide section along the Charles River to be used as a pedestrian and bike path. It would also open up 4.5 acres of new parkland.

The modified at-grade option eliminates the current I-90 viaduct to have virtually all traffic level with the surrounding area and contains the pedestrian and bike path as a 20-foot wide boardwalk over the Charles River. This option also adds roughly 3.6 acres of parkland.

The final option — the Soldier’s Field Road hybrid option — would contain a 10-foot wide pedestrian path as well as a separate 10-foot wide bike path. It would also stack Soldier’s Field Road above a four-lane section of I-90. This option would open up 6.1 acres of parkland.

All three options leave the pedestrian and bike path and Soldier’s Field Road vulnerable to predicted flooding in 2050 and 2070, according to Bourdeau. The modified at-grade and SFR hybrid options additionally leave the I-90 open to flooding, she said.

“If you run, bike, walk, or even drive along the river, this is really your time to tell MassDOT what kind of resilient transportation system this area needs,” Johanif said.

MassDOT did not respond to a request for comment.

—Staff writer Danish Bajwa can be reached at danish.bajwa@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Michal Goldstein can be reached at michal.goldstein@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @bymgoldstein.

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