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Harvard Increases Funding Pledge for Allston I-90 Multimodal Project to $90M as Part of State’s New Financing Plan

Soldiers Field Road separates the University's main campus in Cambridge and Allston.
Soldiers Field Road separates the University's main campus in Cambridge and Allston. By Derek G. Xiao
By Jack R. Trapanick, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard has added $32 million to its pledged cash contribution for the Allston I-90 Multimodal Project — the infrastructure initiative poised to transform Allston over at least the coming decade — as part of a new, detailed plan for financing the project unveiled last week.

Under the new plan — first reported by Commonwealth Magazine last Wednesday — Harvard, Boston University, and the City of Boston are set to contribute $300 million to the $1.9 billion project, which will realign the Massachusetts Turnpike and bring a new commuter rail station to the neighborhood. In the process, the realignment will open dozens of acres of unused Allston land.

The remaining funds will come from a $1.1 billion commitment by the state — in the form of bonds, loans, highway tolls, and the newly-implemented millionaire tax — and $500 million in grants from pools of infrastructure funding provided by recent federal legislation.

As recently as January, the U.S. Department of Transportation rejected an application for federal funding submitted by the state, though many at the time — including Boston Mayor Michelle Wu ’07 — met the rejection with little surprise, citing a lack of detail in the plans for the project’s financing and design.

Now, Harvard has increased its cash contribution from $58 million to $90 million, while BU has raised its commitment from $8.5 million to $10 million. Boston is committing $100 million directly from its budget and another $100 million through “value capture” — in which the expected increase in private land value surrounding the realignment helps fund the project, via property taxes and development fees.

Much of the private land set to rise in value around the Pike is owned by Harvard — most notably Beacon Park Yard, a key parcel of land for the realignment encompassing 90 acres beside the Charles River.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation filed a new application for federal funding on Aug. 21 based on the new financing plan. Harvard Executive Vice President Meredith Weenick endorsed the application in a letter to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg ’04 the same day.

In the letter, Weenick stressed the time and hundreds of millions of dollars Harvard had invested to make the project viable, including by relocating the previous occupant of the land, freight rail company CSX Transportation.

“Harvard is pleased to have the opportunity to support MassDOT’s application by both memorializing future-looking commitments and outlining the foundational steps undertaken by the University to support this Project over the last two decades,” she wrote. “These contributions are a reflection of the unique opportunity that the Allston Multimodal Project presents, and we look forward to continuing to work with state and local partners on next steps.”

The vacant land Harvard currently owns is poised to become immensely valuable following the realignment.

“I can’t think of more prime real estate right now than Beacon Park Yard,” said Anthony P. D’Isidoro, president of the Allston Civics Association and a member of the Harvard-Allston Task Force.

Allston residents and officials said the new financing plan is an important step forward for the project, which is still years from breaking ground and will soon enter its 10th year of planning. The realignment project is currently slated to start construction in 2027.

D’Isidoro said that plan marks the clearing of “a major roadblock,” adding that the cost of the project would only increase with time, and many details about the design and environmental impact of the project remain to be sorted out.

Lizzie M. Torres, a board member of the Allston Civic Association, said she believes the project is “getting closer,” in part due to Wu, who took office in late 2021.

“We do have a mayor who cares a little bit more,” she said.

“The state seems to have an urgency and eagerness to move forward with this project that we didn’t see in the past,” said Harry E. Mattison, an Allston resident and activist.

The billions of dollars in infrastructure funding signed into law by President Joe Biden last year will run out in September 2026. If MassDOT does not land the federal grant money by then, they’ll have to find a new source of money to keep the Multimodal Project financially viable.

Significant planning work remains. The state and city must now juggle the interests of residents, business groups, neighboring universities, and environmental advocates to approve a design for the finished project of the Pike — all while working to remain on track for construction to begin in 2027.

The Charles River Watershed Association, a local environmental group, has expressed opposition to current design plans for the Pike itself, which would retain 12 lanes of highway next to the river.

Mattison, meanwhile, warned that the project is on a “collision course” to repeat the mistakes of the Seaport, an area of South Boston often cited by neighborhood activists as an example of failed redevelopment.

“It’s been a struggle to get very basic elements of transit, and other 21st century elements of good urban design for this project,” Mattison said.

—Staff writer Jack R. Trapanick can be reached at Follow him on X @jackrtrapanick.

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