Among Elected Officials, A Strong Consensus Against I-90 Viaduct On the Charles River

A bicyclist rides along the Paul Dudley White Path along Soldiers Field Road and the Massachusetts Turnpike viaduct on Sept. 11, 2019.
A bicyclist rides along the Paul Dudley White Path along Soldiers Field Road and the Massachusetts Turnpike viaduct on Sept. 11, 2019.

Elected leaders and local officials appear to be united in their preference for a new “at-grade” design for the Massachusetts Turnpike in the state’s Allston Multimodal Project, according to public letters submitted for the project’s National Environmental Policy Act review.

MassDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) are currently in the process of selecting a “preferred alternative” – a conceptual design that will be carried forward into a more detailed design and permitting process.

One possible alternative being considered would essentially re-build the existing Turnpike viaduct in place; another, more recent alternative – the “modified all at-grade” option – would narrow the footprints of the highways to fit the project at ground-level.

In public comment letters submitted last week, advocates, city officials, and state legislators all stated a strong preference for the “at-grade” option.

A quick rundown of their arguments (click the links to read the letters in full):

MassDOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack and other MassDOT officials have expressed some notes of skepticism against the “at-grade” design in some public meetings, noting that it would impact the Charles River more than the viaduct option (for instance, by putting the Paul Dudley White pathway on a boardwalk over the river).

That could “result in more impacts to wetlands and waterways resources, and have a greater potential to delay the implementation schedule of the project in order to obtain needed permits,” warned Mike O’Dowd, the project manager for MassDOT.

The “at grade” option would also take the Grand Junction rail line – currently the MBTA’s primary route for moving commuter rail trains from south of the Charles River to its maintenance facility in East Somerville – out of service for several years of construction. MassDOT says that would force the T to build a new $300 million maintenance facility for its south-side commuter rail lines.



A crowd of people in bikes pedals through a wide brick plaza. In the center, wearing a black helmet and blue hoodie, is Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.

PHOTOS: Boston’s 2023 Bike To Work Day

Between 7:30 and 8:45 a.m., convoys of riders coming in from Mattapan, Dorchester, Brookline, Cambridge, Malden, Chelsea, and other cities across the region arrived in City Hall Plaza in waves, while City of Boston Transportation Department staff welcomed them with cowbells and cheers.
Bar chart illustrating monthly bus driver active headcounts and vacancies since January. The number of vacancies increased slightly in the months Jan. to March but decreased slightly in May.

MBTA News Briefs: Finally Some Better News on Bus Driver Hiring

The MBTA’s three board committees met on Thursday morning with three newly-appointed members to discuss its new 5-year capital plan, hiring updates, and meet the MassDOT’s newly-hired Chief Safety Officer. Incentives for new bus drivers get traction For the past several months, the board’s Workforce Committee has been getting regular updates on hiring efforts, with […]
The gold-plated dome of the Massachusetts State House against a blue sky, with the Massachusetts flag flying to the right of the dome in the foreground.

State House Transportation Committee Discusses Bills Regarding East-West Rail, T Oversight

The legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation hosted a hybrid in-person and virtual public hearing on Monday afternoon to discuss several bills related to transit expansion projects, East-West rail, and MBTA oversight. You can find hearing details – including information about  how to attend in person or submit testimony virtually – at the Massachusetts Legislature’s website. […]