I-90 Interchange Improvement Project & West Station | Allston

jass

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We have likely hit the turning point where work-from-home becomes the standard, to the point that we will see a large decrease in the number of peak-hour vehicles every day.

Good time to hold off a bit and come back with less lanes.
 

jklo

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The amount of time this project is taking is absurd, but it all could have been avoided if MassDOT had simply listened to the community in the first place and chosen an at-grade option early on.
The issue is that it didn't look like they would be able to do that without filling in the river.

Either way it's an easy project to kill if you were looking to slash the budget.
 

HelloBostonHi

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The amount of time this project is taking is absurd, but it all could have been avoided if MassDOT had simply listened to the community in the first place and chosen an at-grade option early on. It's the cheapest option and provides the most flexibility for a future where Soldiers Field Rd doesn't exist or the Mass Pike is smaller. Viaducts are expensive to build and to maintain and lock you in to a particular configuration for 50+ years.
Call me crazy but doesn't a viaduct option provide more parkland and space at the riverfront, and more of a buffer between cars and pedestrians? I think that's more beneficial than some future fantasy where they decide to reduce lanes in the future and realign the roadway again but in the meantime we're left with a narrow strip of sidewalk next to a ridiculous number of at grade lanes...
 

Equilibria

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Call me crazy but doesn't a viaduct option provide more parkland and space at the riverfront, and more of a buffer between cars and pedestrians? I think that's more beneficial than some future fantasy where they decide to reduce lanes in the future and realign the roadway again but in the meantime we're left with a narrow strip of sidewalk next to a ridiculous number of at grade lanes...
The reason to go at-grade is because the life cycle cost is way lower, not because of aesthetics.
 

RandomWalk

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This is going to need a latter-day Tip O’Neill to shove through a Big Dig 2.0 financing package, with all the fixings to placate everyone from Brighton to Stockbridge.
 

North Shore

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As a transportation engineer, this frustrates the hell out of me for many reasons. One of the biggest ones is the simple fact that construction costs rarely, if ever, go down over time.

So, for a project that has funding issues to begin with, you're spending money to maintain failing infrastructure on a short term basis without a clear cut plan to address it long term. And by kicking the can, you're adding cost upon cost. It's maddening.

Get all the stakeholders together (via Zoom) and hammer this thing out.
 

HenryAlan

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The issue is that it didn't look like they would be able to do that without filling in the river.

Either way it's an easy project to kill if you were looking to slash the budget.
Reduce it by two lanes and the budget and river filling issues go away.

Or:
Call me crazy but doesn't a viaduct option provide more parkland and space at the riverfront, and more of a buffer between cars and pedestrians? I think that's more beneficial than some future fantasy where they decide to reduce lanes in the future and realign the roadway again but in the meantime we're left with a narrow strip of sidewalk next to a ridiculous number of at grade lanes...
I've never understood that, either. Overall, too many stakeholders held entrenched positions that seemed to conflict with their own principles in one way or another.
 

cden4

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Call me crazy but doesn't a viaduct option provide more parkland and space at the riverfront, and more of a buffer between cars and pedestrians? I think that's more beneficial than some future fantasy where they decide to reduce lanes in the future and realign the roadway again but in the meantime we're left with a narrow strip of sidewalk next to a ridiculous number of at grade lanes...
The latest at-grade plan has a wide boardwalk over the river. So pedestrians and bicyclists will have a lot of space. Would I prefer an at-grade solution with fewer lanes where peds and bikes don't need a boardwalk? Yes. But I'll take the current at-grade plan over an ugly viaduct any day.
 

jklo

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So, for a project that has funding issues to begin with, you're spending money to maintain failing infrastructure on a short term basis without a clear cut plan to address it long term. And by kicking the can, you're adding cost upon cost. It's maddening.
It sounded like they had settled on the at grade option. But if you can't get the funding there's no point in continuing.
 

HenryAlan

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I'll take the current at-grade plan over an ugly viaduct any day.
I see this sentiment a lot. Can you or somebody else who shares it explain? is it simply an aesthetic preference, or is there something actually problematic about a viaduct? It seems to me like a good solution to the narrow throat problem, stacking the Pike on one level, with Soldiers Field Road and the railway on the other level, leaving a much larger river park for people to enjoy.
 

JeffDowntown

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I see this sentiment a lot. Can you or somebody else who shares it explain? is it simply an aesthetic preference, or is there something actually problematic about a viaduct? It seems to me like a good solution to the narrow throat problem, stacking the Pike on one level, with Soldiers Field Road and the railway on the other level, leaving a much larger river park for people to enjoy.
Long-term maintenance cost of a viaduct is much higher than for surface roads, for one example. Viaducts also spread traffic noise much more broadly than surface roads, degrading the riverside (and BU area) experience.
 

Wash

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I see this sentiment a lot. Can you or somebody else who shares it explain? is it simply an aesthetic preference, or is there something actually problematic about a viaduct? It seems to me like a good solution to the narrow throat problem, stacking the Pike on one level, with Soldiers Field Road and the railway on the other level, leaving a much larger river park for people to enjoy.
Also, if at some point we want to lower the lane count on either the Pike or Soldier's Field Road (essential in a zero-carbon future), it would be far easier to do on an at-grade highway than it is on a viaducted highway.
 

Equilibria

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Reduce it by two lanes and the budget and river filling issues go away.

Or:

I've never understood that, either. Overall, too many stakeholders held entrenched positions that seemed to conflict with their own principles in one way or another.
They were about 60 feet short the last time I saw a diagram. They'd have to eliminate a whole road. I think the BU sliver made things a little better since then.

Long-term maintenance cost of a viaduct is much higher than for surface roads, for one example. Viaducts also spread traffic noise much more broadly than surface roads, degrading the riverside (and BU area) experience.
If you build it at-grade, you can rehab it gradually over time, forever, deleting lanes potentially a decade hence. You build a viaduct, you're stuck with it for 50 years and then we're right back here with another massive expenditure. Plus, it's more expensive to maintain that whole time.
 

HenryAlan

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Long-term maintenance cost of a viaduct is much higher than for surface roads, for one example. Viaducts also spread traffic noise much more broadly than surface roads, degrading the riverside (and BU area) experience.
I'm not convinced by a cost of maintenance argument when there is a consequential ecological trade-off. But the follow-up about lane reductions does seem worth considering.
Also, if at some point we want to lower the lane count on either the Pike or Soldier's Field Road (essential in a zero-carbon future), it would be far easier to do on an at-grade highway than it is on a viaducted highway.
Perhaps, then, the right approach would be a viaduct for Soldiers Field Road above the rail road, with an abutting Turnpike between those and the river. If a time came for lane reductions, it could be achieved on the edge of the Pike. My reason for asking this is that generally speaking, roads built are not dismantled (only replaced with bigger versions). If we build 12 lanes at grade, I'm suspicious about the possibility of it ever evolving to 10 or 8. A cantilevered boardwalk over the river is nice, I guess, but it's not the same as an active river's edge eco-system. I see the at grade solution as permanently ending any hope for the river's edge.
 

JumboBuc

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I see this sentiment a lot. Can you or somebody else who shares it explain? is it simply an aesthetic preference, or is there something actually problematic about a viaduct? It seems to me like a good solution to the narrow throat problem, stacking the Pike on one level, with Soldiers Field Road and the railway on the other level, leaving a much larger river park for people to enjoy.
I'm not convinced by a cost of maintenance argument when there is a consequential ecological trade-off. But the follow-up about lane reductions does seem worth considering.

Perhaps, then, the right approach would be a viaduct for Soldiers Field Road above the rail road, with an abutting Turnpike between those and the river. If a time came for lane reductions, it could be achieved on the edge of the Pike. My reason for asking this is that generally speaking, roads built are not dismantled (only replaced with bigger versions). If we build 12 lanes at grade, I'm suspicious about the possibility of it ever evolving to 10 or 8. A cantilevered boardwalk over the river is nice, I guess, but it's not the same as an active river's edge eco-system. I see the at grade solution as permanently ending any hope for the river's edge.
I guess I just don't think it's appropriate to say that any filling of the Charles or any construction of a boardwalk over the Charles will, by rule, result in an ecological trade-off and/or in lower-quality park space. The Charles River Esplanade is itself fill from within the last 100 years, and the City is better off for it. And the current Paul Dudley White path through this area is, um, hardly an ecological treasure or a public space to be proud of. Fill and boardwalks need not be bad; if executed well they can improve the river's edge. We're building boardwalks over the harbor in the Seaport right now and they're unequivocally improving the pedestrian experience in that neighborhood.

In the perfect world, there would be plenty of space along this stretch to include all the auto and rail and pedestrian and bike infrastructure we could want plus a healthy "natural" shoreline without touching the river. But that just isn't the case. Even if we do go the viaduct route we'll still get only a measly little bike path and shoreline without filling the river.

If it's a sacred rule that we can't touch the Charles shoreline, then yeah, maybe it does make sense to build a viaduct. But if we put that aside and imagine the possibilities we could create if we allowed the shoreline to be altered, then constructing another highway viaduct along here doesn't make a lot of sense. And all things considered, it's hard for me to see why an untouched shoreline + viaduct is preferable to an at-grade solution accompanied by a redesigned shoreline.
 

Charlie_mta

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I guess I just don't think it's appropriate to say that any filling of the Charles or any construction of a boardwalk over the Charles will, by rule, result in an ecological trade-off and/or in lower-quality park space. The Charles River Esplanade is itself fill from within the last 100 years, and the City is better off for it. And the current Paul Dudley White path through this area is, um, hardly an ecological treasure or a public space to be proud of. Fill and boardwalks need not be bad; if executed well they can improve the river's edge. We're building boardwalks over the harbor in the Seaport right now and they're unequivocally improving the pedestrian experience in that neighborhood.

In the perfect world, there would be plenty of space along this stretch to include all the auto and rail and pedestrian and bike infrastructure we could want plus a healthy "natural" shoreline without touching the river. But that just isn't the case. Even if we do go the viaduct route we'll still get only a measly little bike path and shoreline without filling the river.

If it's a sacred rule that we can't touch the Charles shoreline, then yeah, maybe it does make sense to build a viaduct. But if we put that aside and imagine the possibilities we could create if we allowed the shoreline to be altered, then constructing another highway viaduct along here doesn't make a lot of sense. And all things considered, it's hard for me to see why an untouched shoreline + viaduct is preferable to an at-grade solution accompanied by a redesigned shoreline.
It all hinges of if the regulatory agencies and the NIMBYs (Cambridge especially) would accept a filled-in shoreline. Back in 1963 the original proposal for the Mass Pike at the throat was to fill in the Charles a bit to allow an at-grade Mass Pike instead of a viaduct. The Cambridge NIMBYs stopped that dead in its tracks. Maybe they have mellowed in the last 57 years, but I doubt it,
 

BostonTrainGuy

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It all hinges of if the regulatory agencies and the NIMBYs (Cambridge especially) would accept a filled-in shoreline. Back in 1963 the original proposal for the Mass Pike at the throat was to fill in the Charles a bit to allow an at-grade Mass Pike instead of a viaduct. The Cambridge NIMBYs stopped that dead in its tracks. Maybe they have mellowed in the last 57 years, but I doubt it,
Cambridge is across the river so what say should they have in what happens on the Allston side? Wouldn't the view be so much nicer if it was a level parkway setting instead of an ugly imposing viaduct?

It also just happens to be the widest part of the river and filling it a bit won't even be noticed. Do it right this time.
 

meddlepal

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Cambridge is across the river so what say should they have in what happens on the Allston side? Wouldn't the view be so much nicer if it was a level parkway setting instead of an ugly imposing viaduct?
They get a say because the Charles is a state owned waterway... same for all the roadways involved here and the park land.
 

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