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Delays in Allston public transit construction receive community backlash

Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation hosts a public meeting Tuesday night on the Massachusetts turnpike at the Jackson Mann Community School and Council Inc. in Allston. PHOTO BY SYDNEY MAES/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Many Boston residents voiced dissatisfaction with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Massachusetts Pike billion-dollar project on Tuesday night at a public meeting hosted by Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation. The project will add roads, bike lanes, public transportation and green space to the Allston Interchange area, which is just north of Boston University’s campus.

The blueprint favors roadways with plans for a new highway and ideas for new major roads, postponing work on bus and rail services, including the planned West Station Commuter Rail in Allston, until at least 2040, according to the meeting’s Facebook page.

After an overview of the Draft Environmental Impact Report contents presented by Nathaniel Cabral-Curtis, the manager of public involvement for Howard Stein Hudson — a company that helps plan and design engineering projects — residents, many of whom were wearing “Transit not Traffic!” stickers, were given an opportunity to voice their opinions.

Residents took the chance to speak out against the construction plans’ which they say builds roadways before adding and improving public transportation.

Massachusetts Rep. Michael Moran said he is not satisfied with the delay in construction for the West Station Commuter Rail.

“That stop is really the one thing that I think is the most important piece of this development that we need,” Moran said during the presentation. “I intend to stay focused and engaged in this process right to the end. I hate to say it, but this is the start line, not three years ago, and we have to let them know what we want, and we have to be loud and clear about what we want to know.”

Alana Olsen, the executive director of Allston Village Main Streets — a nonprofit community organization working to improve the Allston neighborhood — said she is angry the City of Boston’s last minute changes to the three-year plan the Task Force had been working to develop.

“I am so incredibly pissed that I’ve been lied to for the last three years,” Olsen said during the presentation. “I am confounded by how we have managed to turn a project that could have been transformative for our community into a project that literally moves the highway closer to where people live and opens up eight acres of land for Harvard to develop. I feel like we should coin the phrase #thatsridiculous because I’m really mad right now.”

Jason Desrosier, the manager of community building and engagement for the Allston Brighton CDC, said investments should be made to benefit the railway system not the highway system.

“I spent a considerable amount of time mapping out the proposed development for that part of the neighborhood and there is roughly 1600 units of development,” Desrosier said. “With all of that development coming down the pike, we’re going to need major investments in transit and not just more traffic backing on Linden Street, Harvard Avenue and Cambridge Street.”   

Several attendees said they are not pleased with the postponement of the West Station Commuter Rail in favor of roadwork construction.

Arcady Goldmints, 33, of Watertown, said the City is spending an excessive amount of money in unproductive ways.  

“The fact that they’re canceling West Station entirely and turning this into basically a highway project, replacing the highway that’s there with another, bigger highway is awful,” Goldmints said. “I also had some secondary concerns that their ramming through their preferred alternative and sandbagging the better options after looking at the cheaper options.”

Michael Small, 46, of Brighton, said he’s dissatisfied the plan is diminishing to accommodate highway upgrades.

“I heard they dropping part of the Mass Transit Plan that went with it which was disappointing to me,” Small said. “I think the viaduct that’s supposed to be deteriorating is not worth it — if that’s an engineering fact then I guess it has to be upgraded — other than that I don’t see any benefit. What do I care if cars have to drive in straighter lines — I don’t have a car so it doesn’t do anything for me.”

Annie Carlson, 25, of Allston, said she’s disheartened by the lack of energy the City has spent on public transportation, which she said is an issue of great importance.

“My understanding of how it’s currently laid out is that not going to be terribly great,” Carlson said. “It doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be redesigned and changed to potentially be a lot more helpful for the neighborhood, but at the moment, it’s not providing any additional public transit and it’s dividing a portion of the neighborhood in half.”

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