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Allston Multimodal Project continues to push for federal funding

After a second failed attempt, the Allston Multimodal I-90 project still awaits federal funding in order to revitalize and reconfigure the neighborhood. 

The Massachusetts Turnpike. The Allston Multimodal Project is still awaiting funding after a $200 million proposal was rejected by the National Infrastructure Project Assistance Program. ISABELLA OLAND/DFP PHOTOGRAPHER

At the end of January, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s application for $200 million in funding from the National Infrastructure Project Assistance Program, or “Mega,” was unsuccessful, following a first attempt in 2021 that requested $1.2 billion.

“MassDOT and our partners continue to aggressively advocate for federal funding opportunities,” a MassDOT spokesperson wrote in an email statement. 

State officials were in Washington advocating for more funding to push this project forward, according to MassDOT.  

The plan to straighten out the Allston interchange aims to create space for urban development in the area, introduce new bike and pedestrian lanes and improve transit traffic, according to the MassDOT project website. With an estimated cost of $1.9 billion, the plan hopes for financial backing from the federal government to help it come to fruition. 

Tom Ryan, senior advisor on policy and legislative affairs at A Better City, a non-profit organization involved in the project, said MassDOT had applied for a smaller amount from Mega because it also applied to a new grant program, Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods. 

“[It] has a very strong match to what the goals of the Allston I-90 project are,” Ryan said. “It became the primary focus of the state and the advocacy community.”

The Reconnecting Communities grant application for $500 million was submitted in September 2023 not long after the second Mega attempt in September 2023, and is still awaiting approval.  

“While we remain optimistic, we are not at a point where we can share anything regarding the status of our grant submission, though we expect to hear something soon,” the MassDOT spokesperson wrote.

Ryan said the grant program is a “unique” opportunity for funding that he considered a “better chance” for funding than the Mega grant. Ryan also said the Reconnecting Communities grant was funded primarily from the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. 

“It’s a new wrinkle for the state, but a real opportunity for this project,” Ryan said. 

The grant aims to prioritize disadvantaged communities, improve access to daily needs, foster equitable development and remove, retrofit or mitigate highways that create barriers to community connectivity, according to the US Department of Transportation website. 

The Boston Planning and Development Agency’s Beacon Park Yard Regional Framework Plan will be utilized to develop the area, including new housing. A BPDA spokesperson wrote in an email that the agency is similarly focused on the Reconnecting Communities grant.

The exact date for when the decision will be announced is undetermined, but Ryan said they are hopeful to hear back in the next few weeks about the grant. 

“We’re really hopeful that … when the federal government announces who’s winning money from Recommending Communities … they’ll put some money into the Allston I-90 Multimodal project,” Ryan said. 

Ryan said that usually, the USDOT “gives themself their own flexibility on when they’re going to release the awards,” but has been told they’re targeting the end of February. 

Ryan added that they’re also encouraged by strong support for the project they’ve seen amongst different groups in the community. 

“There’s been a lot of support … from community groups and transportation advocates, environmental advocates … the business community [and] the congressional delegation” Ryan said.

If the funding is once again rejected, the project might have to resort to other sources of funding, possibly increasing the funding it has already accumulated from state and local sources, Ryan said. 

“Hopefully we don’t need to think about that, because it is a very worthy project of federal funds, it matches a lot of goals of the Biden administration and it’s a good match for these infrastructure grants,” Ryan said. “[But] if they tell us there’s no chance at federal money, we’ll have that conversation.”

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