At-grade I-90 Allston project called ‘preferred alternative’

AFTER YEARS OF indecision and delays, state transportation officials on Monday formally bowed to what public stakeholders have wanted for some time and designated a challenging all-at-grade approach as the preferred design to reconstruct the Massachusetts Turnpike as it runs through Boston’s Allston neighborhood.

Jonathan Gulliver, the state’s highway commissioner, notified the Federal Highway Administration of the state’s preferred alternative on Monday. The decision doesn’t mean other approaches won’t be considered during the environmental review process, but it means the state prefers putting everything at ground level.

That may not sound too controversial, but it means squeezing eight lanes of the Turnpike, four lanes of Soldiers Field Road, and four railroad tracks into a narrow piece of land between Boston University and the Charles River. Fitting everything in comes down to inches, and requires placing a bike and pedestrian path out over the Charles, which is opposed by river advocates. Under former state transportation secretary Stephanie Pollack, the Baker administration never got comfortable with the all-at-grade approach. But when she left for the Federal Highway Administration (she is currently the acting administrator), the job of deciding what to do with the I-90 Allston project was dumped in the lap of Gulliver, who seemed to keep an open mind and ultimately was won over to the all-at-grade approach.

“While the review process requires us to continue advancing several design alternatives, MassDOT’s view is this option has the broadest support among key stakeholder groups, and represents the best choice to expand access to transit, facilitate new or improved connections for cyclists and pedestrians, and allows for new economic development opportunities within the area,” Gulliver said in a statement.

State officials say they plan to unveil an environmental report on the project next year that will undergo review at the state and federal level. Funding for the project, which is expected to cost nearly $2 billion, is another major hurdle facing the project, which is key to plans for a new neighborhood being developed by Harvard University.

Rick Dimino, the president and CEO of the business group A Better City, who helped lead the fight for the all-at-grade approach, hailed Monday’s decision.

“This is a substantive move in the right direction,” he said.

One of the biggest potential benefits of the all-at-grade approach is it offers a chance to remove a crumbling elevated section of Turnpike that for years has acted like a wall separating the area around BU from Allston.

“It’s long past time to take down the hulking Allston interchange and knit our communities back together with sustainable, multimodal transportation infrastructure,” said Boston Mayor Michelle Wu in a statement. “We’re looking forward to continuing our partnership with MassDOT and the many stakeholders who have worked hard to develop and refine this design.”




Healey picks top aides: Gov.-elect Maura Healey makes her first personnel moves, appointing Matthew Gorzkowicz as secretary of administration and finance and naming two current aides at the attorney general’s office, Kate Cook and Gabrielle Viator, as her chief of staff and senior advisor.

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Warning on housing law: Oren Sellstom and Jacob Love of Lawyers for Civil Rights warn that resistance to the Housing Choice law by Boston’s suburbs will be met with financial penalties and legal actions. Read more.





Boston Mayor Michelle Wu will introduce a “participatory budgeting” proposal in the City Council this week. (Boston Herald) The initiative, set in motion by a voter-approved change in the city charter, was recently spotlighted in this CommonWealth story

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Drug maker Emergent BioSolutions is seeking approval from the Food and Drug Administration to sell Narcan over the counter, without need for a prescription. (NPR)

David Masters and seven other people with physical and mental disabilities sue the Baker administration, claiming they have been confined to nursing homes when they could be living more independent lives. (Berkshire Eagle)


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US Rep. Seth Moulton visits Ukraine and urges US officials to continue providing military and humanitarian support. (Eagle-Tribune)


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Brian Fay of Abington dies of respiratory illness brought on by his work as a first responder after the September 11 terrorist attacks, at age 58. (Patriot Ledger)