Is there a finance plan for the I-90 Allston project?

There’s been a lot of talk over the last five years about how to design the I-90 Allston project, but very little discussion about how to pay for it.

 The project, which has ballooned in cost well beyond $1 billion, involves replacing a badly deteriorated elevated section of the Massachusetts Turnpike on a narrow slip of land between Boston University and the Charles River and then straightening the roadway through Allston to make way for a new neighborhood and business district being developed by Harvard University.

 The state and stakeholders have agreed that an all-at-grade reincarnation of the transportation infrastructure — Turnpike, Soldiers Field Road, and commuter rail tracks — is the preferred design. 

 Paying for the project is another matter. In November 2020, then-state Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack put top aide Scott Bosworth and Massachusetts Department of Transportation board member Betsy Taylor in charge of coming up with a financing plan.

 Two months later, Bosworth asked the MassDOT board to approve a resolution stating that if no financing plan is agreed upon the state would move ahead with repairing the elevated section of the Turnpike between Boston University and the Charles River and scratch the rest of the project.

 “We need to be fair on how we allocate available funding,” Bosworth said at the time. “We cannot drain the system for one particular project.”

The proposal prompted pushback and the watering down of the resolution, but Taylor insisted the original version made sense. “How do we make a project real if we don’t know how to pay for it?” she asked.

Neither Bosworth nor Taylor ever outlined a formal funding plan, although in late 2021 Taylor suggested the city of Boston and Harvard should foot a large chunk of the bill for the transportation infrastructure since that would be key to unlocking the area’s development potential. “If people are going to make a lot of money out of building that, maybe, maybe they should contribute to the infrastructure that makes that land so valuable for them,” she said. 

At a March 15 meeting, the MassDOT board approved an $86 million contract to fix up the crumbling elevated section of the Turnpike, raising concerns among advocates that state transportation officials were once again looking to do the roadway repairs and call it a day.

“There is, to date, no funding for the full project,” Taylor warned yet again.

Harry Mattison, an Allston resident, wondered when Taylor’s financing plan would emerge. “It’s surprising that there seems to be so little progress in developing this plan,” he said.

State transportation officials – and Taylor – both declined to comment. 

 “Thanks, but no thanks,” she said in an email forwarded along by a spokeswoman. “There is nothing specific to be reported at this time.”




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