DCR unwilling to ease I-90 Allston space crunch
Officials reject narrowing lanes on Soldiers Field Road
STATE TRANSPORTATION officials looking for some extra space to put all of the roadways and train tracks associated with the Allston I-90 project at ground level are facing resistance from the Department of Conservation and Recreation.
On a press call on Friday announcing a new master plan for improving Greater Boston parkways, DCR officials said they would not favor freeing up space by narrowing the width of the lanes on Soldiers Field Road.
State transportation officials are trying to squeeze the current elevated eight lanes of the Massachusetts Turnpike, four lanes of Soldiers Field Road, and four commuter rail tracks into a narrow stretch of ground called the throat between Boston University and the Charles River. With the current at-grade design, the transportation infrastructure ends up being too wide, with 4 feet of roadway slipping into the Charles River.
To find an extra four feet, advocates have called for eliminating lanes or narrowing shoulders on the Turnpike, taking a few extra feet of additional land from Boston University, and narrowing the width of lanes on Soldiers Field Road from 11 feet to 10 feet.
According to the DCR’s Historic Parkway Preservation Treatment Guidelines, which were published in 2007, parkway lanes can be between 9 and 11 feet wide, but parkways that permit general traffic, including trucks, should have lanes between 10 and 11 feet wide. Truck traffic is not allowed on Soldiers Field Road.
At Friday’s press conference, DCR Commissioner Jim Montgomery indicated Soldiers Field Road gets so much traffic that it makes sense to keep the lanes wider. An aide said: “Given the level of traffic, 11 feet is what we need out there. It’s a road that has hundreds of thousands of cars every day.”
At 11 feet, the lane widths on Soldiers Field Road would be the same as proposed for the Turnpike, even though the Turnpike carries truck traffic and more vehicles at greater speed.
The master plan unveiled by DCR on Friday does not broadly address the width of lanes on Soldiers Field Road, but it identifies “wide lanes” as an issue for a section of the roadway west of the throat near Harvard University, stretching from Eliot Bridge to Western Avenue. It recommends restriping the stretch with narrower lanes between 10.5 and 11 feet wide.
The master plan seeks to create a more accessible and interconnected network of roads and paths for walking and biking. The plan will guide maintenance and reconstruction initiatives such as correcting conditions not compliant with the American Disability Act, repaving roads and sidewalks, and redesigning and reconstructing parkways to enhance walking and biking accessibility.
The document includes a comprehensive “parkways inventory” to guide the use of annual funds for short-term repairs and improvements such as restoring or adding curb ramps and bike lanes, adding guardrails, and repairing crossing signals.The plan begins with a safety assessment that identifies where and how crashes occur, maps “crash hotspots,” and charts injury and fatality trends between 2004 and 2014. Later chapters provide tools for measuring and improving safety, comfort, and connectivity; present strategies and policy recommendations for existing maintenance projects; and outline recommendations for future initiatives.
Montgomery said the plan guides the allocation of annual capital improvement funds, but makes no request for additional investment. The plan will cost $200 million over 20 years, he said.