Pollack launches new reviews of Turnpike, West Station

Pollack launches new reviews of Turnpike, West Station

Brings in engineer who help overhaul Green Line extension project

TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY STEPHANIE POLLACK said on Thursday that the state will revisit many of the assumptions behind a massive highway and transit project planned for the Allston-Brighton area with the help of “fresh eyes,” including an independent team headed by the same engineer who spearheaded the overhaul of the Green Line extension to Medford and Somerville.

Admitting that state officials failed to assess all aspects of the project, Pollack said she is pushing back the completion of a final environmental impact report on the project to spring 2019 to give three separate teams the time to do more study.

The project involves replacing an elevated section of the Massachusetts Turnpike between Boston University and the Charles River, the straightening of the Turnpike through the area, and the development of a new transit station there called West Station. Much of the land on which the work will be done is owned by Harvard University, which is in the early stages of building a new neighborhood in the area.

In an op-ed in the Boston Globe on Thursday, Pollack acknowledged “concerns about whether MassDOT staff and consultants can be unbiased” about the construction of the interchange and the development of West Station. As a result, she said, she was launching a new review of the project with the help of three separate teams.

One team, headed by Jack Wright of Weston & Sampson, who led the Green Line extension overhaul, will conduct a 90-day review of the plans for replacing the deteriorating elevated section of the Turnpike between Boston University and the Charles River. Two major designs have emerged, one that would replaced the existing, elevated viaduct and another that would build the highway at ground leve, or at grade.

In a presentation to stakeholders on Wednesday night, state transportation officials said the “at-grade alternatives in the draft environmental impact report were not as fully developed/evaluated as the viaduct alternative and new ideas have been raised since the draft environmental impact report was prepared.”

The stakeholder presentation also said the review team will be accountable to Pollack and managed separately from the Allston I-90 project management group.

Wright will lead the team and be assisted by consultants who worked with him on the Green Line overhaul and others with expertise in the area. The presentation to stakeholders said Ilyas Bhatti, a professor at the Wentworth Institute of Technology and the former head of the state’s Metropolitan District Commission, will help facilitate discussions between stakeholders and Wright’s team.

State officials said they will also seek to address the inadequacy of existing transit options in the Allston/Brighton area, which were described as “limited, unreliable, and crowded.” Studies will be launched by the city of Boston and the MBTA to assess existing transit options and how to improve them.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

A third study led by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council will look at West Station and answer what it should look like and when it should be built. Pollack has suggested the station should not be built until 2040 when the new Harvard neighborhood is taking shape and new transit services are necessary. But transit advocates have said the station is needed much sooner to accommodate development in the area.

The presentation to stakeholders said the timing of West Station construction will be explored and “MassDOT commits to re-phase the project to start construction of West Station as soon as it is both possible and sensible.”