Walsh calls at-grade throat ‘right thing to do’

Mayor asks to participate in decisions on I-90 Allston project

IN A LETTER to state and federal transportation officials, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said he strongly favors rebuilding the elevated section of the Massachusetts Turnpike and other infrastructure located in the narrow area between Boston University and the Charles River at ground level.

While the Walsh administration has previously indicated it supports the at-grade option of the four options under consideration, the letter submitted to Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack and Federal Highway Administrator Jeffrey McEwen is the first time the mayor himself has provided his reasoning on the $1 billion project.

“By removing the viaduct, we have a chance to reduce a barrier between our residents and the river, unlock economic benefits associated with removing an elevated highway infrastructure, lessen the noise from cars and trucks through this corridor, lower long-term maintenance and capital costs, accelerate investment in other needed transportation infrastructure, and expand the options we will have for this area in the future,” Walsh said in his letter. “Lower long-term costs, fewer barriers, and greater and greener choices – this is the right thing to do and a valuable legacy to leave.”

The Walsh letter came in at the tail-end of the comment period on the four options for rebuilding the infrastructure in the area, which is very narrow and typically referred to as the throat. The approach that appears to be favored in state comparisons of the options calls for rebuilding all of the infrastructure pretty much where it is now, with the Turnpike elevated and Soldiers Field Road and four railroad tracks at ground level.

Of the other options under consideration, one would put the Turnpike and rail tracks at ground level and elevate Soldiers Field Road, another would put all the elements at ground level, and a third would just rebuild the Turnpike where it is now.

On Friday, backers of the at-grade proposal released a press release indicating 30 transportation and neighborhood groups had endorsed the approach, along with US Sen. Ed Markey and US Rep. Ayanna Pressley.

In his letter, Walsh noted that the entire construction project is inside the city of Boston. He asked that Boston be allowed to participate in negotiations as state and federal agencies decide which option to pursue.

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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.

The mayor said challenges remain with the at-grade approach, particularly in limiting its impact on the Charles River and increasing its climate resiliency. But Walsh said those challenges can be overcome.

“We believe that this selection is supported by analysis that has already been done by your teams. particularly when appropriately giving greater weight to public input, economic development, visual impact and noise, long-term costs, and mobility and access for transit, pedestrians, and cyclists,” he wrote.