Status, construction and traffic management of the Allston Multimodal Project

Updates on project status and construction.

Status

As of Fall 2021, MassDOT and its Design Team are working to file a Notice of Project Change (NPC) and a joint Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Draft Environmental Impact Report Statement (DEIS). The FEIS and DEIS will be filed with both the MEPA and NEPA offices of Federal Highway.

MassDOT identified the 3L Re-Alignment Alternative as the preferred concept for Beacon Park Yard street grid portion of the project. The 3L Re-Alignment Alternative grade separates Stadium Way and Cambridge Street South to reduce cyclists’ crossings to the river. The 3L Re-Alignment Alternative works equally well with the throat options, Modified Highway Viaduct, Soldiers Field Road Hybrid and Modified At-Grade, that MassDOT is carrying through to evaluate in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The Modified Highway Viaduct and the Soldiers Field Road Hybrid would allow for bank restoration enhancement, with no additional fill in the river. Modified At-Grade’s restored riverbank would require additional intrusion into the river. Previously, the Modified At-Grade’s restored riverbank would require additional intrusion into the river. The Design Team is working with its partner agencies and stakeholders to find four feet of space to avoid intrusion.

Current Area of Focus: Modified At-Grade Option: Interstate 90 at- or partially below existing ground elevation. Worcester Mainline on retained fill for portion of throat to allow track connections to Grand Junction rail. Grand Junction rail profile rises from west to east on retained fill to go over Interstate 90 and Soldiers Field Road. Soldiers Field Road shifted slightly north to provide width for rail and at-grade highway. PDW Path shifted north onto boardwalk over the Charles River.

Modified Highway Viaduct: Interstate 90, Worcester Mainline & Grand Junction rail, Soldiers Field Road and PDW Path in similar vertical and horizontal locations as existing infrastructure. The viaduct is supported by three columns allowing a portion of Soldiers Field Road to shift south creating more accessible parkland along the river and a separated bicycle and pedestrian facility within a substantial portion of the Throat Area. It also allows for a second Grand Junction track for a future connection over the Charles.

Soldiers Field Road Hybrid: Interstate 90 at or substantially below existing ground elevation. Worcester Mainline on retained fill for portion of throat to allow track connections to Grand Junction rail. Grand Junction rail profile rises from west to east on retained fill to go over I-90 and Soldiers Field Road. Soldiers Field Road on a viaduct over I-90 eastbound. As a result of placing Soldiers Field Road over I-90 eastbound, it opens area for the greatest extent of separated bicycle and pedestrian facilities without operational impacts to the river.

No Build: Rehabilitation/preservation of the deteriorating existing highway viaduct structure and replace and repair of various superstructure and substructure elements of the Cambridge Street Bridge over I-90 and the Franklin Street Pedestrian Bridge. This alternative would not change access or egress points to I-90, would not realign the highway or Soldiers Field Road, would not reconfigure the interchange, would not provide any upgrades to the Paul Dudley White Path, and would not include a future West Station.

The construction timeframe is contingent upon the selection of a preferred alternative and/or No Build and a finance plan. MassDOT is targeting late 2023 or early 2024.

Construction and Traffic Management

Construction-period staging, and traffic management are major concerns for the Allston community, commuters who use I-90, and riders on the Worcester Mainline as evident by the public comment periods in 2019 and 2020. Since 2015, the project team has been developing plans for managing construction. MassDOT’s goal is to preserve the livability of abutting neighborhoods during construction while ensuring that those who need to get in and out of Boston every day to access jobs, education, and recreation or move freight can continue to do so throughout construction.

NEPA Scoping and Scoping Summary

In October 2019, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) published the Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in the Federal Register. This began the federal NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) environmental review to be processed as One Federal Decision (OFD) per Executive Order 13807. One Federal Decision accelerates the environmental review and authorization process. This helps to produce an EIS in minimal time for major infrastructure projects. The NEPA scoping process determines the scope of issues to be addressed in the EIS. A Scoping Report was prepared and published for public review and comment in November 2019. Over a 37-day public comment period, the team collected more than 2000 individual substantive public comments.

The NEPA Scoping Report detailed proposed construction methods associated with the SFR Hybrid throat area option. Construction of the SFR Hybrid would result in single tracking of the Commuter Rail through the project area. The concept would also place Soldiers’ Field Road and the Dr. Paul Dudley White path on a temporary trestle in the Charles River to maintain traffic for much of the duration of construction, estimated to be between 8-10 years. Public comment strongly opposed both impacts. The report received 2000 plus individual substantive public comments. The NEPA Scoping Summary Report summarizing the comments received during the NEPA scoping process was published in August 2020. These comments helped to identify significant issues related to the proposed alternatives. These issues will later be addressed in the EIS.

Preliminary Design and DEIR Phase

In June 2015, the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) phase was launched with a public information meeting. The goal of the DEIR phase was to refine the concept. The phase would also address the scope of work developed in the EEA's MEPA Certificate.

Over the course of 2015, 2016, and 2017, the project team held:

  • 22 meetings with the Task Force, including sessions with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) to discuss the Placemaking Study
  • 7 Public Information Meetings, including 2 in Cambridge, and 2 in Brookline
  • 1 site walk at the request of Task Force membership

Besides meetings organized by MassDOT, members of the project team appeared at:

  • 2 meetings organized either fully or in part by Task Force membership and advocates interested in the project
  • 1 City of Boston organized open house in Allston

February 2018 - The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) issued a scope of work for a Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR). MassDOT and its Design Team have been working to complete the work outlined in the EEA document. Summer of 2018 - The area immediately next to the I-90 Viaduct is known as "the throat". MassDOT leadership ran an independent review of the options for the project. The three options under consideration were:

  • a new highway viaduct
  • a rail viaduct
  • all transportation elements, both road and rail, on the ground

2019 – Various meetings between the independent review team and the Task Force occurred. As a result, the Secretary chose the Soldiers' Field Road Hybrid as the preferred concept in the throat. MassDOT continued to meet with the Task Force to develop the preferred concept.

Conceptual Design and ENF Phase

The project's first phase launched with a public information meeting held in April 2014.

Over the course of 2014, the project team held:

  • 10 Task Force meetings
  • four public information meetings—two in Allston, two in Cambridge
  • a briefing for the Allston Civic Association
  • a bicycle tour with interested Task Force members

The result of this work and efforts by MassDOT’s design team was a concept known as 3J. The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs for MEPA reviewed this concept. A MEPA site walk, and scoping session took place in November 2014.

MEPA issued a certificate in December 2014. The project team worked to address their questions and to develop the data needed to continue the conversation with the Allston community. This led to the public information meeting on June 17, 2015. This meeting marked the beginning of the preliminary design and DEIR phase.

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