Governor to Make Announcement About Allston’s Mass Pike Interchange Project
On Tuesday, September 30, Governor Deval Patrick will join state transportation officials at the Beacon Park Yards in Allston—the site of a multi-million dollar project that will considerably transform the abutting neighborhood by fixing up the existing highway interchange—to make an announcement about “multi-modal improvements” to be included as part of the extensive road work slated to begin in 2017.
While the topic surrounding Patrick’s appearance is still shrouded in mystery, and transit officials are staying mum on the subject, a notice about the the governor’s planned appearance at the construction site, known formally as the Intertsate-90 Allston Interchange Improvement Project, has stirred curiosity within the community, and left some wondering if maybe Boston’s getting a new transit hub, called West Station, which was included as part of MassDOT’s Capital Improvement Plan released at the start of the year.
“I don’t know any more details than anyone else, but it would be great if they found funding to build West Station as part of this project,” said Harry Mattison, an Allston resident and member of the group The People’s Pike, which has been calling for vast improvements to the site where the state’s massive, $260 million transportation project is going to occur. “I think that is what it’s about.”
In the next two years, MassDOT will embark on the four-year project, said to be the biggest task the agency will take on in the last decade, to transform the “structural and geometric deficiencies of the I-90 Allston Interchange” between Cambridge Street and Commonwealth Avenue, and bring the new roadways in line with the state’s planned rollout of all-electronic tolls.
One tip-off about Tuesday’s announcement and its relation to West Station is that Patrick will be joined by MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott, leading some to believe that perhaps he will call for the inclusion of the new stop on the land surrounding the Interchange project. If that were the case, the station would allow for Diesel Multiple Unit vehicles, known as DMUs, to ship commuters from Allston to Cambridge or North Station, and possibly even Downtown Boston, on existing tracks located at the site.
“That would be great,” said Mattison, whose group has also been rallying for bike paths, green space along the Charles River, and other amenities to be part of the changes.
Although previous meetings this year between MassDOT officials, neighbors, and transit advocates ruled out the possibility of a new West Station, due to financial constraints, the transportation agency didn’t quash the concept completely.
MassDOT spokesman Mike Verseckes told the Boston Globe in May that “construction of a new Allston rail station could still happen in the future” but it wasn’t part of the first phase of the reconstruction plans.
“It’s not out of the question,” he told the Globe, keeping the dream alive. “The design of the realignment of the interchange is being done in a manner that will not preclude construction of a future station in this location…long term, the MassDOT Capital Investment Plan does envision a station in this area in the future.”
That much was evident when MassDOT released the above map in January, which included a dedicated slot for West Station.
Perhaps MassDOT received additional federal funding to make the station come to life sooner than anticipated? It’s still just a pipedream, but the implications would be welcomed by those who have been staunch supporters of improvements to the area as part of the larger redevelopment project.
“We applaud MassDOT for acknowledging this is more than a highway project and strongly hope and advocate for all biking, walking, public transit, and parkland space improvements to be fully considered,” said Kara Oberg, program manager for LivableStreets Alliance. “The I-90 project will be one of the biggest transportation projects of the next decade. The potential to improve the quality of life for residents of Allston and people getting around Metro Boston is huge.”
Several MassDOT officials did not return Boston‘s requests for comment about the upcoming announcement. An MBTA spokesperson also wouldn’t discuss what was expected at the event.