With so much focus on turnpike viaduct, don’t overlook watershed
There are numerous decisions to be made regarding the replacement of the Massachusetts Turnpike viaduct in Allston besides whether to keep the road elevated or rebuild at ground level (“Decision on turnpike fix still up in the air,” Page A1, Sept. 25). From our perspective as advocates for a healthy Charles River watershed, it is critical that we not miss this unique opportunity to significantly improve parkland, ecology, water quality, and overall resiliency, but to date, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation has been focused almost solely on roadway design without considering these additional critical concerns.
In a time of climate change it is inconceivable that we would be this far along in a project of this scale but not be making climate resiliency front and center in our planning. If done right, this project would not only bring about needed safety improvements to the built environment, but it would also provide flood storage, restore aquatic and riverbank habitat (the Charles is an important fish run for alewives, blueback herring, and American shad, migratory fish that return to the river each year to spawn), reduce stormwater runoff, and expand parkland acreage.
We should be bold and think decades ahead on this project
The debate about the potential Allston turnpike reconstruction project overlooks the true issue, which concerns the use of this large vacant piece of Harvard-owned land situated between Allston and the Charles River.
Our state and local officials and planners are missing the point that either option — a new stretch of highway at ground level or a rebuilt viaduct — is going to result in another clogged, single-occupant-vehicle roadway that will waste precious riverfront land. We should be planning for the next 50 to 100 years of this unique parcel. Merge Storrow Drive with the Massachusetts Turnpike from the DoubleTree Hotel to the Boston University Bridge, and put it all underground. This will open Allston to the water and create an entirely new neighborhood to be shared by Harvard and the Allston community. Maybe “Allston on the Charles.”
We must not give in to the temptation to make short-term, expedient decisions while the opportunity for true transformation is at hand. We should plan for decades ahead, when autonomous vehicles will rule the road.
We have an opportunity to contribute to Mayor Marty Walsh’s goal of new mixed-income housing to alleviate the housing shortage. Yes, creating a tunnel for less than 1 mile would be more costly than building another viaduct, but the opportunity for future development on this large parcel will bring in revenue to recover the cost and make a real change.