Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 8)

Progress Continues on Grand Junction Path

Exciting times are ahead for the Grand Junction Multiuse Path.  Last month the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA) announced that they would start construction this year on the first section of the path. When the shovel hits the ground, it will be a true milestone in the history of this project.

What makes the Grand Junction Multiuse Path such an important project is its ability to connect so many amenities in Cambridge and Somerville. By connecting existing parks and public facilities throughout the corridor, the path will act as an urban necklace that makes open space and other neighborhoods more accessible for residents of Cambridgeport, Area 4, Harrington/Wellington and East Cambridge.  It has the potential to serve as a critical link between paths along (and over) the Charles River on one end and as a connection to the Somerville Community Path and Minuteman Commuter Bikeway on the other. It has immense potential to improve the quality of life for our neighborhoods by providing safe pedestrian and cyclist access to a large part of Cambridge, including a number of schools and parks.

An overnight success this is not.  It’s the culmination of many years of hard work, patience, and focus. Advocates like Friends of the Grand Junction have greatly contributed to the viability and public awareness of this project. Friends of the Community Path, whose primary focus has been on the Somerville Community Path, have worked with MassDOT to guarantee that a future connection between the Somerville Community Path and the Grand Junction Multiuse Path would not be physically obstructed by the Green Line Extension. These groups, along with many residents and officials, have had the vision to look ahead to the path’s creation, and have found ways to leverage new development to make progress on the Grand Junction path.

Along the way we have dealt with proposed uses for the Grand Junction route for Commuter Rail Trains and Ethanol Transport that could have impacted future use as a multiuse path. Advocates, legislators, and the community have been able to suppress both proposals and preserve the viability of the Grand Junction Multiuse Path.

The start of construction on a portion of the path–which has been made possible through the help of MIT and the CRA—means that we must continue to work to find ways to make construction of the entire path possible.  At a recent council meeting I moved to take two steps that I believe will keep this momentum going.  The first is asking the CRA to continue its work with the City of Cambridge to help us understand the complexities of land uses along the path heading towards the Somerville boarder.  With their help we can start to make progress on portions of the path that have yet to be studied in depth.

More importantly I have asked the City of Cambridge to consider creating a Grand Junction Overlay District along the length of the path.  An overlay district can help to shape the vision of the path while attempting to alleviate some possible obstacles identified by many studies of the project. It can help to preserve setbacks while ensuring development won’t encroach on the path while allowing more flexibility to landowners who may be redeveloping parcels along the path.  This will help our long term visions and goals for the corridor and I hope get people more excited about what this can be. Imagine a future where instead of the rails being a back alley, they are embraced and it becomes the front door to future residents, students and retail that want to take advantage of a bustling, commuter-centric path connecting the eastern half of Cambridge.

There remains much work to be done, but at the moment I will be happy to see the first shovels break ground.

If you want to hear more about the Grand Junction please join us at the Transportation Committee Meeting at 4 pm on Wednesday, March 25 at City Hall.

Some Thoughts on the Pearl Street Reconstruction Project

I have been contacted by many residents recently who are opposed to the proposal to eliminate parking for a dedicated bike lane on Pearl Street as part of an upcoming reconstruction project. I am also aware that there are a number of residents who support doing so. I submitted an order to the Cambridge City Council on Monday asking that the so-called “Complete Streets” proposal (the plan that eliminates parking) for Pearl Street be abandoned. An article about my order appeared on the blog BostInno, and I sent a letter to the author with some comments about the article and my position on this issue. I am publishing the letter here in hopes that it will provide some insight into why I submitted this Council order and help clarify my position on this issue. I tabled the order until the next regular Council meeting (January 26) to allow for more opportunity for public comment.  -Tim

Dear Nick,

I am writing to offer some comments on your January 6th article regarding the Pearl Street redesign and the order I submitted to the Cambridge City Council asking the manager to abandon the “Complete Streets” proposal.

I appreciate the past coverage that you and BostInno have given to the Pearl Street redesign issue and I want to say first and foremost that I agree that the status quo on Pearl Street is not acceptable. Improvements are needed to enhance safety and usability for all modes of transportation. I also firmly believe that residents must have a voice in deciding how the City approaches changes to the street they live on. After seeing the “Complete Streets” proposal and hearing from Pearl Street residents, I came to the conclusion that the proposal not only failed to reflect the needs of abutters and residents, but also did not offer enough safety improvements to justify the significant impact it would have on parking.

I think that it is worth pointing out for your readers that of the 54 crashes that you cited in your article, a significant number of them appear to have actually occurred on Massachusetts Avenue at the Pearl St. intersection, including four of the five collisions involving bicycles. This data makes a better case for focusing improvements on visibility at this intersection than it does for bike lanes on Pearl Street itself. To put the one accident that occurred on Pearl St. into context, during the same four year period there were 13 accidents involving bicycles on Prospect St. and 47 accidents involving bicycles on the section of Massachusetts Avenue between Magazine St. and Albany St. While it is true that both of these streets have significantly higher traffic volumes, if we are going to use collision numbers alone as justification for certain street improvements (as you do in your article), we should conclude that making improvements to visibility at the Mass Ave intersection would have a much greater impact on safety than bike lanes. With that said, I think that obtaining an accurate count of bicycle traffic on Pearl Street would be a good next step for the City and would help to further contextualize accident data.

I would also like to draw attention to your assertion that the “base plan” presents a safety risk because it keeps lane width at 11 feet. I was puzzled that you would bring up this detail but fail to point out that the “Complete Streets” proposal also keeps Pearl Street at 11 feet in width, albeit with a 7’ 6” bike lane during the day time. While this may give cyclists more breathing room for part of the day, the bike lane does not help reduce the most deadly factor in bicycle and pedestrian collisions with motor vehicles—speed. In fact, I would argue that the addition of a bike lane could have the effect of increasing speeds as drivers perceive the road to be wider between intersections, and while both the “base plan” and the “complete streets” plan include traffic calming measures like raised intersections and curb extensions, those may be made less effective under the “complete streets” plan due to the wider lane that some drivers will perceive to be available to them when no bikes are present.

It is my hope that you and your readers do not get the impression from my council order that I am somehow anti-bike or opposed to bike lanes. On the contrary, I have worked very hard to increase bike safety in Cambridge and in the areas of Somerville within my legislative district. I have worked with the Massachusetts Highway Department on coming changes to the McCarthy Overpass area in Somerville, which includes lots of new bike and pedestrian safety improvements (including some that come with the elimination of on-street parking spaces). I am also a member of the Grounding McGrath working group, which is working toward a re-design of McGrath Highway that will result in the construction of world-class bike infrastructure in an area of Somerville that currently has very little. Additionally, I have been advocating for and promoting the Grand Junction Rail Trail project for years, which, when completed, will achieve many of the same goals of the Pearl Street redesign, like safer routes to the Morse School and better bike access to Cambridgeport. I have secured funding for portions of rail trail, initiated feasibility studies with MIT, and have been successful in blocking proposed uses of the Grand Junction rail line that would conflict with future use of the right-of-way as a multi-use path.

My opposition to the Pearl St. “Complete Streets” plan is rooted in my belief that any roadway plan should balance public needs and safety. I think this plan fails in that regard and we should take another look at what our options are. As always, I am available to answer any questions you might have about my position on this matter.

Sincerely,

Tim Toomey

Part-time Jobs Still Available at Somerville Youth Shoveling Program

The Somerville Youth Shoveling program is a paid program for youth to shovel out seniors after a snow storm in Somerville. Interested youth need to sign up with the Office of Commissions, be available when there’s a snow storm to shovel a senior’s home, and will receive a payment for each house they shovel out. There are about 55 homes owned by seniors on the program’s list. Teens can sign up for email, text or phone calls to check availability and get house assignments. Participants 18 years and older will need to complete a CORI form.

For any questions, please call 617-625-6600 x2406 or email the program at commissions@somervillema.gov

Thank You!

A huge THANK YOU to all of the committed supporters and volunteers that helped with my re-election campaign this year. Words cannot express how much I appreciate your enthusiasm year after year. To the voters of Somerville and Cambridge: I am humbled by your continued confidence in me and I promise to continue to work to make our community a better place to live. -Tim

Head of the Charles Road Closures and Parking Restrictions

The Head of the Charles Regatta is this weekend. It is the largest two-day regatta in the world and attracts an estimated 300,000 spectators to the Charles. Please take a minute to review this press release from the Department of Conservation and Recreation for information about the road closures and parking restrictions that will be in effect:

The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) will close roadways, and portions of some roadways, to accommodate the Head of the Charles Regatta this Saturday and Sunday, October 18 and October 19. Parking also will be restricted in some areas beginning tomorrow, Wednesday, October 15. All parking restrictions will be strictly enforced. It is illegal at all times to park vehicles of any kind on parkland. All illegally parked vehicles will be towed.  Commuters should also expect delays on Soldiers Field Road on Friday, October 17, between 6:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. as crew teams load in equipment for the event.          

WHERE and WHEN:

Lane Closures: Saturday and Sunday, October 18 and 19, 2014

Soldiers Field Road westbound

Right lane closed (Drop off only)
Western Avenue to North Harvard Street ramp
Saturday & Sunday: 8 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Soldiers Field Road westbound
Right lane closed
Herter Lot No. 2: Drop off only
Saturday & Sunday: 6 a.m. – 6 p.m.

North Harvard Street Ramp
Soldiers Field Road westbound – Shuttle Bus Access only
Saturday & Sunday: 9:00 a.m. (TBD by State Police – 4:30 pm)

Memorial Drive CLOSED
Between Western Ave and Fresh Pond Parkway
Saturday: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m./Cleanup finished
Sunday: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m./Cleanup finished

Parking Restrictions: Wednesday, October 15 through Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014

Soldiers Field Road
Lots 1-4
Wednesday, Oct. 15 – Sunday, Oct. 19
10 p.m. Wednesday – 8 p.m. Sunday

Memorial Drive westbound
#940 Memorial Drive to Mt. Auburn Street
Saturday, October 18 – Sunday, October 19
8 a.m. Saturday – 9 p.m. Sunday

Cambridge Boat Club (Gerry’s Landing Road at Memorial Drive)
Wednesday, October 15 – Sunday, October 19
10 p.m. Wednesday – 8 p.m. Sunday

Riverside Boat Club
Thursday, October 16, 6:00 p.m. – Sunday, October 19, 8:00 p.m.

Magazine Pool Driveway
Thursday, October 16, 6:00 p.m. – Sunday, October 19, 8:00 p.m.
(Drop off Only)

MWRA Cottage Farm Pump Station Lot
Thursday, October 16, 6:00 p.m. – Sunday, October 19, 8:00 p.m.

Parking is available on Greenough Boulevard on the westbound side, from Buckingham Brown and Nichols (as posted) to Grove Street. Greenough Boulevard eastbound side parking from Arsenal Street to the Marsh Post is as posted. Parking is not allowed along the guardrail or anywhere else on Greenough Boulevard.

Image credit: Fcb981, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

TRAFFIC ADVISORY: MBTA Red Line weekend diversion – October 11

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) will close the Longfellow Bridge this Saturday (October 11) to all motor vehicle travel, except MBTA buses as part of the Longfellow Bridge Rehabilitation Project. The closure is necessary to implement an MBTA Red Line diversion which will allow MassDOT’s design/build contractor, White-Skanska-Consigli JV, to perform work in close proximity to the Red Line tracks that is not possible during MBTA service hours. Buses will replace Red Line trains for service between Kendall/MIT Station and Park Street Station, with a stop at Charles/MGH Station. The bus route and stops are shown on the map below. All shuttle bus stops are accessible for people with disabilities. Bus service will be in place for Boston and Cambridge-bound Red Line customers during service on Saturday, October 11. Red Line trains will resume service on Sunday morning, October 12.

BusRoute-Red Line Diversion

MBTA buses will be the only motor vehicles permitted on the bridge. All other motor vehicles, including passenger vehicles, trucks and all other buses, will need to use one of two routes to reach Boston. One route uses Memorial Drive westbound to make a U-turn at Ames Street for access to Memorial Drive eastbound to Land Boulevard and Charles River Dam Road (Monsignor O’Brien Highway/Route 28) to reach Leverett Circle. A second route uses 3rd Street and Binney Street to reach Land Boulevard. Truck restrictions are in place for Memorial Drive.

BostonBound_wknd-Red line diversion

The Cambridge-bound detour remains in place using a signed route from Charles Circle following Charles Street to Leverett Circle, Monsignor O’Brien Highway/Charles River Dam Road and Edwin H. Land Boulevard.

DetourRoute_CB_rev-red line diversion

Emergency response, bicycle and pedestrian access will be maintained across the bridge during this weekend diversion. Please note: Bicyclists must walk their bikes on the sidewalk across the Longfellow Bridge to ensure the safety of all bridge users. The Massachusetts Avenue Bridge and Dr. Paul Dudley White Bike Path across the Craigie Dam Bridge can be used as an alternate route to ride bicycles across the Charles River.

The Longfellow Bridge, which connects Boston and Cambridge over the Charles River, is being rehabilitated as part of a three and a half year, $255.5 million effort funded through Governor Patrick’s Accelerated Bridge Program. Rehabilitation of the iconic “salt and pepper” Longfellow Bridge will improve structural integrity and capacity, meet modern codes, including ADA accessibility, and create a safer configuration for more modes of travel.

Click this link for more information on the project and traffic management plans. For questions, to report issues and concerns related to construction or to be added to the project email distribution list, please call the project hotline at 617-519-9892 or email longfellowbridge@state.ma.us.

DCAMM Ordered to Release Courthouse Records

This summer, I filed a public records request with the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) for documents related to the sale of the Sullivan Courthouse in East Cambridge.  With this request, my goal was to obtain more information about the bid selection process and criteria that were used by DCAMM in selecting Leggat McCall Properties as the developer for the courthouse, and to obtain information about the sale price in order to help inform the public conversation about the site’s redevelopment.

DCAMM has been tight-lipped about this information for years now, and has refused all informal requests for this information, as well as an invitation to participate in a working group I organized this Spring.  Predictably, DCAMM denied my initial public records request. I appealed their denial with the Secretary of the Commonwealth on grounds that the information I sought was no longer exempt from Massachusetts Public records law and should be made available for public review.  I received notice today (posted below) that the Supervisor of Public Records has made the determination that the records I requested can no longer be withheld, and DCAMM has been ordered to provide the requested records within ten days. I will be sure to post an update here if and when I receive the records from DCAMM.

Public Records Appeal Decision

Image credit: Pingswept, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Assembly Station one day diversion on Sept 14-15 weekend

There will be a one day diversion on the September 14-15 weekend for remaining items related to the Assembly Station Project. It’s the last of the eighteen (18) weekend diversions, and will not affect the Riverfest at Assembly Row on Saturday Sept 13. The diversion will begin at approximately 4:30 am on Sunday morning, September 14 and will continue until approximately 4:30 am Monday morning ,September 15. Service will be restored on Monday morning. Please see bus info below.

The work included in this weekend’s diversion is as follows:

• Installation of miscellaneous metal panels and curtain wall glass at the stations north head house

• Signal testing on the test track

• Installation of an expansion gap on the 3rd rail of the southbound track and installation of third rail heat on the north and south bound tracks.

Bus Information:

Patrons will be bussed between Oak Grove and Sullivan Stations:

From Sullivan Square Station
Left Main Street
Right Grand Union Boulevard
Stop at Grand Union Boulevard and Foley Street bus stop cutout for Assembly Square Station
Left Foley Street
Right Middlesex Avenue
Right Fellsway West
Regular route to Wellington Station

From Wellington Station
Regular route to Wellington Circle
Left Fellsway West
Left Middlesex Avenue (2nd cutout on left after crossing Mystic River)
Left Foley Street
Right Grand Union Boulevard
Stop at Grand Union Boulevard and Foley Street bus stop cutout for Assembly Square Station
Grand Union Boulevard to Lombardi Way
Left Broadway
To Maffa Way
Right Sullivan Station

Feds Take Step Toward Volpe Center Redevelopment

Yesterday, the federal Government Services Administration (GSA) announced that it was seeking ideas from developers for the redevelopment of the Volpe Center site in Kendall Square.  GSA, which is responsible for managing the federal government’s real estate, intends to transfer a portion of the Volpe Center property to a private developer in exchange for the developer picking up the tab for construction of a new DOT research facility on the existing site.

Redevelopment of the site has been discussed for a long time within the Cambridge community, but this is the most significant step toward redevelopment that we have seen the federal government take so far. I am looking forward to a robust public process that will gather input from residents and the Kendall Square business community. There is immense potential for the under-utilized space at the Volpe Center to be put to positive use.

Homelessness prevention program now accepting applications

Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership (MBHP) is now accepting applications for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program. Through RAFT, eligible families can apply for funds that can be used to help retain their housing, obtain new housing, or otherwise avoid becoming homeless. For more information on the program, including eligibility requirements and how to apply, visit the MBHP website.

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