On the evening of Wednesday, December 14th, residents, activists, representatives from NorthPoint developer HYM, and architects and planners from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation gathered at the Kennedy-Longfellow school to discuss the latest changes and developments in the design of the new Lechmere Station.
From the changes that have been made as the station design has evolved, it is clear that the public design process has produced a station design much more in line with the community’s vision of an ideal Lechmere station. The station entrance has been moved to a location more equally accessible by East Cambridge residents. What was a narrow space between the station and McGrath has been widened to 30 feet, a change enabled by alterations to the path of First Street. The design of the station has been altered to promote a more even flow of pedestrians coming from all directions, and a more direct route to the Lechmere bus stop when crossing from East Cambridge.
While these changes are strong steps forward, it is clear from the questions and comments directed toward MassDOT at the end of the meeting that a number of concerns about pedestrian safety and access have not yet been assuaged by station designers. There is still a long pedestrian crosswalk that must traverse a busy section of the McGrath Highway/Boulevard. Developer HYM has made a number of suggestions to MassDOT about how this crossing can be approached in a way that maximizes pedestrian safety and comfort. Their suggestions include using different lighting and paving elements at the intersection of McGrath and First Street to encourage drivers to slow down and eliminating the right hand turn lane from the inbound side of McGrath. I am looking forward to seeing what MassDOT puts forward in reaction to these suggested improvements.
Another concern that was voiced by several members of the meeting’s audience was that bus access to East Cambridge will be diminished by the relocation of the station. Moving Lechmere across McGrath will require buses to turn off of Cambridge Street at Third Street, and reroute buses away from destinations like the Courthouse. Access to buses, particularly for the elderly and disabled, is a primary concern of mine, and I am interested to see how these concerns will be addressed.
As a final part of the meeting, MassDOT officials briefly discussed the potential for phased construction of the Green Line Extension and what that will mean for Lechmere’s completion date. Because of Lechmere’s placement in an early construction phase, the new station could be open in early 2017, well ahead of the projected 2019 date for the completion of the entire extension. This is very exciting news, and I will be pushing for a commitment from MassDOT to begin phased construction as soon as possible.
MassDOT has also announced that there will be a number of meetings coming up in the near future. Be on the lookout for Washington Street and Union Square station design meetings in late January, and meetings about the Maintenance Facility and Community Path in early April. I will post more detailed meeting information on my community blog as soon as it is available.