FRAMINGHAM – Last night, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) hosted a public information panel in the Blumer Room at the Memorial Building to hear from MetroWest residents about a planned Mass Pike project estimated at $1.2 Billion and could be under construction for a decade.
The goal of the panel was to inform Metrowest and Worcester residents what progress was being made with the remodeling of the Allston Viaduct and seek feedback on the project, which has been in development since 2014.
A large majority of the public, many from Framingham, expressed concern about what effects the construction would have on them.
The project would completely remodel the Allston Viaduct, putting it at a ground level.
It would also result in many other things being added, such as new bike paths, and significant changes to the railway system.
“The project creates an opportunity to dramatically improve livability and connectivity for residents of the Allston neighborhood while preserving and enhancing regional mobility through improvements to I-90 and its abutting interchange and the creation of a new stop on the Worcester/Framingham Commuter Line to be known as West Station,” according to MassDOT.
Two of the major changes that would happen include reducing the number of lanes on Mass Pike from four to three, and moving Soldier’s Field Road over to the Charles River for the time being.
There would also be a reduction in the number of railways, as there would be one instead of two, which would impact the Framingham/Worcester Commuter rail service.
After opening remarks from Framingham Mayor Yvonne Spicer, MassDOT representative Michael O’Dowd gave a brief overview of the history of the project. Then, he showed an animation of what the new roadway would look like.
He concluded his presentation by telling the public that the next step in the process would be to continuing to coordinate with the federal and state regulatory industries, such as the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA), and that construction would not be started until 2022 because of the “extensive amount of permitting” that needed to be finished.
Next, another member of MassDOT, Chris Callahan, explained what would be done about the railways, including the Framingham/Worcester commuter rail line.
He said that part of the project would be the construction of a new rail layover lot, which would have four layover tracks and house eight trains.
It would also have a noise barrier on the southside.
Callahan concluded his remarks by telling the public that the original plan was revised and that West Station was moved to the north side, with the layover lot on the south side. He also noted that there would be plenty of areas where buses and ubers could do “pick ups and drop offs” from the station.
MassDOT also said that there would be many temporary changes to the roads and railways during the construction.
Before the public Q & A started, Senate President Karen Spilka, who represents the MetroWest area, expressed the importance of having an ongoing dialogue between MassDOT and the residents on this project.
Senator Spilka asked how this project will impact the people living in the MetroWest area.
Following her address, Framingham residents made sure that their voices were heard.
Many expressed frustration over how much it would increase the ongoing and outgoing traffic in Framingham and Boston.
” My fear is this project will choke our region, severely affecting our commuters, businesses and residents. There is no such thing as rush hour any more. In fact, I was driving back from Boston last night at 8 p.m. and I was in traffic,” said Framingham resident Mary Kate Feeney. “Reducing lanes during construction will only cause more headaches, time lost with family, gas wasted and patience tested. Businesses may chose to leave our region if they cannot maintain employees, clients or resources to keep them operating. Lastly, if businesses and people move out of Framingham, it’ll affect our property values, which could have damaging effects for decades.”
The construction would also cause pain for many Framingham residents who ride the train into Boston, as it would increase wait times at the station.
While MassDOT said that there wasn’t much that they could do, they said that they would try to address the problem of the traffic by increasing bus services to get people to and from the train stations, as well as to and from work.
“This project is the perfect opportunity to improve our commuter rail system,” said Feeney. “I had to chuckle to myself when I saw in the presentation there is a “layover yard” at West Station, where trains can sit during the day. Well, there shouldn’t be a need for them to layover for long periods of time. Trains should be running all the time. We need to increase the number of trains, add cars to the trains. Senate President Spilka is right – now is the time for bold ideas. We need a system that the Commonwealth deserves, one focused on moving people in the most affordable, frequent, reliable and sustainable means possible.”
The next public information service meeting will take place at 1 Skyline Drive in Worcester, on August 14 at 6:30 p.m.
Photos and report by SOURCE intern Nick Barry, a Marian High graduate and a Westfield State student.