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Western Ave River St Bridge Comments - Harry Mattison

Western Ave River St Bridge Comments - Harry Mattison

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Published by: harrymattison on Feb 10, 2010
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02/10/2010

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February 10, 2010Frank A. Tramontozzi, P.E., Chief EngineerAttn: Shoukry Elnahal, P.E.Massachusetts Department of Transportation, Highway Division10 Park Plaza, Room 6500Boston, Massachusetts 02116RE: Western Avenue Bridge (Project File # 605527)River Street Bridge (Project File # 605524)Mr. Tramontozzi,Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important project. As an Allston resident whofrequently enjoys the Charles River parklands, a bicycle commuter, and a father with three youngchildren, I hope this project will add bike lanes on the bridges and address the needs of parents pushingstrollers and young children on foot or bicycle. After years of enduring the existing conditions, it isexciting to think about the transformation that will soon occur!To achieve the best possible outcome, it is essential to make significant improvements in the areaaround and between these bridges. The Western Ave and River Street bridges function as a system andcannot be logically separated from the roads and paths that connect to them. While I understand yourbudget and schedule constraints, it would be in the public’s best interest for MassDOT, DCR, Boston,Cambridge, and Harvard University to collaborate with local citizens and transportation advocacy groupsto consider improvements for all forms of transportation both on and near the bridges.I would also like to offer comments on the following topics:1.
 
Path south of the River Street Bridge2.
 
Road/sidewalk/parapet design3.
 
Pedestrian/bike underpasses4.
 
Service Road/path reconfiguration5.
 
Cambridge Street and Mass Pike off-ramp6.
 
Reduce sidewalk obstacles7.
 
Ongoing public participation
Path south of the River Street Bridge
The path approaching the River Street Bridge on the Boston side of theriver is dangerously narrow and is unable to safely accommodatepedestrians and bicyclists travelling in both directions. The State’s 2002Charles River Master Plan recommends widening this path, possibly with acantilevered structure. Ideally, this path widening would be done while theRiver Street Bridge is being rebuilt. If that is not possible, the design of thenew River Street bridge must not preclude path widening in the future.
 
 
Road/sidewalk/parapet design
Today, both bridges have a small curb that does little to protect pedestriansor stop an errant vehicle. With this design, the parapet must be solid andable to prevent vehicles from crashing into the river.The new bridges should instead use the design found on the overpassadjacent to the Western Ave Bridge and the Harvard (Mass Ave) Bridge. Alow-profile guard rail protects pedestrians from accidents on the road withan open and more decorative railing on the other side of the sidewalk. Inaddition to the safety benefits, this would make the beauty of the rivervisible for pedestrians (especially children and people in wheelchairs) andpeople in cars.
 
This change would need Historical Commission approval, but that should notprevent it from being considered. Bridge design and construction hasobviously progressed greatly since these bridges were built, and moderntechnology and design should be applied in an appropriate manner.
Pedestrian/Bike Underpasses
I support the addition of these elements. With proper design and maintenance, they will make the areasafer and more enjoyable. As theFederal Highway Administrationobserves:“Grade-separated crossings can reduce pedestrian-vehicle conflicts and potential accidents byallowing pedestrians to avoid crossing the path of traffic. They can also limit vehicle delay,increase highway capacity, and reduce vehicle accidents when appropriately located anddesigned… Well-designed grade-separated crossings minimize slopes, feel open and safe, andare well lit.”
Cambridge Street and Mass Pike off-ramp
The intersection of Cambridge Street, the Mass Pike off-ramp, and exit from the DoubleTree hotel is afailure for people using every mode of transportation. It should be re-designed as part of acomprehensive plan that includes the River Street Bridge and the adjacent overpass that crossesSoldiers Field Road.
 
Western Ave BridgeWestern Ave overpass
Cambridge Street approaching River Street Bridge
Mass Pike off-ramp approaching River StreetIntersection of Cambridge Street, Mass Pike off-ramp, and Soldiers Field Road

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