The Economic Development, Training and Employment Committee conducted a public meeting on Monday, August 6, 2012 beginning at 3:10 PM in the Sullivan Chamber.
The purpose of the meeting was to receive an overview from the Community Development Department of the Grand Junction Rail with the Trail (RWT) Feasibility Study of 2006 and to discuss actions the City can make towards its construction. For the full Rail with Train Feasibility Report visit http://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/Projects/Transportation/grandjunctionpathway.aspx.
Present at the meeting were Councillor Timothy J. Toomey, Chair of the Committee, Councillors Leland Cheung, Mayor Henrietta Davis, Councillor vanBeuzekom and Vice Mayor Simmons, Richard Rossi, Deputy City Manager, Susanne Rasmussen, Director, Environmental and Transportation Planning Division, Community Development Department (CDD), Cara Seiderman, Transportation Planner, Environmental and Transportation Planning Division, CDD, Jason Alves, Aide to Councillor Toomey, Matt Nelson, Chief of Staff for Mayor Davis and Interim City Clerk Donna P Lopez.
Also present were Sarah Gallop, MIT, John Sanzone, Westgate, MIT, Richard Fanning, 21 Cornelius Way, Mark Jaquith, 213 Hurley Street, Robert LaTremouille, 875 Massachusetts Avenue, Larry Bluestone, Bluestone Planning Group, David Vanderwoude, Representative Walz's Office, Conrad Crawford, CRA, 169 O'Brien Highway, Rosalie Anders, 154 Auburn Street, Rachel Burckardt, 1429 Cambridge Street, Rachel Walters, 2 Eighth Street and Robert Winters, 366 Broadway.
Councillor Toomey opened the meeting and stated the purpose. The Grand Junction has been discussed since the 1990's. The Community Development Department staff will give a short presentation. He stated that with all the economic activity in the City, the Grand Junction will connect the north/south side of the City for bicyclist and pedestrians thereby linking Boston, MIT, Cambridge neighborhoods and Somerville. The goal is to connect the Longwood area. With the Kendall Square development the car usage has gone done. In the Innovation Agenda (IA) the students will access this trail and get to the schools. This meeting will see where the City is at and where we will go from here. Funding sources are being identified for this project. How can we make this a reality.
Councillor Toomey requested Ms. Seiderman to conduct the presentation, after which there would be a discussion and then public comment.
Ms. Seiderman gave a brief overview of the Grand Junction and the feasibility study. The Feasibility Study was completed in 2006 to see if an active trail could be created along a rail line. This has been in the works for a long time. The use of the Grand Junction as a linear path was contained in the Green Ribbon Report in 2000. It was part of ECAP study. People love having community paths and there is a need for more of these types of facilities. A common right of way is shared. This is not unique; this concept is used around the country. Some paths are located along rail ways. The Grand Junction was a study to examine the use of commuter rail line connections by creating a non-motorized trail. It was decided not to move forward, but reserved the right to change its decision. This is a complicated area with multiple use and multiple owners. It is also next to dense and open space areas. The Study did examine putting in a path and add the urban ring; these were found to be feasible. The urban ring plans have changed since 2006. The report contained next steps. She distributed an Executive Summary of the Feasibility Study (ATTACHMENT A). Ongoing work has been done on creating a trail and creating a Pathway Overlay District along the Grand Junction corridor to protect the future use of the corridor as a multi-use path. The first segment the CRA received money to build a path at Main and Broadway and is being built by Mass. DOT. She stated that the next step is to bring the design to the next level. Another section of the path needs to be constructed. This is not a stand alone; it connects many areas in the city.
Councillor Toomey stated that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has just purchased the tracks from CXS . It will be helpful to have a multi-use path. Ownership by the City of Cambridge of the Boston Properties land would give city ownership from Binney to Main Streets. This will benefit many people. Mr. Rossi stated that this is a project looked at every year in capital budget. The City has talked to MIT to ensure this area is not included in their planning process. Councillor Toomey asked if funding is available from the CPA. Mr. Rossi responded in the affirmative. Mayor Davis stated her support for the project. She is glad to hear that there is funding for this project. What a great way to provide transportation on the eastern part of the city.
Councillor Cheung stated that this is a fantastic addition to the city. He questioned if there was any thought to the train layout or any concern about people wandering into the cars. Ms. Seiderman explained that there will be a fence between the rail line and the path. Fear is greater than reality has been the experience of other communities. She highlighted examples of communities which have rails with trails: Springwater Trail in Portland, Oregon, Metrobikelink, Illinois and Street Car and Rail, Seattle, Washington. A discussion ensued about the different types of fences. Ms. Rasmussen added that the Commonwealth would require a fence. Councillor Cheung asked if the Pathway Overlay District is already in the Zoning Ordinances. Ms. Seiderman stated that this language is in code and is only applicable to Grand Junction. Councillor Cheung asked if a recommendation is needed to add this to the Grand Junction. Ms. Seiderman responded in the affirmative; this was in the recommendation. Councillor Cheung asked if there was reason why the eastern corridor was not added. Ms. Seiderman responded that it was just taking too long.
Councillor vanBeuzekom focused on the "next steps". The first step is being done. She asked how the urban ring aligns with the trail. She felt the area was not wide enough in the entire section. Ms. Seiderman stated that the bus/transit line is only in a small portion from Sendick and Erie Streets. The original urban ring was to go to BU Bridge; it was changed to use Albany Street. It would fit with the MIT air right and a width report was done. It is a 60+wide corridor. The urban ring could be put on the entire corridor. Councillor vanBeuzekom stated that she would like the language to be forwarded to the Ordinance Committee for consideration.
At 3:42 PM Councillor Toomey opened the meeting to Public Comment.
Richard Fanning, 21 Cornelius Way, stated that the Pathway Overlay District proposal is fairly extensive. He asked if there is any railroad use in the district before January 2005 or the base zoning. What does this mean. Is there a provision to extend the railroad line from Worcester to North Station. Ms. Seiderman stated that this language was written looking toward Watertown. This language exists in the Zoning Ordinance now; this would be looked at for the applicability of this for the Grand Junction. Those are the uses that were allowed at that time. Mr. Fanning questioned if it could be used as train service to Worcester. Ms. Seiderman stated that this does not speak to that issue. Ms. Seiderman stated that this proposal has to do with what can be built as a right of way.
Councillor Toomey commented that federal law preempts any local authority for zoning. Mr. Rossi stated that if the railroad abandons the land the state, then the City would be asked if they are interested in the land. Mr. Fanning stated that there is no pedestrian friendly crossing and these crossings are very expensive. Ms. Rasmussen stated that the Commonwealth has stated they will put in crossing gates. There is no schedule of this as of yet. MIT has been granted right to construct pedestrian gate at Pacific Street;
MIT has 3 pedestrian crossings. Mr. Fanning asked would the pedestrian crossing be allowed for the commuter rail. Ms. Rasmussen responded that the state would look at this and if there is any additional safety measures needed. Councillor vanBeuzekom suggested a stop sign at crossings. Ms. Rasmussen informed the committee that each crossing will have signage. Ms. Seiderman added signage would be on both sides of path.
Ms. Gallop stated MIT has engaged in this matter for eight years. The area owned by MIT in Grand Junction is from Broadway to CASPAR. There is a lot of equipment delivery, truck traffic and a loading dock. This area services the lab areas. There are two pedestrian crossings that need to be considered. Councillor Toomey asked if MIT has looked into realigning its deliveries. Ms. Gallop stated that it is complex, but it has been discussed. Councillor Toomey stated that if MIT had concerns about deliveries he suggested an overpass. Councillor vanBeuzekom asked there are trucks along the rail trail. Ms. Gallop responded in the affirmative.
Mark Jaquith, 213 Hurley Street, requested information about the projected costs of the pathway and the funding sources. He stated that there is pool of money for open space. Councillor Toomey stated that it is a fact about the funding; CPA options, major institutions and the CRA. There is $2.1M for the acquisition for the parcel on Binney Street. The Feasibility Report on line has cost estimates and differences if line was moved. This was done in 2006 and a new cost estimate would need to be done. Mr. Jaquith asked about the estimated cost for Cambridge. Councillor Toomey stated that $6 million from Alexandria. Boston Property deeding the land to the City is worth $1.5 million.
Mr. Conrad Crawford stated that with Hubway, the increase in traffic and the increase along the river this would be a big deal to move forward. He supported incremental change. Pathway Overlay District he supported. The development and design if the trail was oriented inward it would be interesting to visualize. He urged coordination between the CRA and other city agencies and to have the open space conversation.
Rosalie Anders, 154 Auburn Street, stated that it is going to fabulous.
Rachel Burckardt, 1429 Cambridge Street, stated that before the Feasibility Study, as a civil engineer, she offered technical advice for the Grand Junction. She suggested creating the "Friends of Grand Junction" to look for possibilities. She wants to see the Grand Junction come to fruition. MIT is not the easiest place to start. She suggested starting in another area because once started the goal to continue is high. Ms. Seiderman thanked Ms. Burckardt for the report she created before the study.
Robert Winters, 366 Broadway, stated his support.
Robert LaTremouille, 875 Massachusetts Avenue, stated he would send in his comments in writing. The southern end will have problems. Problems would disappear if the trail went through two buildings on Memorial Drive. He spoke about rejection of the environmental problems in the report. He has been working on the Urban Ring since 1987. The Legislature has spent money for the Kenmore crossing.
At 5:09 PM Councillor Toomey closed Public Comment.
Councillor Cheung asked if there was any thought to connecting the west to east in Cambridge, from the Grand Junction towards Fresh Pond. Ms. Seiderman discussed more consistent way to get across the city with the bikes. Mr. Rossi spoke about the haul road. The railroad line went from Danehy Park to Upland Road.
At this time Councillor Toomey submitted the following motion:
ORDERED: That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to instruct the Law Department to prepare the necessary language to create the Pathway Overlay District from the Charles River to the Cambridge/Somerville line.
Three e-mails were received and made part of the record as follows:
Carol R. Adler outlined her concerns about how trains will impact a trail at the Grand Junction (ATTACHMENT B);
Charlie Marquardt outlined the benefits of a Grand Junction multi-use path (ATTACHMENT C); and
Jackie Douglas in support of the Grand Junction (RWT) Project (ATTACHMENT D).
Councillor Toomey thanked all those present for their attendance.
Councillor vanBeuzekom requested that Ms. Seiderman provide the costs estimates for the report. (ATTACHMENT E).
The meeting adjourned at 4:15 PM on motion of Councillor Toomey
For the committee,
Councillor Timothy J. Toomey, Jr., Chair
Economic Development, Training and Employment Committee