The Transportation and Public Utilities Committee will conduct a public meeting to explore the way forward for a shared use with a rail and trail path along the Grand Junction Corridor.
Date and Time: Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at 3:06 PM
Location: Sullivan Chamber
Councillor Carlone, Chair, Vice Mayor Benzan, Councillor Cheung, Councillor Kelley, Councillor McGovern, Councillor Mazen, Councillor Simmons, Richard Rossi, City Manager, Lisa Peterson, Deputy City Manager, Brian Murphy, Assistant City Manager for Community Development, Jeff Rosenblum, Transportation Planner, CDD, Susanne Rasmussen, Director, Transportation and Environmental Division, CDD, Stuart Dash, Director of Community Planning, CDD, Sue Clippinger, Director, Traffic, Parking and Transportation, Mike Connolly, Aide to City Councillor Carlone and Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk.
Sarah Gallup, Co-Director, Community Relations, MIT, Ken Williams, Senior Real Estate Officer MITIMCO, Katie Blizzard, MIT, John Attanucci, Lecturer on Public Transportation Management, MIT, Tom Evans, Executive, Director, CRA, Barry Zevin, CRA Board Member, 67 Hampshire Street, Ned Codd, Assistant Secretary for GreenDOT, Scott Hamwey, Office of Transportation Planning, MassDOT, Vincent Poirier, MassDOT, John Sanzone and Rachel Burckardt, Friends of the Grand Junction Path, Margaret McMahon, 14 Highland Avenue, Josiah Bonsey, Mark Jaquith, 213 Hurley Street, Rozann Kraus, 91 Chilton Street, Torgun Austin, 28 Bristol Street, Laura Schmitz, 32 Calvin Street, Somerville, Matt Carty, Nancy Ryan, 4 Ashburton Place, Melisse Shokiro, Saville Street, Joseph Poirier, Highland Avenue, , Robert Winters, 366 Broadway , Madeleine Fletcher, 155 Grove Street, Walter McDonald, 172 Magazine Street, Steve Miller, 92 Henry Street, Elena Saporta, 102 Ellery Street, John Hawkinson, 84 Massachusetts Avenue, One Hwang, Debby Galef, James Williamson, 1000 Jackson Place, Phil McKenna, Steven Bercu, 132 Fayerweather Street, Pete Stidman, Boston Cyclists Union, Wig Zamore, 13 Highland Avenue, Somerville and Steve Kaiser, 191 Hamilton Street.
Councillor Carlone opened the meeting and stated the purpose. He stated that key people are involved in this meeting and that this subject was discussed in the l970's. He announced that the meeting is being recorded with both audio and visual devices. Carlone thanked the City staff, the CRA, MassDOT and the public for their attendance at this meeting. He added that it is important to provide multi-module transit for truly sustainability urban living. There is an opportunity for bikeways and for open space, linking the City to the river and North to Somerville. The notion of an urban ring excited him because of the need and the connection to Boston's job-generating medical district.
Carlone stated that there is a letter from Fred Salvucci that will be made part of the record. As usual at a Committee meeting, public comment will be 3 minutes. The activists will be asked what they feel is the next steps. He stated that an overview presentation will be given by Jeff Rosenblum from Community Development Department. Mr. Murphy gave a brief introduction of what the presentation would provide.
Presentation: Mr. Rosenblum gave a detailed presentation entitled The Grand Junction Path Project Overview (ATTACHMENT A). The presentation posed the questions of what is the Grand Junction (GJ) Path, what is important and what are the next steps in the process. The existing path is 40 feet wide and must retain the rail systems. There is 12 feet of open space. Providing mass transit rails immediately next to trails has been done; it is not uncommon elsewhere. He gave examples of "rail with trails" in British Columbia, Seattle, Washington and Burlington, VT. Mr. Rosenblum gave an overview of the history of the GJ path timeline from 2000 - 2014. For planning purposes, the GJ Path has been broken into sections. Section One is the Charles River Crossing, Section Two is from the River to 250 feet west of Pacific Street/Fort Washington Park, Section Three is Pacific Street North to Main Street (this is also the MIT Feasibility Study Section), Section Four is Main Street to Binney, the CRA section and Section Five is north of Binney Street to the Somerville line.
The MIT section has a narrow point and the university is doing a Feasibility Study of this section. There is a draft of the CRA Open Space plan from Main to Broadway. The construction will being in the fall of 2014.
The Importance of the Grand Junction: Mr. Rosenblum spoke about how this fits into the region. In Cambridge there has been a reduction in motor vehicles and there are more bicyclists. A lot of advocacy groups have expressed support for the GJ Path. One quarter of residents live within one-half of a mile of this path. Integrated activities provide health benefits. He spoke about the demographics. The GJ Path will improve access to parks, schools and access to the campus for MIT students. He stated that seventy percent of MIT students live on or near the MIT campus.
Mr. Rosenblum spoke about the next steps for planning for the GJ Path to connect to the Charles River, and to the Somerville community path. He stated that Councillor Cheung has suggested a east-west pathway. The Charles River Path Concept shows how to connect the path to the Charles River. On the BU railroad bridge there is a single rail. Planning has been around how to maintain the single rail. He spoke about the options for modifying the BU rail bridge over the Charles River.
Connection to the Boston Bike Path: This could also connect to Allston. One complex issue is when the path comes north to the Somerville how will it connect to the Green Line Extension project? He spoke about the east-west concept from Danehy Park to the GJ. To date, no one has done any research on this.
MBTA Vision Plan: Mr. Rosenblum also spoke about the 2024 MBTA Vision. The plan is to use Diesel Multiple Units (DMU), which are narrower and a more urban style train heavily used in Europe. He stated that the minimum width with two rails on the GJ is 30 feet. Unresolved issues of property ownership and the requirements for one or two way rail need further discussion.
Council Questions: Councillor Mazen asked what are the pinch points. Mr. Rosenblum stated that the Feasibility Study of 2006 fits with one rail; what are the implications of it fitting with MIT campus. No analysis to date has been done for two-way rail - what is needed and what are the pinch points. He stated the BU rail bridge over the Charles right of way cannot change. The rail is too close.
Councillor McGovern questioned where are we now and where do we go from here? Where are the CRA and MIT in their processes and what is the timeline. Mr. Rosenblum stated that the issues will come out in the presentations.
MIT PRESENTATION - SARAH GALLUP, KEN WILLIAMS AND KELLEY BROWN
Ms. Gallup stated that MIT has been involved in these discussions since 2000. MIT will provide input and feedback because MIT has land in the GJ. MIT agreed to do an analysis of MIT property in the corridor. A feasibility study has been launched. $500,000 has been appropriated for the CRA.
Kelley Brown reported that progress is being made on the study. He stated that in April a consultant firm was hired. The focus is on the land that MIT owns. The railroad sold the railroad right of way land to MIT but the MBTA has the right of way. This is a perpetuity right. MIT uses the land in question for service and trash removal and access to buildings. The conditions of the corridor have been documented. Can shared use be considered is the question. MIT is reaching out to other organizations such as the Cambridge Bike committee, local and regional advocates. Evaluation criteria are being developed and design alternatives are being studied. At the July advisory meeting the alternatives will be shown. The draft report is planned for August and the final report in October.
Ken Williams, Associate Director of Real Estate, MIT stated that MIT is in the information gathering phase. This study has the opportunity to improve this path.
Councillor Simmons questioned the MIT representatives about the discussion being held on the MIT interest, what is the timeline - the City is forging ahead and MIT is lagging behind. She asked when will MIT reach out to the neighborhood? When will you be in tandem with the City? Ms. Gallup stated that the hope is that the work will be completed in August and have a report to the City in September or October. This area is used by MIT for transportation of chemicals and all these movements are being looked at very carefully. Councillor Simmons commented that this is public open space that does not enhance open space. She wants to have active open space so that the community can use this area. There is a great deal of interest in this making an active, pleasant area.
Councillor Carlone stated that the City Council knew that this report would not be public until the fall, but asked MIT to attend and give a status report. Efforts are being made to solve the bigger issues.
PRESENTATION UPDATE ON CRA LAND
Tom Evans, Executive Director, CRA has worked with Community Development Department and the Public Works Department on the small portion of the CRA controlled path. CRA is focusing resources on this section. This is outside of the railroad operations. There are two parcels of land owned by CRA between Main Street and Binney Street. These parcels are remnant land of the Urban Renewal Plan. The northern parcel will be part of the East Cambridge open space design. It is a 741 feet long parcel - this is the first phase. An engineering team has been hired to present the design plan by late July. This first segment of the trail will be constructed in the fall with street scape being preserved with trees. There will be a 12 foot pathway with a buffer. The CRA contribution has been the design work and to get it built as soon as possible. Councillor Carlone asked what is the buffer and is it one track. Mr. Evans stated that it is one track from Draper to Tech Square. The right of way is narrow and MassDOT owns this land. This is wholly in CRA property. A new fence will be installed. A second track has not been explored. A two foot buffer on both sides is proposed.
Councillor McGovern stated that with various owners doing their own studies for their needs how is this being tied into what MIT is doing. Mr. Rossi stated that this is something that CDD has been working on since 2000. Today this is becoming a reality. CDD has provided negotiations with CRA and MIT. He applauded Susanne Rasmussen and the CDD staff for their work. This is a great opportunity and has great value, but it is incredibly complex and costly. Overtime money will be parceled out in phases. The decision from the state as to what the use of this corridor will be is important. The City sees the need and value of the project as well as the cost implications. The City is doing everything it can to position itself in the right way for this project. Councillor McGovern stated that the MIT plan has two rails, the CRA plan has one rail. Mr. Rossi stated that the Department of Transportation use issue of this corridor is the issue. Councillor McGovern asked what is the CRA plan for looking at the second section, the pork chop section. Mr. Evans stated that the CRA is waiting to see the plan from CDD. CRA is actively participating in the planning process.
PRESENTATION GREEN DOT AND TRANSPORTATION PLANNING MASSDOT
Ned Codd, Mass. GreenDOT Office stated that he has worked on many project regarding this corridor. He lives in Cambridge two blocks from the corridor. It is an important transportation corridor and this is why it was purchased by CXS five years ago. There are 4-5 train movements daily at this corridor. It also serves the Chelsea Fruit Mart as a freight train. It is a potential passenger/transportation connection. State global emissions act requires that the state has to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote public health through walking, biking, and for pedestrians. MassDOT has tripled the amount of travel between 2010-2030 for walking, biking etc. These are ways to meet the target through the transportation system. Opportunities are needed to be found to increase the public transportation. This could be beneficial to Cambridge and neighboring city/towns and region. Kendall Square and MIT are in the middle of the corridor with the end having tremendous development opportunity for growth. This corridor has potential being a crossing route. MassDOT wants to keep open transit opportunities in this area. A shared use path where it can fit can be a powerful connection enhancer. Double track rail opportunity must be kept open. There may be sections where a path can be built with the second rail and other places it may not fit. What are the physical and right of way constraints?
Councillor Carlone questioned whether studies being done at the state level. Mr. Codd responded that the state is not actively studying this corridor. DMU have been looked into. DMU service along the Fairmont corridor in Boston has been studied.
Vice Mayor Benzan spoke of funding by the state. He added that we do not want to build great expectations about this GJ Path. Urban train and the bike path should be looked at. Is the state going to fund this? Has this decision been made? Mr. Codd responded in the negative. The bike path project is funded and developed through the MPO process. He suggested talking with Boston MPO and MassDOT district 6. Funding for transit improvements will be included more clearly in the 5 year improvement plan. The urban transit DMU would not happen in the near term. This is a long-term idea. MassDOT does not want to close their opportunity on the transit importance of this corridor. There is more flexible funding for sustainable transportation facilities.
Vice Mayor Benzan spoke about a planned stop in Allston that had funding recently removed. Why do we think that the bike path with the urban transit corridor will happen? The political appetite at the state is not there; it will fall to the city. Pressure needs to be put on the state legislature for funding. He is very concerned. He likes the bike path and urban train plan.
Scott Hamwey, Office of Transportation Planning at MassDOT stated that MassDOT has worked to move forward with the Allston project occurring in 2017. He added that Kendall Square is the envy of other communities. GJ is a rare opportunity to do something with transit. Mr. Codd welcomed the opportunity to work with Cambridge, MIT and the CRA on the efforts undertaken to understand the physical constraints of a double path and shared use path. Councillor Carlone stated that the CRA will start construction on only a single track.
Councillor Mazen stated it is possible to plan a single DMU line and the pedestrian/ bike path is what he is hearing. Can this outcome be preserved? The choke point does not have to be settled to have a bike path. Mr. Codd stated it would make sense to move forward for the shared use path. Councillor Mazen asked what does the timeline look like and how does the choke points fit in the timeline. Ms. Gallup stated that questions will be answered in the report from MIT in October. Councillor Mazen asked what the City can do to prepare in anticipation of the shared use path. Mr. Murphy stated that MIT will report in October. MassDOT agreement is needed as to what can be done here. The other segments provide opportunities and challenges. This is a back and forth discussion with MassDOT and the EPA.
Mr. Rosenblum stated the issues are connections to the path along the Charles, MIT Feasibility Study, CRA and the ownership of property issues. Councillor Carlone commented that after MIT completes it study and then reconvenes this will affect the outcome. Councillor Mazen stated that October is great. Then we are working in tandem with the MIT report and the other section. Mr. Rosenblum stated the picture will be clearer.
Mr. Rossi stated that Cambridge is anxious because this is a great opportunity but this will take a long time because MassDOT is not ready to give us the decision so that the City can go forward. Hopefully we can work on pieces as they are available and then the City is in a better position for moving forward.
Councillor Carlone stated that a monthly update should be requested. The issuing of the MIT report in early Fall will be key in moving forward. He wanted all the available information.
Vice Mayor Benzan stated that the next steps for us as a city will be to have a meeting with surrounding towns that would be affected by shared use or bike path. This will help with state legislature and MassDOT. He would like a meeting with the surrounding towns. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts transportation system is horrible. What can Cambridge do to get MassDOT and state to finalize the decision if this is going to be a shared path or a bike path? Mr. Codd stated that the terms shared use and bike path are used interchangeable. This needs to be designed for use. A twelve foot buffer on both sides is needed. He spoke about the state funding issue. MassDOT planning for this corridor is not clear at this time, but it is looked at as a transit mode. It is exciting to offer Kendall Square another transit connection. We need to look at having a double track with the clearances that is needed. He encourage Cambridge to think ahead to the MPO projects and seek federal funding.
JOHN ATTANUCCI, LECTURER ON PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION MANAGEMENT AT MIT
He submitted a statement from Fred Salvucci (ATTACHMENT B). He feels that the shared use and bike path can be accommodated. He pointed out the section 1 and 5 could move the project along from the state prospective. The Green Line and the Somerville path is happening and if the parties could work together to get it all approved will take time. This is a major expansion of public transit for the city at a minimal investment. Most of the right of way is under control. The design part should go forward now.
JOHN SANZONE AND RACHEL BURCKARDT, FRIENDS OF THE GRAND JUNCTION
Mr. Sanzone stated that he went to the community with a cohesive vision. The GJ is important as a transportation link, open space such as Linear Park is significant and the human impact to access.
Ms. Burckardt stated that she worked on this path 13 years ago. All of the parties are here. The vision needs to keep the optimism. She spoke about keeping the vision alive. She works on transportation studies because she is an engineer. She has done transit analysis on this path using the DMU at 15 minute intervals no additional tracks are needed than what is out there. This is a real possibility.
Councillor McGovern stated his support for this.
Councillor Cheung supported this project. The City is waiting to hear back from the state as to what can be built. Is there anything we can do to help get the decision we want. Mr. Codd wants to keep the opportunity for double tracks transit in this corridor. He is interested in working with the CRA and MIT to get double tracks into the area and overcome the constraints. Councillor Cheung stated that the double tracks would make this more difficult. If the city did a preliminary design concept would this help move the decision. Mr. Codd stated that the corridor needs to be looked at with a single and double track. A shared use path for this corridor is great.
At 5:07 PM Councillor Carlone opened the meeting to public comment..
Mark Jaquith, 213 Hurley Street, thanked the CRA for starting somewhere. Before the DMU plan goes forward he would like to see if this makes sense. Temporary separated tracks make sense.
Matt Carty stated that two tracks are good. If this path existed today a Hubway bike station could be used to connect to other modes of transportation. This will provide the increase in the goal. If DMU vehicles are not a priority make it a shared use path.
Joseph Poirier, Highland Avenue, asked the feasibility of building the stretch from the river to Massachusetts Avenue is; this is the widest path and then do shared path. Can this be done now?
Bob Winters, 366 Broadway, stated that he wants to see this happen. He wants to see bike and pedestrian path happen and not waste a good opportunity to make connections. He would be happy if one or both happen. He did not want to waste the resource. Narrow is better than nothing. Pinch points that are close are still connection - this is still a good outcome. He urged moving ahead. Access to housing for MIT students is provided by this.
Madeline Fatcher, 155 Grove Street, stated that MIT is a serious issue. She suggested a detour around the toxic area.
Steve Miller, 92 Henry Street, summarized the MassDOT position - transit is a priority. They do not want to jeopardize this corridor for transit. There is no money for this; this will be prolonged. The tension is between short and long term. This is an opportunity to do something now. The state has massive projects on both sides of this. He suggested extending these projects. The design money for the Somerville connection should be done now. The CRA deserves credit for moving forward on something that can be done now.
One Hwang, Richdale Avenue, stated that biking and walking provide a sensory experience of people traveling through the city. It is through biking and walking you get to experience the City. She urged support for the GJ path.
James Williamson, 1000 Jackson Place, asked about the global transit plan spoken by MIT what was meant by this. The bike path has been referred to as a shared path. What sense will the shared path be? There is no public voice for public transit users and could be better represented in this discussion. What happens if we do not address the problem of public transportation?
Steven Bercu,132 Fayerweather Street, supported this project and would like to see it move forward. There is a good opportunity for bicyclist s to have a healthy path. There is an opportunity to have housing.
Peter Stidman, Boston Cyclists Union, supported the GJ path. He stated that if it takes 15 years to achieve the greenhouse gas goals this may have to be reevaluated.
Steve Kaiser, 191 Hamilton Street, stated that the one-two track issue needs to be resolve. It should be build for one track and the second track could be done in the future. Land could be taken from Galileo Way. How do we find out where the choke points in the corridor are? He suggested studying a 50th scale plan of the corridor. He stated that Harvard should be pushing to get the two tracks. The other end of the line is in Somerville. The Green Line will add another track and there will not be enough room for the path. Between NorthPoint and the maintenance area there is 80 feet and it would be used for the additional track. AMTRAK also run trains along this corridor.
Wig Zamore , 13 Highlands Avenue, Somerville, spoke about a unified bike and transit plan. He stated that the focus should be on a long-term bike and transit plan. He spoke about the important of the connection to have a bike and pedestrian path. He wished the issue of light rail in a heavy rail area could be solved. Diesel is a class I carcinogen. Black carbon is connected to lung cancer and a climate aerosol. He urged doing planning and advocacy now.
In conclusion Councillor Carlone stated that the next steps were fully discussed. In the fall MIT's update and report will be received. The CRA is working on its portion of the path. The City is working forward.
A communication was received from Robert LaTremouille to be included into the record (ATTACHMENT C).
Councillor Carlone thanked all for their attendance.
On motion of Councillor Carlone the meeting adjourned at 5:48 PM.
For the Committee,
Councillor Dennis Carlone, Chair
Transportation and Public Utilities Committee