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Mass. Turnpike To Undergo Major Renovations in Allston

{image id=1315037 size=large byline=TRUE caption="Soldiers Field Road in Allston runs alongside the Massachusetts Turnpike. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation announced it will elevate the road onto a new viaduct above the highway."}

State officials at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation announced final plans for rebuilding a large stretch of the Massachusetts Turnpike in Allston Thursday, ending years of debate.

The $1.1 billion project will lower the Mass. Turnpike to ground level in Allston and elevate Soldiers Field Road along the Charles River onto a new viaduct above the highway.

The crumbling Allston viaduct — an elevated highway built in the 1960s — currently costs $800,000 annually to maintain, according to MassDOT.

The new project, which may not begin for a few years and may take up to eight years to complete, will radically change the western front of the city and affect travel in Allston for years to come.

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Government officials and residents approved of the final plan despite the potential travel disruptions caused by the construction, .

“This option keeps infrastructure out of the Charles River and away from its banks, creating more parkland while simultaneously creating enough room to separate pedestrians and cyclists on the Paul Dudley White Path,” MassDOT Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack wrote in a press release announcing the plan selection.

“It meets the needs of the drivers of the cars and trucks using Soldiers Field Road and I-90, providing shoulders that ensure safe and effective highway operations,” she wrote.

Pollack acknowledged that the construction is expected to cause traffic issues in Allston, but stood by the final decision.

“I select the Hybrid despite the fact that it requires a long and complicated construction period that will disrupt travelers whether they are in cars or trucks, on commuter rail, or walking or cycling on the Paul Dudley White Path,” she wrote.

Allston resident Christopher J. Arena said he is relatively pleased with MassDOT’s decision.

“I’m actually quite grateful that Secretary Pollack wrote such a fantastic letter herself, analyzing the proposal,” he said. “It was a really great analysis of the pros and cons, so I’m actually really quite grateful at how thoughtful she was in that. I think it’s a pretty big policy win.”

Though Arena said he is satisfied with the proposal overall, he pointed to West Station — a transit station slated to be constructed on Harvard-owned land in Allston as part of the project — as an element of the plan that needs more attention. He said the construction of such a station could alleviate anticipated traffic during construction.

“I think there needs to be a hard commitment to expanding the commuter rail or extending the T or finding ways to address some of the issues with Mass. transit that isn’t car,” Arena said. “I’m of the belief that Boston has to be multimodal.”

“I want to make sure that not only with this development, but future developments, that we make sure we think for a future Boston that’s not so car-dependent,” he added.

Harvard has promised to dedicate $58 million to the construction of West Station, including $8 million for an interim station that could be built by the mid-2020s.

“The University is pleased to see forward-moving progress by MassDOT with the selection of a preferred alternative for the ‘throat section’ design of the Allston Multimodal project,” Harvard spokesperson Brigid O’Rourke wrote in an emailed statement.

“Harvard will continue to work closely with the Baker Administration, the City of Boston and the many stakeholders engaged through participation in the I-90 Task Force process on important decisions that remain,” she added.

Pollack wrote in the press release that a timeline for the station “will depend on service and scheduling decisions that will be made by the MBTA.”

—Staff writer Ruth A. Hailu can be reached at ruth.hailu@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @ruth_hailu_.

—Staff writer Amy L. Jia can be reached at amy.jia@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmyLJia.

—Staff writer Peter E. O’Keefe can be reached at peter.o'keefe@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @CrimsonOKeefe.

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