Major Mass. Pike Project in Allston Needs Major Changes To Reduce Cost and Disruption, Pioneer Institute Says

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Not everyone is pleased with the state’s $1.2 billion I-90 Allston Multimodal project set to begin in 2022.

The project, expected to take eight to 10 years, involves removing the viaduct from the Allston Interchange on the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge on the Massachusetts Turnpike. This section of the turnpike would be moved to surface level. Additionally, a new viaduct for would be built for Soldier’s Field Road and a new commuter rail station would replace West Station in the Allston section of Boston.

With the projects come immense cost and impact on commuters. The Pioneer Institute, a free-market-oriented think tank based in Boston, sent an open letter to Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker earlier this week urging the state to reconsider the project.

The letter, written by Mary Connaughton, the Pioneer Institute’s director of government transparency, argues that the project “will upend automobile travel to and from Boston.” 

Connaughton notes that the project could be used as an opportunity to encourage rail travel, but she says the proposed schedule squanders that chance because the Worcester Line will operate on only a single track for half of the construction time during the project. 

“Single track service for any of the project period is unacceptable and will be a major deterrent to ridership,” she wrote.

Connaughton also requested that the state reconsider its proposal to elevate Soldier’s Field Road over the Massachusetts Turnpike and at least consider the cost of long-term maintenance as opposed to completely upending the road. 

As for West Station in Allston, Connaughton said there should be four tracks at the station as opposed to the three planned. She notes it would save people from the MetroWest area half an hour off their commute time if it were convenient to work in Allston rather than somewhere near South Station.

During the construction period, Connaughton recommends the state keep two tracks open instead of just one.

It’s one of many actions the Pioneer Institute would like to see take place if the state does decide to go through with the project.

Here are a few notable suggestions:

To avoid additional traffic on the Worcester Line, scrap plans for the proposed West Station layover facility

To encourage commuter rail use, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority should increase the size of its parking lots or consider high-capacity parking garages

To encourage responsible spending, the state should develop a transparent finance available to the public

To reduce the burden on Massachusetts taxpayers, the state should seek more federal dollars to fund the project.

This is not the first time the Pioneer Institute has expressed concern over the project. Connaughton and former Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation Jim Aloisi wrote an op-ed in May with comparable concerns.