State’s plan to reconfigure Mass Pike under fire after temporary road revealed

BOSTON — The state’s plan to reconfigure the Allston stretch of the Mass Pike is coming under fire as more details emerge on how MassDOT plans to do it. At Monday’s MassDOT Board of Directors meeting, the opposition is growing because of what would temporarily go in the Charles River.

The Mass Pike is the region’s straight shot into Boston. The state wants to make it straighter and some drivers, like Jay Kirsch, are on board.

"I think it would make it safer,” he said. “And I think it's about time to do it."

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MassDOT wants to reconfigure the Pike to so it is at ground level and eliminate some of the curves. The project would also move Soldier’s Field Road away from the river by elevating it over the Pike. The state says this would free up land for development, a new Commuter Rail stop and riverbank restoration.

"In the last several decades we spent hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up the Charles, which has transformed great life in Boston,” said Heather Miller of the Charles River Watershed Association.

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The association told the MassDOT Board of Directors it supported the idea until learning more about how it would be done.

While the project is underway, the state says they have to build a temporary road for eight-to-10 years. The problem with that temporary road, some groups say, is that it is in the Charles River.

“We also learned a portion of I-90 would be located on fill and sheet piling on the riverbank,” Miller said. “None of this was disclosed when the preferred project was announced.”

The state says that section of the Pike is at the end of its lifespan and needs to be replaced. Engineers admit its location is making that complicated. Right now the plan is to start building by 2022, but that may be pushed back as the opposition grows.