Mass Pike Realignment

MassDOT is planning to alter the alignment of I-90, the Massachusetts Turnpike, through Allston. With a former rail yard now unused, there is potential to straighten the mainline of the turnpike and condense a spidering mess of ramps and toll booths to open up land for development. Recently, the DOT released two conceptual plans along with announcing the project.

MassDOT Plan 1
MassDOT Plan 2


The official MassDOT plans suffer in that they are primarily designs for high speed roads: while opening up land for development is noted, it appears very little thought was put into it. In addition, the plan does little to address a traffic nightmare that currently exists at Cambridge Street, where all drivers exiting and entering the Pike are forced through a small stretch of roadway. In addition, there is a nearby parkway with even further deficient on and off ramps that further compounds the traffic situation. This parkway, Soldiers Field Road, also is directly next to the Charles River, ruining an otherwise continuous linear park along its edge. Soldiers Field Road is not under control of the MassDOT, but rather the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and it does not appear the two departments have sat down to see if they could help each other out in this massively transformative project.

For some time, this has been a pet project of mine. With the announcement and release of these deficent plans, I started working on a proposal to counter it.

Beacon Park 4_7_14
Be sure to click for full resolution.

Please be sure to let me know what you think below! Over the past few months I have already amended several elements of the plan thanks to some great suggestions from local residents, and look forward to continuing to do so.


11 thoughts on “Mass Pike Realignment”

  1. You’ve done a lot of work, but you’ve complicated the project and have not realized how important it is to improve the traffic volume on North Harvard Street since it is the only thoroughfare going across the Charles to Harvard Square. Anything done to impede the traffic on this main road can only impede the traffic that, like it or not, will go between Harvard Square, North Allston and Boston. It also doesn’t seem to take into account the improvements Harvard is slated to make in the Lars Anderson Bridge which is in the works. Also, with the wonderful new residential and retail commons Samuels and Associates is building at the intersection, free flow of traffic is essential for the success of this great improvement to North Allston’s infrastructure. We who live here are tired of folks disrespecting the wishes of Allston residents. We want a vibrant, enlivened area commensurate with the other communities and feel it is insulting to want to keep North Allston a sleepy, rundown area that no one respects. We want to grow and develop. You can’t keep progress away from North Allston, and for that we are glad. We deserve any plan that will increase the activity at the intersection and serve the new folks who will be moving in who need quick access to the Pike and points west and south.

    We realize you have spent a lot of time on this, it is your pet project and you are heavily invested in your ideas. But unless you can work with the other entities that will actually plan and build the new roadway, you are not going to prevail in any fight. You will need to do far more planning for emerging and future traffic patterns if you truly want to serve the people of North Allston, the Opportunity Community (registered trademark).

    1. Reynold,

      Thank you for taking the time to write such a lengthy comment. Perhaps I should have specified, but I am an Allston resident, and live on this side of the Pike, directly in the impacted area. I’m not sure what about my plan would imply that I wish to disrespect Allston or keep it sleepy or run down, I have put as much of my personal time into this plan specifically to ensure the exact opposite of that happens. I too want to see Allston be as successful and prosperous as it possibly can, and think that this interchange project is the lynchpin in that happening. I plan to live in Allston for a long time to come, my interest in this project is very much personal.

      That being said, I fail to see how Barry’s Corner or the northern half of North Harvard Street has more than the most miniscule bearing on the Mass Pike realignment. I believe that there are some improvements that could be made to that area, especially in light of Samuels redevelopment and Harvards ongoing construction in the area. However, that is an entirely separate subject, and far removed from the scope of this plan, even in the vastly expanded state I have proposed. I can certainly make some of my ideas for Barry’s corner a subject of future posts, but the BPW and Harvard would be the ones leading such a project, not MassDOT. As you pointed out, improvements are already underway in the reconstruction of the Anderson Bridge, and with steam picking up around Barrys Corner it would be an exciting conversation to have. Unfortunately, it has almost nothing to do with this proposal, in the form I have proposed or the plans MassDOT has presented.

      I would like to point out, however, that in my plan the extension of Stadium Way and Babcock Street to Western Ave directly address your concerns on quick access to points south. No longer is the slog down N. Harvard Street to Cambridge to Harvard Ave necessary, Babcock is a straight shot to Comm Ave! To address your concerns about easy access to the Pike, the next right hand turn after Babcock gets you on the realigned Soldiers Field Road, which takes you directly to the Pike in either direction. You no longer even have to go as far as Cambridge Street! As a driver, biker, pedestrian and resident, I have tried to make this plan the best way to address all the issues you have pointed out. It is by no means perfect yet, but that is the entire reason I have made it public.

      My proposal’s purpose is to engage a discussion on the tremendous opportunity that could be had by reconfiguring Soldiers Field Road below Western Ave along with the Mass Pike realignment. It is by no means a final idea, and I am open to any and all suggestions or comments. To use a phrase I disfavor, it is a “living document”. I am not a traffic engineer, I have no affiliation with MassDOT, the city, the state, Harvard, or any transportation entity or other parties involved in this project. I am your neighbor, I am concerned about this project being as successful as possible, and I am here to help. At the suggestion of other residents, I have already amended several* aspects of ‘my idea’ to conform with the vision of the community as a whole. I will enjoy continuing to do so, and look forward to any and all feedback.

      *By several, I mean essentially the entire thing. The plan you see before you bears hardly any resemblance to the original concept I came up with three years ago.

  2. Interesting proposal. Construction costs and costs of long term maintenance may be a barrier, particularly with so many underpasses. But interesting nonetheless. One kink to work out is how to connect the Grand Junction Path to a useful output. Just connecting it to the river path is not enough to be useful to bike commuters. At a minimum, it should connect to Storrow and ideally to Cambridge Street near I-90 so as to provide a direct connection to Allston Village rather than require a large detour. It should be easier to access destinations by bicycle, not more circuitous.

    Thanks for putting so much thought into this!

    1. I do have cycle tracks running down Cambridge Street for commuters coming from Allston. In addition, while I did not indicate it very well, I do envision the bike path that heads towards the Pleasant Street extension to be continued in some way to Comm Ave. I will try to further think out the idea. A large complication is the grade change between the Grand Junction bridge and Comm Ave, which is further complicated by the Pike being between the two.

  3. What about localized flooding of the depressed Soldiers Field roadway? I’m not sure all the elevations here, but that is pretty close to the Charles/sea level and with a few feet of sea level rise you might need some serious pump stations.

    1. I do believe the relocated Soldiers Field is far enough inland that most concerns would be more about groundwater infiltration rather than overtopping of the Charles. In addition, while I’m not very well versed on the operations of the Charles River flood control, but I do believe sea level would have to rise significantly more than is predicted to be higher than the Charles River Dam. The section that does concern me is the 12 lane cut where the Pike and Storrow/SFR run together within 40′ of the river. My guess is that this section may need to be covered for flood control, but other then noting it is possible I did not show it as it would raise costs considerably, and also make the diagram less legible.

      Even with flood concerns noted, I am of the mindset that putting as much of the highway underground as possible is better for the neighborhood. It isolates noise, eliminates the need for overpasses to have to climb a grade to cross it, and allows for future development to cover it. As to this latter point, I attempted to configure the cross streets in such a way that building over the highway would be far easier than the pieces of the Pike downtown, where it is very expensive and difficult to do.

      This is a multi-generational project, whatever is done here will likely be with us for all time. As a designer, my greatest fear would be having my grandchildren complaining to me about a problem that I saw built. Water infiltration may be part of that, but I think a far worse issue would be a rambling above-grade highway that they no longer have room to do something about.

  4. I’m with you on ideally burying what we can of the existing highway mess. Just trying to point out potential roadblocks. My concern is more with stormwater runoff/infiltration rather than direct flooding from the Charles.

    Right now DCR maintains the Charles River Basin at about mean sea level through a combination of opening gates and pumping. I think the pumps can handle something like a 100-year flood flow with the gates closed. If sea level rises a few feet, in order to maintain the Charles as is, DCR would have to almost always pump. But that’s a whole other can of worms..

    Great work, by the way, and good to throw another alternative in the mix.

  5. Hi David,

    My name is Jake Lucas. I’m a student reporter at Boston University. I’m writing about peoples’ ideas of what should come out of the project to straighten the Mass Pike (besides just straightening the Pike), and I’d love to get the chance to talk to hear more about your plan. You can email me at

    Thanks very much!

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