On August 1, 2022, MassDOT issued a large format, 57-page Notice of Project Change (NPC) for the I-90 Allston Multimodal Project that described changes to the I-90 Allston Multimodal Project since completion of the Draft Environmental Impact Report in 2017. The NPC also outlined additional studies to be undertaken in preparing a Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (SDEIR) in 2023.
Comments on the NPC were due to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs MEPA Office on September 13, and the MEPA Certificate was signed by the Secretary of Environmental Affairs on September 23. The Certificate described the project and summarized the content of the NPC as well as described requirements for the scope of the SDEIR. The Certificate also summarized the content of 225 comments received on the MassDOT report. Comments included support for the selection of the Modified At-Grade alternative as the Preferred Alternative replacing the viaduct; concern for impacts on Charles River wetlands, water quality and navigation; concern for climate change; and support for multimodal transportation, including bike and pedestrian facilities, and design of West Station and other rail and bus transit improvements.
A Better City’s comments on the NPC emphasized five points:
The MEPA Certificate was generally supportive of these ends; however, the Secretary stated that the Viaduct Preservation project has independent utility, and as a repair project does not require environmental review.
Based on the comments and content of the scope included in the MEPA Certificate, A Better City has identified several areas of focus as the SDEIR is under development: A Better City will continue to question the independence of the Viaduct Preservation project and advocate for its revision to be incorporated in a larger program of the Multimodal Project. A Better City will also support additional focus on the design of West Station, its multimodal connections, and transit modeling, as well as further development of the pedestrian and bicycle path network. A Better City recognizes that more work needs to be done to address wetlands, waterways, resilience, and stormwater issues. Regarding construction of the project elements, construction staging that minimizes temporary roadways and places the most beneficial transportation components into service as soon as possible is important. During construction, transportation management and mitigation strategies need to be related to construction staging, and concurrent construction of foundations and decking for air rights construction needs to be incorporated into work on transportation elements.
It is clear that much diligent effort as well as active involvement with stakeholders will be required to complete the tasks included in the scope for the next phase of environmental review.