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Bait & switch at the MBTA and Northpoint

Bait & switch at the MBTA and Northpoint

I attended the Green Line extension meeting sponsored by ECPT and STEP last night. The meeting was quite informative. Let me be quite clear in stating that I am a strong supporter of the extension project. What really irks me however is the "evolution" of plans for moving Lechmere Station across Route 28.

When this idea was first presented to residents of East Cambridge around the year 2000, there was an agreement between MBTA and Northpoint that in exchange for being given the land where Lechmere Station now stands, Northpoint would build a new state of the art station where the MBTA parking lot is on the far side of the highway. One of the requirements was that a covered, lit, heated, indoor pedestrian concourse would be built to get passengers across the seven lanes of frustrated commuters safely. This amenity is what quieted most local opposition to the move.

Guess what disappeared from the plans. I guess I gave it away. Years before the agreement was allowed to expire, (2007 according to Joe Cosgrove of the MBTA) the concourse was forgotten by project planners. Since then, all we have seen is plans for crosswalks that would take two light cycles to get across the highway if you don't run.

I know that the deal is complicated by the difficulties that that the development partners are having, but that is no excuse for the MBTA and now the Executive Office of Transportation (EOT) to drop this requirement and break their promise to the residents of Cambridge.


A bridge across McGrath is impractical, and was effectively dismissed in the presentation by North Point 3 years ago. Given an overpass AND a crosswalk, most people won't bother with the overpass. In addition, you would have to take land on the south side to put stairs and an elevator for the crossing - and we all know how well elevators are maintained by the T.

Ironic the meeting was HELD across the street from the current Lechmere station, and everyone seemed to get there without injury.

As a non-resident of Cambridge but frequenter of the Galleria, I have to chime in here. To make sure I understand what's being proposed: are we talking about the hoards of passengers that get off at Lechmere to shop crossing even more highway than they already do to get to their destination?

I don't think people getting across "without injury" on a given night makes the case for not building a pedestrian overpass. Do we need to wait for someone to get injured to be able to justify it being built? Why take the risk? Seems to me that's just asking for trouble.

Dear Tempuser,
What was presented would be accessed from the second floor of the lobby of the hotel that the developer is being given the land to build on. You would enter the lobby, take the escalator or eleveator up and cross in comfort and safety, passing the coffee shop and news stand.It would be similar to the pedestrian overpass at Copley Place. Small compensation for six free acres of commercial development.

Yes, the meeting was held on the far side of the highway. That is why almost all of the attendees drove there. Walking back, it took me 10 minutes to get back across Rt. 28, and I had to wait in the middle on a narrow median while traffic whizzed by. I survived, but I don't want to repeat the experience.

P.S. Why don't you identify yourself?

I have a video of the meeting, and hope to get it out by Monday. I feel the Msgr. O'Brien Highway needs to go away. If anything was learned from the building of the central artery, and then having to dig a tunnel underneath it as it operated, it was GET IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME! We shouldn't separate existing communities or create disconnected neighborhoods. We are supposed to learn from history. Our community will look pathetic if this happens.

Sorry Mark, I'm tempuser because I don't want to register for yet another forum just to leave a comment... Although I didn't think this would turn into a conversation :)

The Copley bridge is a bad example. It's handy to go from one 2nd floor mall form another 2nd floor mall. I'm in that area all the time, and I do not go up a set of stairs just to cross a street. Frankly, no one does.

You also make the assumption the current station land will be a hotel. Since all plans and the land swap have been thrown out, it would be a burden on the land sale to require dedication of square footage for a bridge and space for an elevator.

As for crossing the street - it must be bad timing. I jaywalked across the street, as there was ZERO traffic in either direction when I left the meeting. I find it hard to believe the traffic light crossing 28 has a 10 minute wait for pedestrian cycle. And, quite frankly, I feel safer crossing 28 than I do Cambridge street. People making that right hand turn hardly ever stop for the traffic light, never mind all the right-on-red people. It will be nice to see that we won't have to cross Cambridge street any more once that last 'segment' is gone when 1st st is extended.

With the land swap and "free" bridge gone, it would be hard to justfiy a few hundred thousand to put one into the current plans. We couldn't even get a bridge in Leverett Circle, which has a LOT more traffic than 28 does... Plus, in reality (and studies show) even if there was a bridge, people like me will cross the street anyways, making it even harder to justify a bridge cost on the public's dime

- John Mc

Dear Mr. Mc?,
So who are all those people at Copley?

Yes, that's my point. Put a burden of public benefits on the sale of COMMON WEALTH property. That would be good government.

Perhaps you haven't looked at the station plans. The light rail component is on the second level with buses below at grade. Given that one has to go up one floor anyway, I'd rather do it before crossing seven lanes of traffic. I might even stop at the Dunkin Donuts or the news stand inside. Leasing retail space inside would be a handy way to offset cost as well.

As for crossing the street - it must be bad timing. My wife blasted right across, and I walked almost to First St. waiting for no traffic in either direction. It did not happen. Had I been alone, I would have crossed earlier and waited on the narrow median strip, but I had my daughter with me and really did not want to risk her life along with my own. Kind of old fashioned I know. If I had my mother with me I would have had to call a cab.

Leverett Circle is a bad example. I walk to work that way every day, and before the Big Dig folks added 100 yards of ramps to it, I used that bridge frequently. As did lots of folks. That intersection receives far less pedestrian traffic than does Lechmere station, being a bus terminal and near the mall and East Cambridge businesses ans residences.

I,m not arguing that it would be free or cheap, only that requiring it would be the right and honest thing to do.

The people at Copley are either going form one mall to the other, or are cutting through from Boylston to the Back Bay. (or from the Weston to the mall, depending on which bridge you are talking about).

But a better example would be Charles, where again, even with high traffic, the T would not build a bridge over the street, even though there is no dedicated pedestrian cycle at all...

You also make an assumption that since the platform will be on the second floor, you will pay the fare on the second floor. Most likely, we will pay on the ground floor and then have stairs/etc going up to the center platform. A bridge across the street would have to be high enough to go ABOVE the green line themselves, so you could go down to the green line center platform. This makes it a LOT more stairs on the EC side to go the additional height.

Much as we'd like to discuss things here, unless you bring real data to the state, they're going to ignore you. Every day 300 people park on the NP side and cross this street to Lechmere station. Add in the brickbottom building condos (what are they called now), and local businesses, and you have a LOT of people who cross that street daily without injury or death. How will you convince the state that it's safe for all these people every day, but it is suddenly unsafe for YOU and other EC residents? They'll just counter with a promise of longer/more frequent pedestrian cycles. You're going to need a better argument if you want the state (T) to fork over a half mil for a bridge

Problem solved - Put McGrath in an underpass here (like the Storrow and Memorial Dr. underpasses and the Route 2 Concord rotary plans) and let peds and bikes cross at grade.

I have lived near Lechmere for over ten years on both Gore and Fifth Steets. I don't see many people crossing from McGrath to Lechmere. I do however see hundreds of people crossing from the Galleria to Lechmere. Sometimes you have twenty plus people crossing in one light cycle. The activity with the mall and the upcoming developments in East Cambridge far exceeds anything currently planned at North Point. What about all the people coming from the new Alexandria Real Estate developments? In addition you will have a far greater distance from exsisting homes in East Cambridge than you would have from North Point to the current Lechmere location. Why should so many long term residents be trumped by what has turned out to be a development disaster. I will not continue to use the T if it is moved. It is already faster for me to drive and find a parking spot, even if I am going to the South End. Any additional travel time is going to make the Lechmere stop useless to East Cambridge.