By Beth Treffeisen
At the public meeting held on Tuesday, October 18, at Wheelock College a presentation for the new inter-city bike and pedestrian path that will connect the Charlesgate Greenway to the Esplanade was presented to the public after years of planning.
The proposed path will run from Beacon St. underneath the Bowker Overpass then under Storrow Drive East then a new ramp onto the west side of Mass. Ave. Bridge will connect with the Esplanade through the existing ramp on the east side of the bridge.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) will be fronting $1.3 million towards the completing of the project because it is a transportation project. Total construction for the project is estimated to be $1.9 million.
The Department of Conservation and Conservation of Massachusetts (DCR) will be designing and constructing the project, and will be able to secure more funds to guarantee it is finished.
Construction of the project is expected to begin in Spring 2018.
“We’ve been going to a series of DCR Commissioners over the phases of change to say we got to get this park rehabilitation situation front and center but there’s been change after change there,” said Senator William N. Brownsberger. “Now I think we have some folks there who are willing to get something done.”
DCR will begin to look at starting this project once the MassDOT construction of Charlesgate overpass is completed by the end of this November.
Included in this project will be the installation of a new traffic light signal that runs at the Mass Ave. Bridge as part of the link. This light system will line up with the other lights running down Massachusetts Ave. and will provide organization to the cars coming off Storrow Drive.
The new light will create a new sidewalk for the pedestrians and bicyclists to cross the Bridge coming off the new pathway and onto the ramp leading to the Esplanade.
This project will re-establish a connection that was lost when the Bowker Overpass was built and will gain back some of the lost open space.
“It celebrates the moment overlooking the Charles River,” said Rick Corsi, the DCR project manager pointing out the proposed over look. “It is a really a neat spot that we will be putting a seating area in – it’s spectacular.”
This area has been under consideration for rehabilitation since 2002 when it was part of the Charles River Basin master plan. It was than brought up again 10 years later when the Lawrence & Lillian Solomon Foundation funded a study.
Finally it was brought up again in 2014 when MassDOT and DCR worked together to highlight the area under the Charles River Basin master plan.
“Many times we start the momentum with actual work being done and that leads to the next project and the next project,” said Norman J. Orrall, the chief of Division of Planning and Engineering at DCR.
This is only phase one of a part two plan. Once this part is completed, there will be a second connection that runs from Beacon St. underneath the Charlesgate overpass and down to the Muddy River in the Fenway neighborhood.
“I think it is wonderful what you discussed this evening but there’s one glaring omission, which is the park underneath the bunker,” said Pamela Beale from Kenmore Square. “It is in tremendous disrepair and for many of us was supposed to be the subject on tonight’s meeting.”
Other community members agreed, and thought that part of the project should be the first priority.
Tani Marinovich the executive director of The Esplanade Association said they would be helping to maintain the parks once they are constructed and have some people interested in funding ongoing maintenance.
“I’m thrilled to see this project hit this stage. Discussions of this project go back 15 years or more, planning around this particular link,” said, Herb Nolan from The Solomon Foundation.
He continued, “A through connection from the river to the Esplanade would really help the situation considerably by energizing the park and bringing people into it and through it.”
The next public meeting that will discuss further design plans with community input will be held this upcoming winter.