Here are some notes from Thursday night’s design update meeting for the College Avenue Station on the Green Line Extension, attended by about 75 people at St. Clement School in Medford.
Medford Mayor Michael J. McGlynn welcomed the attendees and said the pre-meeting feedback he received from residents viewing the designs on display were that they wanted the station to tie in more with the architecture of Tufts University and the surrounding area, and were concerned about the height of the station, bridge and pedestrian walkway, and with who would maintain the walkway. He also said he would like the history of the community to be reflected in the station, such as the brickmaking in the area and Stearns Village. “There are a myriad of other issues, but we’re still in the early stages, and everyone has been very cooperative in working together to make sure that the project moves along,” McGlynn said. “I’m sure everyone [from the project team] will stay until everyone’s questions are answered tonight.”
Representatives from the project management and design teams then provided an overview of progress to date toward the 60% station design stage, which they expect to reach by September 1.
Presenting and/or answering questions were Karen Arpino-Shaffer, Deputy Program Manager, HDR/Gilbane; Greg Yates, Project Manager, AECOM; Elton Elperlin, Architect, AECOM; Mary Ainsley, Director of Design and Construction, MBTA; Josh Burgel, HDR/Gilbane team/Crosby, Schlessinger, Smallridge; Bill Lyons, Traffic Engineer, project team; and Michael Epp, Architect, HDR/Gilbane team/Kleinfelder Associates.
The overall site plan, orientation and station access is essentially unchanged from the design presented last year. The station headhouse is reached from a plaza abutting the College Avenue bridge and features three entrances. The plaza is designed to be a neighborhood space with built-in seating on stone benches.
The College Avenue bridge does not need to be rebuilt, but a right-turn lane onto Boston Avenue will be added north of the large MRWA water pipe that currently is next to the bridge and cannot be relocated. Officials described the water pipe as an opportunity to creatively treat/wrap the structure in a way that fit into the station and surrounding area. “We are committed to working with the community to figure out a solution that is an enhancement and not a detriment to the community,” Arpino-Shaffer said.
The right-turn lane will have a traffic signal and an “Walk” light, and be wide enough (approximately 18 feet) for a car to pass a stopped car dropping off or picking up a passenger, although the lane is not intended for drop-off/pick-up use. The project team is looking into creative ways to wrap/cover the water pipe.
The station concourse and platform extend north, away from College Avenue (toward Winthrop Street). The station platform will be 27 feet wide and covered with an uplifted canopy extending about 12 inches over the tracks. PA speakers will be closely spaced to require less volume.
A pedestrian path will create access from the Burget Avenue neighborhood to the station. A drop-off area for The Ride and other vehicles will be on the westbound side of Boston Avenue.
The most significant change to the station structure itself is the removal of a third-floor penthouse, lowering the height of the building and giving it a more “neighborly scale” but still a prominence over the downhill sloping College Avenue. The electrical and mechanical systems from the penthouse were relocated to a mezzanine level underneath the concourse.
Another major change is the removal of a large, unsightly emergency egress tower that was to be located in between the tracks north of the platform. The tower would have routed passengers up some 25 to 30 feet and over the Green Line catenary wires to a ramp system leading to Boston Avenue. The MBTA received a variance from the state that will allow passengers, in the case of an evacuation, to cross the Green Line tracks at ground level after leaving the platform, then ascend a ramp system that will be built adjacent to the retaining wall along Boston Avenue.
Also, a track design and operational change has resulted in the station project zone to be reduced by about 700 feet. This was achieved by having a cross-over for the trolleys on the south side of the station (under the College Avenue bridge and toward the Tufts athletic fields) rather than north of the platform. This will reduce the noise for the abutting residents north of the station. There will be fewer sound walls along the Boston Avenue side of the right-of-way, but the number of sounds walls will not change on the Burget Avenue side.
Bicycle parking consists of 101 spaces (72 enclosed, 29 exterior), which exceeds by 44% the commitment of 70 spaces at College Avenue Station that was in the Environmental Assessment for the project.
Since College Avenue is a terminus station, the MBTA is requesting the construction of a booth for an inspector who will be stationed on-site to ensure timely departures and headways. The booth will be at far end of the platform. It would be moved to the Route 16 station when it is built as the permanent terminus. The College Avenue station is being designed so as to not preclude an eventual extension to Route 16.
Burget Avenue resident Laurel Ruma, a neighborhood representative on the GLX Design Working Group, expressed frustration with the lack of meetings of the group over the last 18 months. The project team responded by saying it was engaging the DWG at a high level, included members in an open house at the project team’s new office this spring, and invites their participation and input in all general public meetings. However, the project team acknowledged that it was trying to determine the best use of the DWG going forward as the project moves toward final design and construction.
Doug Carr, another Medford resident on the Design Working Group, said the station design shows some great improvements overall, including the reduced massing and the removal of the concrete emergency egress tower. He also suggested considering moving the bus stop from College Avenue to Boston Avenue to improve transit connections and give passengers easier and safer access to the station. He pointed out that some of the views depicted of the station, particularly from College Avenue, were inaccurate because they conveniently failed to show the larger water pipe in the middle of the street. Arpino-Shaffer agreed that the pipe should be depicted but it was not purposely left off, nor was there was ever an intent to not show the pipe.
Has the platform length grown since the last design? No. The platform will be built for 3-car Green Line trains. However, the station is designed to accommodate future 4-cars trains, and footers will be poured to be in place for the construction of an expanded platform. However, the potential adoption of 4-car Green Line trains is many years if not decades away, because platform enlargement also would be needed at stations in the central subway system such as Park Street and Copley.
How will bus routes be integrated? The project team is meeting with MBTA bus operations to discuss this matter in general, but the bus routing analysis will be done in a separate study with a full public process.
Who will maintain Burget Avenue path and will it extend to Sunset Ave.? Path maintenance is to be determined; it will not extend to Sunset Ave.
The Burget Avenue path is not wide enough for bicyclists, but they likely will use it anyway. How will this be prevented? Bicyclists may walk their bikes on the path, or should access the station via the street network.
Southbound drivers on Boston Avenue are likely to attempt U-turns after dropping off passengers. How will this be prevented? Project team does not anticipate such behavior. The stations are designed to be community-oriented, not regional stations, with no structured parking and focused on bus connections and bicycle and pedestrian access.
What is the project timetable? The College Avenue station is scheduled to open in mid-2019 along with the stations at Ball Square, Lowell Street, and Gilman Square. The stations at Union Square, Washington Street, and the new Lechmere Station are scheduled to open in mid-2017. The construction timetable is somewhat contingent on approval to proceed from the Federal Transit Administration.
What is the funding source? The MBTA is applying to the Federal Transportation Administration’s New Starts program for one-half of the $1 billion total cost, with the state paying for the other half. If the New Starts application is unsuccessful, the state will pay for the entire project. A decision from FTA on New Starts is expected some time in 2015.
What is status of maintenance/storage facility? Design is proceeding, albeit more slowly than on the stations, due to the complexity of the site and an extensive value engineering process. Work has begun regarding all required property acquisitions and business relocations. A public meeting on the maintenance/storage facility is likely for the fall.
Other comments: More pick-up/drop-off areas should be added, as this will be a common practice given that this is a terminus station. . . . The shortcomings of the College Avenue station as a terminus highlight the Route 16 station as a superior terminus location. . . . The high curb (10 to 12 inches) planned for along College Avenue is potentially unsafe and should be re-evaluated. . . .The ridership, traffic and pedestrian data that has been studied and modeled for the station provides an excellent opportunity to create a computer simulation that would show the movement of all users and how they would interact. . . . Another resident expressed disappointment in the lack of regular meetings of the Design Working Group, whose creation had given her confidence that neighborhood issues would be addressed.
This was the last of five station design meetings this month. The PowerPoint presentation and meeting notes will be posted to the project website.
Additional photo images are available on Facebook.
Additional public meetings will be held in the fall and winter, including one to present options for sound wall surface options. Meetings also will be held with abutters regarding specific issues. Future station design meetings will deal with materials, aesthetics, lighting, etc., in addition to design revisions.
- Ken Krause
Medford Green Line Neighborhood Alliance