MGNA: Medford Green Line Neighborhood Alliance

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Lechmere Station design meeting notes

19 June, 2013 (09:36) | News, Community Event | By: Editor

 

Here are some notes from Tuesday night’s design update meeting for the new Lechmere Station on the Green Line Extension, attended by about 130 people at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center.

Representatives from the project management and design teams provided an overview of progress to date toward the 60% station design stage, which they expect to reach by September 1.

Presenting were Karen Arpino-Shaffer, Deputy Program Manager, HDR/Gilbane; Greg Yates, Project Manager, AECOM; Randy Henke, Deputy Project Manager/Director of Design, HNTB;  Elton Elperlin, Architect, AECOM; Tom O’Brien, Managing Director, HYM Investment Group (North Point developer); and John Copley, Principal, Copley Wolff Design Group (landscape architects).

The Lechmere Station is being moved from its current location – a terminus with a turnaround along Cambridge Street across from First Street and Second Streets – to a site across Monsignor O’Brien Highway in order for the extension to proceed along the existing Lowell and Fitchburg commuter rail right-of-ways.

The focus of the design team has been to closely coordinate with the city of Cambridge and the surrounding North Point development to integrate the station into the neighborhood, and also to make the station area more pedestrian friendly.

“Cambridge is a city of squares, and for too long Lechmere has been burdened by the fact there is a highway running through it that is very difficult to cross,” said Tom O’Brien of North Point developer HYM, which is responsible for paying for the improvements to O’Brien Highway and other nearby streets. “We feel strongly that this area needs to be pedestrian friendly. It needs to be a real square. That’s what we’re trying to create. We want to make both sides of Monsignor O’Brien Boulevard – and note that we are calling it ‘Boulevard’ and not ‘Highway’ – to be a great place for people to find places to shop, eat, walk, or make their way to their buses or the T.”

The station has two headhouses – North and South, connected by the boarding platform.

The North Headhouse is in between Water Street and North First Street and has patron entrance/exit at each end. On the lower level of the North Headhouse on the Water Street side is the pick-up/drop-off area for The Ride and buses, which enter and exit on.

The South Headhouse has been moved from the previous design to south of East Street. This allows for a longer platform to be built that will accommodate future 4-car Green Line trains. In addition, a patron entrance has been added to the south end of the South Headhouse, which previously was exit-only.

Architect Elton Elperlin described the station design as “simple, clear and open” with the North Headhouse sitting “tall and proud as a beacon” and offering great 360-degree views.

Other modifications to the station since the last design include:

+ Creation of more covered bicycle parking on the site of the former South Headhouse. The design calls for 338 bike parking spaces, 304 of them enclosed. The commitment for bicycle parking at Lechmere in the Environmental Assessment report for the GLX was 250 spaces.

+ Relocating parking to a lot northeast of the station that will also be used for buses when Lechmere Station will be closed during construction and riders will be bused to North Station.

+ Design of the Community Path extension from where it departs Washington Street station, through the Lechmere Station area to the North Point development.

PEDESTRIAN IMPROVEMENTS
The work to improve pedestrian access and safety is ongoing and far from finished, in particular improving connectivity across O’Brien Highway at Water Street and First Street, but the following changes are currently recommended:

+ Reducing Monsignor O’Brien Highway from 6 lanes to 5, with the elimination of one northbound right-hand turn lane.

+ Use of high quality, distinctive paving systems other than asphalt to better identify pedestrian crossing zones.

+ Improved and more consistent lighting, including brighter, pedestrian-oriented lighting to accentuate pedestrian zones

+ Addition of trees on both sides of O’Brien Highway and in median, both large “boulevard” trees and more tightly spaced “columnar” trees to provide shade, define area, calm traffic

+ Work with city of Cambridge and MassHighway to improve the signal timing and increase the “Walk” times for O’Brien Highway intersections

AUDIENCE COMMENTS/QUESTIONS
+ Relocate Glass Factory Condominium parking area from prominent parcel in front of North Headhouse? MBTA considers the Glass Factory condos a “uniquely impacted” building already and chose not to further affect the residents with a parking change.

+ When will Lechmere Station have to be shut down? The preliminary plan anticipated the station being closed for about 14 months prior to the new station opening in mid-2017, but project officials think that time frame can be reduced “by several months.”

+ Height of tracks behind Glass Factory condos? About 16 feet from the road to the underside of the steel, plus another 2 to 2.5 feet to the track level. Height to top of trains is about 24 to 26 feet.

+ Bus service to the East Cambridge area was removed without any public process and should be restored. Many residents and visitors/workers at the Registry of Deeds, probate court, and mall are suffering from the loss of these buses.

+ Other comments: Citizens should continue to push for further reduction of traffic lanes on O’Brien Highway; exterior of station is unappealing and uninviting, resembling an airport entrance more than a pedestrian-friendly boulevard – make it welcoming; consider making Water Street one-way.

More photos of Lechmere Station design images are available on Facebook.

Remaining station design update meeting:

Thursday, June 20
College Avenue Station
6 to 8 p.m.
St. Clement School
579 Boston Ave., Medford

See the GLX project website for more information.

- Ken Krause
Medford Green Line Neighborhood Alliance

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