This story has been corrected to state that the price tag is $400 million higher.
State transportation officials put a $1.7 billion price tag on the Allston I-90 project on Wednesday, a figure that is $400 million higher than it was last November.
The price reflects the decision made Wednesday to reconstruct the elevated portion of the Massachusetts Turnpike at ground level and the straightening of the highway as it wends its way through Allston. It also includes new rail tracks, a new stretch of Soldiers Field Road, new bridges, new parkland, a new bike and pedestrian path located out in the Charles River, and on and off ramps in the area.
The price also includes a new commuter rail station called West Station with an estimated cost of $180 million.
But the new price tag also has a few surprises. Some of the increase reflects higher supply chain expenses induced by COVID, even though construction of the project won’t begin for at least two years.
The price estimate also includes the cost of the street network that needs to be constructed in the neighborhood Harvard University is building in Allston on the vast swath of land the school owns to the south of Harvard Business School.
“Those are costs that are part of this program,” said Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler.
The secretary indicated the state will seek to have Harvard and the city of Boston pick up the cost of the street network.
“This is a unique opportunity to develop a huge portion of land that Harvard owns in the city of Boston that cannot develop without this project,” Tesler said. “But those aren’t things that we, as we think about a funding strategy, will conventionally look to pay for. We’re going to want to have those conversations in the weeks ahead.”
The project also includes construction of a new MBTA commuter rail repair facility in Readville at an estimated cost of $300 million. Tesler said the repair facility is being included as mitigation for selecting an all-at-grade design in the throat section of the project, which requires the shutdown of a rail line connecting the south side of the commuter rail system to an existing commuter rail repair facility on the north side in Somerville. T officials, however, have said the new repair facility in Readville is needed to accommodate future commuter rail expansion and began work on the project even before the all-at-grade approach was selected.
As for where the $1.7 billion for the Allston project will come from, Tesler said he would look primarily to federal funding contained in an infrastructure bill pending in Congress, existing toll revenues (no new tolls), and Harvard and the city of Boston.
“Our goal is to try to have these sources track pretty closely against the uses,” he said.
Clearing the throat: After years of indecision, the Baker administration took a major step to move the stalled $1.7 billion I-90 Allston project forward, embracing an all-at-grade replacement of the Turnpike, Soldiers Field Road, and commuter rail tracks as they run through a narrow strip of land dubbed the throat sandwiched between Boston University and the Charles River.
— Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler and Highway Commissioner Jonathan Gulliver said they had figured out how to squeeze all of the transportation elements into the narrow piece of land without encroaching on the Charles River. A bike and pedestrian pathway will be located on piles out in the water, and the bank of the river will be refurbished with new fill.
— The project still faces a lot of regulatory hurdles, but Tesler said it was time to get on with finding funding for the broader project, which involves straightening the Turnpike as it goes through Allston to open up the huge piece of empty land there that Harvard University wants to turn into a new neighborhood. A new commuter rail station is also in the plan.Tesler said he intends to tap existing toll revenues (no tolls will be increased) and secure money from Harvard and the city of Boston, but it sounds as if the project is dependent on an infrastructure bill passing in Washington and Massachusetts securing a large chunk of the funding. Read more.
What changed? The new approach on the I-90 Allston project by the Baker administration comes in the wake of a shift in leadership, as former transportation secretary Stephanie Pollack left to join the Biden administration and was replaced by Jamey Tesler. Tesler said a key factor was the possible availability of a large amount of federal funding in an infrastructure bill currently caught up in a Beltway political battle. Tesler said the state needs to be ready with a solid plan for the project if the bill passes and money becomes available. Read more.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
The Mass. Taxpayers Foundation is urging Beacon Hill leaders to begin spending some of the $5.3 billion in federal pandemic relief aid. (Boston Herald)
Gov. Charlie Baker signs a COVID paid leave program extension. (State House News Service)
The union representing state correctional officers files a federal lawsuit to block the Baker administration’s enforcement of a vaccine mandate. (WBUR)
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In Southwick, three select board members who were outspoken opponents of the now-withdrawn Carvana project, a car distribution facility, are ousted and replaced. (MassLive)
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The Globe reports on Lowell, which it says is on the comeback.
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Rep. Ayanna Pressley says she’ll vote “no” on the $1 trillion infrastructure bill if there is not assurance that a separate $3.5 trillion bill on social spending will also pass. (Boston Herald)
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The Amherst Regional School District is requiring all students eligible for vaccines to be vaccinated by December 1. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
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Many entertainment venues are now requiring proof of vaccination in order to attend a performance. (Worcester Magazine)
Four hundred years after Plymouth Colony military officer Myles Standish made contact with Native Americans, people are rethinking the legacy and narrative surrounding settlers and Native Americans, as the state considers whether to change its seal and flag. (Patriot Ledger)
Gov. Charlie Baker insists the MBTA is safe despite a spate of recent incidents, including this week’s derailment of a Red Line train. (Boston Globe)
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Dorchester Reporter executive editor Bill Forry offers a tribute to Chris Lovett, the indefatigable chronicler of Boston life who retired last week after 34 years anchoring the Neighborhood Network News on the city’s public access television channel.
YouTube is taking down channels associated with high profile anti-vaccine activists, including Joseph Mercola and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (Washington Post)