New Report: Allston Project a choice between two transportation futures for Boston

Media Contacts
Matt Casale

Former Director, Environment Campaigns, PIRG

$1 billion highway reconstruction project could be a bold, transformative plan, or rebuild the auto-intensive infrastructure of generations ago


BOSTON —  Faced with the choice between a car-only or a walkable, bikeable future, Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) must decide whether to spend over $1 billion on the Allston Project to rebuild outdated infrastructure as is or build a new transportation future, according to a new report from MASSPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group. One outdated transportation proposal would rebuild the elevated viaduct and all 12 lanes of traffic, reinforcing the region’s reliance on personal vehicles and reducing the project’s potential to deliver expanded access to clean and sustainable transportation. MassDOT has recently decided to postpone their decision until summer 2021.

“Every time we spend money on infrastructure, we have an opportunity to re-envision the future,” Matt Casale, director of MASSPIRG Environment Campaigns, said. “If we’re smarter about how we spend our transportation dollars and focus instead on building a 21st-century transportation system, Massachusetts can build a better world coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, one with less pollution, less gridlock and more public and active transit.”

Boston and Massachusetts have both set goals to shift transportation away from driving. Boston’s goal is to reduce the number of commuters who drive alone to work by 50 percent by 2030, and in 2012 Massachusetts set a goal to triple the number of people who walk, bike or take transit by 2030. According to Highway Boondoggles 6, the Allston project in its current form would do little to achieve these goals. 

“MassDOT has a choice. It can rebuild I-90 and Soldier’s Field Road in their current form – including an outdated viaduct and 6 lanes of traffic in each direction – a decision that would reinforce the auto-intensive infrastructure of generations ago, or it can choose to meet the transportation challenges of the 21st century,”John Stout, MASSPIRG Education Fund’s Transportation advocate and the report’s co-author, said.  

Alternatively, as the report recommends, the Commonwealth can invest in a bold, transformative plan, starting with the Allston Project to help meet its transportation and climate goals. If done correctly, the Allston Project could help more people travel to the city without sitting in traffic, improve life for pedestrians and bicyclists as well as allow local residents to safely enjoy access to the Charles River.

“Decades of highway expansion projects have left us stuck in traffic and stuck in debt,” said Gideon Weissman, Frontier Group policy analyst and report co-author, said. “We need a new approach — one that allocates money where it’s needed the most as opposed to doubling down on the failures of the past.”

“Massachusetts needs to avoid being seduced by a costly, polluting and ineffective version of this project when it should be investing in a solution that meets our modern needs,” said Stout. “For essential workers to low-income households without access to a car, COVID-19 has highlighted how stark our transportation needs truly are. MassDOT should make the right choice by doing away with the old viaduct and replacing it with an at-grade option that better accommodates public transit, walking and biking.”