Bryant Associates’ Mark Suscovich presented details to the curious crowd that gathered at the Holiday Inn last week, hoping for a clear vision of what to expect concerning the Community Path and the Green Line Extension. ~Photo by Blake Maddux

Bryant Associates’ Mark Suscovich presented details to the curious crowd that gathered at the Holiday Inn last week, hoping for a clear vision of what to expect concerning the Community Path and the Green Line Extension. – Photo by Blake Maddux

By Blake Maddux

In the Suffolk Room at the Holiday Inn at 30 Washington Street last Tuesday, Hayes Morrison of the City of Somerville Department of Transportation commenced a presentation of the plans for the Community Path from Lowell Street to Inner Belt Road.

“I am aware that a lot of you are actually here to talk about how we get from Inner Belt over to Cambridge,” Morrison said. “I am just as excited as all of you to talk about that. Unfortunately, for the most part I don’t think that the Green Line team is ready to discuss it, but they will field your questions as best as possible, and so will I.”

Morrison then introduced Mark Suscovich, of the engineering firm Bryant Associates. Shortly after he took the floor, Suscovich asked the more than 80 people in the tightly packed room to “please keep all questions until the end.”

“The purpose is to extend the Minuteman all the way to, towards Cambridge,” Suscovich explained. “The Cedar Street to Lowell Street [portion] is out to bid, and will be constructed in the spring and next summer. The Green Line has committed to the 100% design of the Community Path from Lowell Street to Inner Belt.”

He added, “The connections from Inner Belt to North Point in Cambridge and Boston have not been precluded by the Green Line Extension. But at this time it is not in our scope to design it further.”

Suscovich then presented slides that depicted the plans for the Community Path. He spoke for five-and-a-half minutes with minimal interruptions. At about that point, however, his request that for all questions wait until the end apparently began to slip the minds of those in attendance.

Within a few minutes thereafter, the dam burst completely, allowing thoughtful, informed, and detailed questions form the audience to pour in.

Suscovich and project team members Mary Ainsley (Senior Director of Design & Construction for the GLX), Karen Shaffer (Senior Project Executive for the real estate and construction company Gilbane, Inc.), and Robert Cone (Design Manager and Vice President of HDR Engineering, Inc.) all helped provide answers.

The perpetual stream of questions was not the only indication of the zeal that those in attendance have for the Green Line Extension (GLX) project. Several people were wearing GLX T-shirts or “Friends of the Community Path” stickers. At least one person present mentioned having been the last meeting about the project which, according to Suscovich, was in September 2011.

Suscovich did manage to continue presenting his more than 40 slides, which in turn prompted further queries, several dealing with the safely of the cyclists and pedestrians who would be sharing the path.

The size of the audience increased from the start of the talk onward. After about half an hour, employees of the Holiday Inn began to take down the dividing wall in the room in order to provide space for more chairs.

At one point, Mary Ainsley of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation took the floor to address the issue of expansion of the Community Path into Cambridge. She said, “We have not precluded it to continue down to Brickbottom or to Cambridge from North Point.”

When an attendee asked her to explain why this was not specifically in the works, Ainsley responded, “It’s money. It’s not an easy design, I’ll be very honest with you.”

Mark Suscovich then made a false start in continuing his presentation.

After 10 more minutes of questions and answers, Hayes Morrison stood to say, somewhat impatiently, “What we’re doing right now is observing all of these questions that you have, and we’re kind of aware of all of them, and packaging them up, because at the end of the day, most likely, it will be borne upon the city of Somerville to find out how to design those things and how to pay for those things. It’s great to hear all of this, and we’re garnering all of this feedback and thank you very much for telling us all of these things, but at the same time this team [is] going to push back on you, because they have a scope of work that they’re adhering to.”

The Q&A section continued through at least one more of Mark Suscovich’s attempt to finish with his slides.

With more than an hour of the evening past, Karen Shaffer of Gilbane, Inc. said, “What we’ve heard loud and clear in the two years I’ve been out here is that this is a project that people really want. And I think that we’ve been trying to work the design such that we get something that’s affordable. Some situations are not going to be ideal, but I think we’re trying to come up with something that works and that could possibly get funding.”

Lynn Weissman, founder and co-President – with Alan Moore, who was also present – of Friends of the Community Path, rose five minutes later to jokingly ask, “So, we’re in Q&A now?”

Weissman spoke for several minutes, saying, “The city of Somerville has been enormously supportive in getting the Community Path done. We have a friendly disagreement about how the path should get over those tracks in that area from Inner Belt to Lechmere. We would love the City of Somerville to support our view, of course, partially because that Green Line section will get done in the next five years. It’s important for us to maintain a good relationship with Somerville. We just think this could get done sooner.”

After Weissman finished and another attendee asked a question about the project’s timeline and cost, Karen Shaffer said, “The commitment [from the state] was to make sure that anything that we’re doing on the Green Line is not precluding the path from happening, and that any engineering for the Green Line is taking into account the path. The state did commit to building portions of the path that would be hard to do later.”

She continued, saying, “The path itself, as it exists and what you saw, is not yet funded. There has been a lot of outcry to build that along with the Green Line. There has been no commitment to that yet. The big issue for the state is that they’re still struggling to get all of the funding in place to build the entire Green Line, so committing to build a path when you don’t have all of the money lined up for the Green Line yet is a little bit of a stretch.”

Although it was not perfectly clear if Mr. Suscovich actually finished all of his slides, the meeting did come to an end within the two hours for which it was scheduled.

 

 

19 Responses to “A large turnout gathers for discussion of the Community Path and GLX”

  1. Thank you for the informative article, which captures the flavor and trajectory of the meeting! A few notes:

    This presentation was by MassDOT/MBTA and their Green Line Extension (GLX) Design Team (HDR/Gilbane), not by the City of Somerville.

    The Cedar-to-Lowell Streets section (funded, to be built in 2013) of the Community Path extension (CPX) is not part of the GLX. The funding came instead from the Boston MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) and for the City of Somerville to specifically use for this path section, which dovetails with the GLX route at Lowell Street.

    Also, please see our summary of this meeting at:
    http://www.facebook.com/FriendsoftheCommunityPath

    Thanks,
    Lynn Weissman
    Friends of the Community Path
    facebook.com/FriendsoftheCommunityPath
    http://www.pathfriends.org/scp/
    twitter.com/pathfriends
    ————————————————————————-
    The mission of the Friends of the Community Path is
    to link the Minuteman Bikeway and Charles River Path networks,
    by extending the Community Path along the future Green Line extension.

    “To Lechmere… and Beyond!!”

  2. A. Moore says:

    Says it’s a project people really want. Don’t think so. If we took a vote in this city they certainly would not be a landslide vote for this. This is only something a few people want. Which is fine. But this city is accumulating debt at a very fast rate. And money is going to be a big problem with the country also. We have to start rethinking our spending from the bottom up if we are going to survive this. We just got hit with 2 new tax increases here, many of us cannot survive any more of these hits. We have to get realistic here. Enough of these projects to benefit a small portion of people.

  3. Somerbreeze says:

    “Enough of these projects to benefit a small portion of people….”

    True that, A. Moore. And City Hall is representing a small portion of people in many ways, too.

    Can you guess who they are?

  4. Blake Maddux says:

    Thank you for reading and clarifying, Ms. Weissman. It was very nice to meet you at the event.

  5. Michael Chamberlain says:

    “Can you guess who they are?” Apparently, not you two teabaggers.

  6. Ron Newman says:

    All you have to do is stand at the intersection of the Community Path and Willow Ave. to know that it is well-used — and much more by pedestrians than by cyclists. Any extension will be equally popular.

  7. Harry says:

    “Can you guess who they are?” They are the yuppies, obviously. They come here from San Francisco and New York City and destroy the local community. They don’t care, they will live when their kids are done with school.

  8. j. connelly says:

    You got that right Harry…They are the New Wave Communists who are taking this country down.

  9. A. Moore says:

    Not disagreeing it is used Ron. Just not by most of Somerville residents. I am also not saying it’s not good to build it. My problem is the debt problem which is growing each and every day and things like this are just too frivolous to go more into debt for. If we were running a budget and money was left over then fine. Same as I do in my household. The rent is paid first then bills and then food, whatever is left some has to be saved for that rainy day and the rest can be used for whatever. I don’t want to leave the following generations all this debt, they will never have a chance to bail out of it. I would like to give them a clean slate to start with. There are 4 people in my household, none of which wil ever set foot on the path. I can speak for the neighbors on each side of me as they will also never set foot on it. This really just is for a small percentage of Somerville. Which would be fine but we are in way over our heads now. Some things even though they may be nice we really have to back off and get straightened out. I go by the path several times a day so I know about how much it is used which is not the point I was trying to make. Regardless of my opinion I expect it will be done.

  10. Dicky Bird says:

    Well if we go down who will be the {MOUSE THAT ROARED?}

  11. Villenous says:

    Wow, four malcontents in a comments section insisting that the silent majority in Somerville is against the Community Path. And yet every time we hold an election these same malcontents end up with egg all over their faces. No one agrees with you. The Community Path will happen and it will be clogged with cyclists, runners and pedestrians from one end of the city to the other. I’m sure you gentlemen will find a way to be miserable about that. My suggestion is you move to a city that sucks as much as your attitudes.

  12. Harry says:

    The should call it “the path to nowhere”!

  13. MarketMan says:

    The interesting thing that happens wrt politics is that most people think that their situation is the most common, because often people interact with people like themselves. So those that use the path think the majority want to, and those that don’t think the majority don’t/won’t use the path. In any case, the path is not frivolous. It’s is an important form of transportation infrastructure that is lacking, and without investment in transportation infrastructure, cities wither and die. You should be interested in funding all forms of transportation, even if you don’t use them all. Some people never drive, but I doubt those people think it’s a bad idea to fund roads and highways.

  14. A Moore says:

    I am guessing being in the top 10 states with enormous debt problems must not be bothersome to some.

  15. j. connelly says:

    If you are so interested in these paths when we cannot really afford it then get all the walkers, joggers, bicyclists that want it and grab a shovel on weekends and put some of your own sweat equity into building it instead of the as usual Yuppie Welfare Receipients demanding frivolous stuff while the majority of the residents are more concerned about the limited funds available that should be used for common sense needs like upkeep of our schools, etc.

  16. Ron Newman says:

    Beyond Lowell Street, this has to be built as part of the Green Line extension — there’s no way to build it separately, with volunteer labor or otherwise.

    The city will build the extension from Cedar to Lowell Street next year, as soon as the Maxwell’s Green construction vehicles are finished using the right-of-way for site access.

    If “most Somerville residents” aren’t using the path yet, that’s because right now it’s only in West Somerville. The extensions will bring it first to Winter Hill, then to Gilman Square and East Somerville — making it useful to many more residents.

  17. A. Moore says:

    I am not against the path per say. I still expect it to be built but it will still be a small percentage of residnets using it. Just that we have more important things on our plate right now. I would prefer to put what money we can get into more worthwhile projects. Maybe these are just more important to me. But I would prefer to do more for the increased homelesness in Somerville and making sure people are fed. There is an increase in senior homelesness in the country and reading MSN this morning we have student homelesness. I see in NC they are now doing traveling soup kitchens, now that I could support. Yesterday was national homeless memorial day for those who died homeless. It put this path thing way down on my list of priorities. What are we going to do about protecting our children in school. I don’t know the answer to that one but I do know the costs will be high whatever method they think will work the best. Maybe I am wrong in thinking these are more important. We have to face the fact money is a big problem. Most must read the news and know this to be fact.

  18. Sam says:

    I see the community path extension project as a major step forward in unifying Somerville. It’s pretty easy for the Davis square crowd to forget that life exists outside West Somerville, and if you live on the “other side of McGrath” you’re pretty cut off from the rest of the city in terms of having a good pedestrian/cycling access to the squares. I would also like to see some sort of proposal for a multi use path that connects to Assembly Sq…if Assembly Sq is our next big thing in commercial tax revenue, it would be nice if there was more non-car access to it other than just an Orange line T stop and some bus routes. It would definitely make it easier for people in Somerville to get to work and shop there without having to drive. Even when I lived much closer to Assembly Sq than I do now, I would never walk or bike there because of the highway clutter.

    The city’s debt issue is a completely different animal though…it’s why we’re begging for federal money to fix up Beacon St. when it could’ve benefitted from regular resurfacing a very long time ago. As much as I get tired of seeing comments from the same people complaining about any new infrastructure spending, there is a lot of merit in the “fix what you have first” argument, especially when you’re living in an old city (by American standards). The community path extension is still a very “build worthy” idea, it’s just that the timing of trying to get it done along with the GLX is somewhat unfortunate with the recent tax hikes still fresh on everyone’s mind.

  19. Harry says:

    No more taxes! No more taxes! I’m sick of seeing my property taxes go up to fund projects for yuppies, their kids and their stupid dogs!
    Villens, it is time to take our town back!

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