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State Tries to Beautify River Basin Area

T. Luke Young -- The Tech
The Metropolitan District Commission is examining ways to better integrate pedestrian, motorists and cyclist traffic along the Charles River.

By Brett Altschul

In a far-reaching attempt to "restore the [Charles River] Basin's historic character while addressing the needs of the 21st century," the Metropolitan District Commission has announced that it is developing a master plan for the basin.

The plan proposes several changes to the basin area that would have ramifications for the Institute, from stricter parking regulations along Memorial Drive to alterations of the sea wall abutting MIT's property.

The MDC is a state agency responsible for administering the Charles River itself, the bridges spanning the river, and the area immediately surrounding the river.

The Institute's interest will focus on the several miles of river frontage that it owns, said Talitha Fabricius, a landscape architect and planning officer in physical plant.

The current framework plan calls for many changes that would directly affect the Institute.

One of the proposals calls for changes to the sea wall abutting MIT's property on the Charles River.

The motivation for these changes is the fact that, "the edge seems the most pinched," the report said. However, the commission cautions against making extremely severe changes. "On the other hand, this side has the best views of Boston."

The report also supports widening the strip of grass along the river near the end of the Harvard Bridge.

This would require significant construction on Memorial Drive, and could potentially cut down on the number of parking spaces available there, Fabricius said.

Report proposes parking rules

There are other concerns about parking, Fabricius said. The MDC is seriously considering regulating parking on Memorial Drive, and restricting parking before 10 a.m.

Until the recent controversy surrounding the death of Michele S. Micheletti '00 prompted the MDC to paint new crosswalks across Memorial Drive immediately, the issue of crosswalks was a major part of the plan.

The sidewalks and paths along the river near the Institute are also a topic of debate. The commission is considering the "overuse, multiple use, and safety of the pathways," she said.

"Ways of accommodating and separating the many often conflicting users - bicycles, pedestrians, joggers, and rollerbladers, is the focus of intensive debate and study," Fabricius said.

Increasing the size of the pathways, at the expense of the roads, is also a serious consideration. "The plan will investigate the possibility of eliminating travel lanes and parking where traffic volumes allow it.

"The goal is to make the Charles River Basin a more friendly environment for multiple modes of transportationŠ and reduce the dominance of [motor] vehicles," Fabricius said.

The report suggests that the community change the nature of green spaces along the Charles. The commission would like to "shift the emphasis from parkway to parkland."

The planning team is headed by Herb Nolan, the project manager at the design firm of Goody, Clancy and Associates.