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MDC Plans for New Park Space by River

By Lauren LeBon


MIT will in the next few years enjoy an extra 20 feet of park space along the Charles River, a renovated Memorial Drive, and about 200 fewer parking places.

The Metropolitan Parks System and the Metropolitan District Commission have begun construction on a project to improve the public spaces along the Charles River, with a specific focus on Memorial Drive.

The project, a result of the Historic Parkways Initiative, is part of the Charles River Master Plan, which is the first major design plan for the areas around the Charles River in sixty years.

Near MIT, the project will add extra green space and landscaping around the river, refurbish the ramps and overpass over Memorial Drive on Massachusetts Avenue, and replace the traffic lights at the Massachusetts Avenue - Memorial Drive intersection, according to the MDC project report.

Over 200 parking spaces lost

About 200 parking spaces will be lost on Memorial Drive when the construction is complete.

“We don’t know what the impact will be,” said Larry R. Brutti, operations manager in the parking and transportation office.

Brutti said that the City of Cambridge limits the amount of parking spaces MIT can hold on campus, and that MIT is currently at this limit.

“There will be no added spaces, but there is capacity if people want to pay for parking, especially students,” Brutti said.

Phase one complete in summer ’04

The first phase of the project requires closing the eastbound lane of Memorial Drive until next fall.

The overpass and off-ramps at the Massachusetts Avenue intersection will be replaced. In addition, one eastbound lane will become new park space.

Drainage improvements to prevent flooding in the underpass will take place during this phase.

After renovation of the eastbound lane is complete, construction on th westbound lane will begin. The MDC hopes to complete phase one by summer 2004.

The intersection between Massachusetts Avenue and Memorial Drive will be redesigned, and new traffic lights will be installed.

Kelley Brown of the department of facilities said MIT will contribute $500,000 to help with the improvement of the Massachusetts Avenue intersection.

Brown added that MIT has been discussing improvements for this intersection for nearly a decade. MIT contributed plans for the new design of the intersection and submitted them to the MDC. The plans were accepted and integrated into the overall plan with few modifications, Brown said.

Park space added along river

The second phase will expand and improve the space along the Charles River. The Metropolitan Parks System’s goal is to enclose the space without blocking river views from campus buildings and drivers, according to the MDC report.

The existing jogging path will be widened from two to eight feet to accommodate more pedestrians and cyclists. A second path will be added closer to the river’s edge.

The project will also improve the landscaping along the river. Currently, the trees and greenery are dying, and the space is in overall poor condition. A line of trees will make an edge between Memorial Drive and the park space.

A timetable for phase two has not yet been determined, said MDC representative Felix Brown.