By Douglas Yu
Lechmere Station, which is on the green line, is going to be relocated to a new area in order to make more room for passengers at the platform. Located in East Cambridge, this MBTA station is an important connection for Somerville residents.
Architects and project designers from HDR, HNTB and HYM, along with MBTA, hosted a public meeting at the Multicultural Arts Center in Cambridge on Tuesday, June 18. They introduced the blueprint and encouraged local residents to share their ideas about the new station.
“It’s a new program. We can’t start the construction until 2015, until we get the approval,” Karen Arpino-Shaffer, Deputy Program Manager of HDR and Gilbane, said. “So the challenge is to make sure we have enough time to finish the major construction here.”
Arpino-Shaffer, one of the main speakers at the meeting, said the whole design team would display the station design and explained how it influences the community. She also used slideshows to review some changes to the neighborhood and updates on the project.
“We brought some design companies in September and introduced them to the community,” Arpino-Shaffer said. “Right now, there is still opportunity for comments and changes.”
The MBTA has already hosted several meetings on the 21 Water Street demolition, the Medford Street Rail Bridge and the Harvard Street Rail Bridge, according to Arpino-Shaffer. These constructions were considered phase one.
“The phase one is a $12-million construction in total,” Arpino-Shaffer said. “The designers are serious about making sure the project is moving forward.”
Project Manager of AECOM and HNTB, Greg Yates said they were taking some of HDR’s design ideas into development.
“Once we get the plan from HDR, the next thing we do is Valuing Engineering Design,” Yates said. “This exercise is to get many outside consultants. We are trying to bring some good quality advisors in. A lot of the changes you see are generated by that process.”
Yates also mentioned that AECOM as a global provider of professional technical and management support services could get a sense of what the community issues are through the process.
After AECOM and HNTB participate in the Valuing Engineering Effort, they also need to perform their own design validation to further develop the design through advanced preliminary engineering.
“Lechmere Station is very unique compared to other stations,” Deputy Project Manager and Design Manager for AECOM and HNTB, Randy Henke said. “In our current proposed site plan, across the South Headhouse, we’ll build, instead of a three-car platform, a four-car platform. Passengers can get into the station from multiple entrances.”
Henke emphasized they were going to remove a parking lot near the old Lechmere Station to build a new one. The South Headhouse will also be removed to make space for the platform.
“Extending the platform for four-car use and the relocation of the South Headhouse are the two major changes that will take place after the design initiates,” Elton Elperin, Lead Architect at AECOM and HNTB said.
Parking lot for bikes would be made once the South Headhouse is removed, according Elperin. “We’ll have a bike storage area between North Headhouse and South Headhouse,” Elperin said. “The ground floor plan clarifies this.”
The ground floor plan gives a bird’s eye view of what North Headhouse and its surrounding area will be like in the future.
Arpino-Shaffer addressed community concerns about their design plan that will be taken into consideration, such as entrances and orientation, pedestrian access across Monsignor O’Brien Highway, station parking and the pedestrian experience at Water Street.
Managing Director at HYM, Thomas O’Biren said, however, not all the community concerns can be solved all at once.
“We unfortunately live in an era when government has modest means,” O’Brien said. “Lechmere has long been burdened by the fact that there is a highway. It’s a difficult place to cross. Our goal to make the new station more pedestrian friendly.”
Arpino-Shaffer confirmed the value of making the new station more pedestrian friendly. “Having multiple entrances is clearly an advantage to the pedestrians’ stand points at this particular situation,” Arpino-Shaffer said. “There is also a missing link between Washington Street and Lechmere to connect with Somerville.”
East Cambridge always has a great relationship with the City of Somerville. Construction on the new Lechmere Station benefits Somerville residents in a lot of ways, according to Arpino-Shaffer.
“We meet at Somerville at least once a month. We have a regular monthly meeting,” Arpino-Shaffer said. “So the constant dialog about the city stations goes back and forth. Part of the project is about the transportation, the other part is about economic development.”
During the Q&A session of the hearing, East Cambridge urban designer, Dennis Carlone appreciated that there was a lot of evolution in this project. But he was confused about why HDR was going to take away the privately owned parking lot right next to the North Headhouse, and build a new parking lot not far away. Arpino-Shaffer and other guest speakers thanked Carlone for his opinions, claiming to figure out the best ways to solve this concern soon.
Moving Lechmere Station is critical to the connection of Somerville to Cambridge. It will strengthen the connection between Somerville with Boston as well, as discussed in the meeting.
“Overall, the MassDot budget for the whole project is $1.3 to $1.7 million,” Arpino-Shaffer said. “Our estimate is trending a little higher. There is already a master plan for what’s hopefully going on around the area. We are all working on that.”