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Alewife Development and Sewer Concerns for 2003
By Aram Hollman and Mike Nakagawa, March 2003

From Aram Hollman
Alewife observer and activist
Former Coalition for Alewife
Arlington resident

While I share Peter Alden's concern for the silver maple forest (see bottom [of my discussion]), his statement, "traffic from Route 2 employees would bring another 1000 car trips per day", underestimates the developer's own estimates. The proposed O'Neill project will generate approximately 3000 (three thousand) additional vehicle trips per day.

Together, the O'Neill, Martignetti, Bulfinch and Mugar projects, even if mitigated by aggressive Traffic Demand Management (TDM) measures, would generate, estimated roughly and to the nearest 1000, approximately 9,000 (nine thousand) additional vehicle trips per day. See below for the basis of this estimate.

In a larger context, approximately 90,000 to 100,000 vehicles curently drive to or through the Alewife area every day. Together, these four projects would increase that amount by about 10 percent.

Of 90,000 to 100,000 trips, about 60 percent drive through Alewife on their way to another destination and require only road space. About 40 percent drive to or from a destination in the Alewife area (e.g. Red Line, local businesses, local residences) and require not only road space, but parking.

By definition, the additional 9,000 trips generated by the four projects mentioned above would all be to or from an Alewife destination, adding to the 40 percent figure and requiring additional parking. Additional parking requires that currently pervious surface be made impervious. Despite compensatory flood storage requirements, increased impervious surface generally results in increased stormwater runoff, decreased water quality, and decreased aquifer recharge.

A vehicle trip to or from Alewife creates more air pollution than a vehicle trip through Alewife. The former involves greater use of roads other than main arteries, and more idling or low-speed traveling, more starting and stopping of vehicle engines, thus more operation of engines which have just started, thus emitting more pollutants than already warmed-up engines traveling only on main arteries. Multiplied by tens of thousands of cars, the difference is significant, both for people and for trees.

By concentrating on only one site and on only one project, Peter Alden is figuratively and literally "missing the forest for the trees". While his proposal that the O'Neill project be relocated elsewhere, either nearer the Alewife T or on other already-paved surfaces, is consistent with "smart growth" principles, it ignores the current overloading of the surrounding road, sewer, and water networks and assures that they will be further overloaded.

The silver maple forest IS worth saving. However, with office projects and a highway only yards away, strolling through it is NOT like Thoreau's strolls through Walden Woods (only an occasional distant train whistle), much less Daniel Boone's rambles through Kentucky. Saving the silver maples while acquiescing to surrounding development will be a pyrrhic victory - winning the battle but losing the war. I suggest that if Mr. Alden truly wants to save the foxes in the silver maple forest, he should concern himself with the foxes guarding the developmental chicken coop.
Here is the basis for my daily trip estimate of 9,000:

Trips:   Project:
3,000   O'Neill
5,000   Bulfinch
3,000   Mugar
 +500   Martignetti
11,500   Total without traffic mitigation
-2,300    Less 20% traffic mitigation
9,200     Total with traffic mitigation

Bases for each estimate follow:

O'Neill: Environmental Notification Form suggested about 3,400. In a conversation, an O'Neill representative told me that that number was incorrect, that it should have been approximately 2,900. I rounded up to 3,000.

Mugar: Environmental Notification Form, EOEA #12307, estimated 3,100. I rounded down to the nearest 1000.

Martignetti: No documentary basis for this estimate. My own guess. 500 is extremely optimistic, arithmetically easy to deal with, and trivial compared to the other projects. Assuming zero trips instead would not alter my final estimate.

Bulfinch: No documentary basis for this estimate. The recent rezoning makes it certain that a full build at Bulfinch would be far larger than the current A. D. Little complex and far larger than proposed Mugar or O'Neill projects. I doubled the 3000 for those to 6000, then backed it down by 1000 to get 5000. This is almost certainly an underestimate.

Traffic Demand Management (TDM): Required by cities and towns to ease congestion. Typically reduces total vehicles trips by anywhere from 10 to 20 percent. A 10 percent reduction is relatively easy to achieve. A reduction of 20 percent requires an aggressive effort and is near the upper limit of what TDM can achieve. I optimistically chose 20 percent.

Overall, I have made a best-case, optimistic underestimate. A greater number is likely. Rounding up from 9,000 (the nearest thousand) to 10,000 (the nearest ten thousand) is reasonable.
To Cambridge City Council Hearing, March 4, by Health and Environment Committee on Silver Maple forest sewer and storm water and other related matters

Silver Maple Forest
(Belmont Uplands)
By Peter Alden *

The proposed clearcutting of much of the roughly 15 acre site between Spy Pond, Little Pond and the Little River of the MDC Alewife Brook Reservation is a cause of great concern. Much outrage has evolved concerning storm water, sewage, flooding (deeper floods in basements of West Cambridge and East Arlington). Traffic from employees on Route 2 would bring another 1000 car trips per day in a saturated area, and many public works problems of storm water runoff and pollution downstream in Cambridge if a large office building is built on the forested site.

The Red Fox, Coyote, Canadian Beaver, White-tailed Deer and other mammals, along with nesting Wood Ducks, American Woodcock and Wood Thrush would lose their last strronghold

The 100,000 students and citizens living in this basin can still walk in a tall quiet forest on a dirt trail as Daniel Boone and Henry David Thoreau once did.

From Mike Nakagawa
Electronics Engineer
Alewife Observer and Activist
Alewife Study Group
Lives in northwest Cambridge
(vicinity of floodplain and Reservation)

Regarding the sewer/basin issue I have the following comments, which are timely since there's a Concord-Alewife Study Committee meeting tonight, Wed. 3/12, 7-9 at the Cambridge Water Dept., 250 Fresh Pond Pkwy. This is the initial meeting of the group that will discuss development of the Alewife Quadrangle; process and committee chair will probably be discussed/decided. A public meeting is scheduled for March 27, 7-9:30, at the Fayerweather St. School, 765 Concord Ave. I'm guessing it's the development of this area that has the concern of the Cambridge City Manager in allowing a free sewer connection to the Belmont Uplands project, since Belmonters won't be too happy with the Quadrangle ideas.

As per sewers/water quality/wate quantity/ and the Alewife Brook Reservation...

If the proposal is still for a pipe with 10-year storm capacity as the feed for the "detention basin," I think that's way too much street runoff going into the basin. Not just from the impact on flooding during really large storms (more water into the floodplain quicker), but from a contaminant standpoint.

So what's my alternative proposal?

  1. Reduce the size of the pipe back to the current inflow capacity; about a 2-year storm.

  2. Use the part of the Quadrangle for an open, vegetated basin. Purchase some land (with Triple-A-rated bonds if necessary), create a Quadrangle Overlay District, charge developers to connect to the sewer system with additional fees to pay back the purchase of the Quadrangle basin. The Q-basin would recharge the Reservation primarily via groundwater flows. Perhaps all the separated storm sewer could flow through here, with a capped connection with a 2-year capacity pipe connecting to the R-basin (Reservation Basin); this would allow some settling and some floatables separation.

    FYI the Quadrangle is the area bounded by Concord Ave/Fresh Pond to the south, Alewife Brook Pkwy to the east, Commuter Rail tracks to the north, and Cambridge Highlands to the west. Actually, the area under consideration by the Concord-Alewife Study Comm. also includes the Triangle (Cambridge Park Drive), Fresh Pond Mall, and Cambridge Highlands (which runs from the Quandrangle to the Belmont line, Blanchard St.)

  3. If the capped outflow (similar to a capped catch-basin) plan doesn't fly, maybe have a small capacity direct connection into the Brook with oil/gas separation. This would only serve to filter out the most highly contaminated initial run-off. Most of the contaminants are flushed off the streets in the first few minutes of a storm. It would not only keep oil/gas out of the basin, but also road salt.
With this plan, we could have *cleaner* water in the basin, a sufficient amount of water flow with a restriction on too much (thereby preventing flooding), a groundwater recharge mechanism, and a funding source.

Mike Nakagawa
Cambridge, MA USA