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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Ball Square Station Design Meeting Recap

I was unable to attend the Ball Square Station Design Meeting. Big thanks to Ken Kraus of the Medford Green Line Neighborhood Alliance for allowing me to publish his notes for my readers! ~Courtney O'Keefe

Green Line Extension project officials unveiled a slightly relocated and reconfigured Ball Square Station design Monday night in the first of five station design update meetings taking place this month.

A final design consultant team led by AECOM/HNTB has been working to advance the 30% Advanced Conceptual Designs, which it received from project manager HDR/Gilbane last September, to the 60% Advanced Preliminary Engineering stage by this fall.

“We’re beginning to put the skin on the stations, the aesthetics, and what they’re really going to look like, while keeping paramount the issues and concerns that had been raised by the community such as neighborhood context and connectivity, pedestrian and bicycle access, area traffic impacts, and lighting,” Greg Yates of AECOM told an audience of about 80 people at St. Clement School in Medford.

The Ball Square Station presented a significant additional issue to resolve: The original location, abutting the Broadway Bridge, was deemed to be infeasible due to the existence of a major Nstar utility line below that could not be moved nor built over.

In the new design presented Monday, the station has been moved 60 feet away from the Broadway Bridge, with a terraced plaza with benches and green space in between the station and the bridge.

Another significant change was the relocation of the pick-up/drop-off location for The Ride service for people with disabilities to the upper (or east) end of the Broadway Bridge, with a covered pedestrian walkway to an upper-level station entrance and elevators. In the previous design, this access point was located on Boston Avenue at the lower lobby entrance.

A third design change was to elongate and move a traction power substation closer to the tracks, freeing space for potential development along Boston Avenue. The City of Somerville also has discussed with the MBTA the possibility of future development over the terraced space between the Broadway Bridge and the station.

Visually, project team architect Elton Elperlin of AECOM said the station has a “clean design” with a masonry base, fa├žade and pillars, and an uplifting V-shaped canopy roof to allow in light. The sloping form of the station roof from the lower to upper lobbies takes its form from the terrain and the Broadway Bridge, Elperlin said.

Other highlights from the presentation:

+ The relocation of the station will require the acquisition of an additional commercial property, at 642 Boston Avenue in Medford. The building houses Sako Auto Body and Aero Cycle, the latter of which is moving to 401 Mystic Avenue in Medford. Project officials said they have been in contact with the building owner but did not specify what additional cost this acquisition would entail. The building at 640 Boston Avenue (Bonney Automotive) would remain, in between the station and residential dwellings on Boston Avenue.

+ The design calls for 86 bicycle parking spaces, 70 enclosed and 16 on the plaza. That is an improvement from 60 spaces (46 covered) in the previous design and 16 more than MassDOT committed to in its Environmental Assessment of the project.

+ George Proakis of the City of Somerville planning department gave a brief overview of ideas generated for the Ball Square area from its Somerville By Design community planning process. One idea that has been shelved was the “square-about,” a rectangular version of a roundabout that Proakis said would have worked in the flatlands of Nebraska but not on the steep Broadway Bridge location. Proakis said the city is planning an update on its Ball Square ideas in the fall, tentatively the week of September 23.

Audience Q&A concerns/issues/suggestions:

+ Opposition to commercial development on the terraced area in between the station and the Broadway Bridge, citing detrimental impacts to the aesthetics of the station and Ball Square.

+ Lack of any pick-up/drop-off area other than the westbound, upper end of the Broadway Bridge, particularly for people who may be disabled but do not use The Ride.

+ Work with the Somerville and Medford arts councils to incorporate public art into the station design.

+ Improve bicycle access, in particular on narrow Boston Avenue.

+ Newbern Avenue residents concerned about privacy with regard to elevated pedestrian walkway on upper end of station/Broadway Bridge.

+ Improve pedestrian crossings/access east of the Broadway Bridge

Remaining station design update meetings:

Tuesday, June 11
Washington Street and Union Square stations
6 to 8 p.m.
Holiday Inn, 30 Washington St., Somerville

Tuesday, June 18
Lechmere Station
6 to 8 p.m.
Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center
41 Second St., Cambridge

Thursday, June 20
College Avenue Station
6 to 8 p.m.
St. Clement School
579 Boston Ave., Medford

See the GLX project website for more information.

- Ken Krause
Medford Green Line Neighborhood Alliance

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