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Memorial Drive to get a facelift

A project underway on Memorial Drive will restore 16 to 20 feet of parkland adjoining the MIT campus and improve the intersection with Massachusetts Avenue.

The work is being done by the Metropolitan District Commission, the state agency that controls Memorial Drive and the riverside parkland. It's the first phase of the Memorial Drive Demonstration Project, which is itself part of the Historic Parkways Initiative, a statewide program to rehabilitate early 20th-century parkways.

The reconstructed intersection will allow northbound Massachusetts Avenue drivers coming off the Harvard Bridge to turn left and head west on Memorial Drive. This will prevent the dangerous U-turns and use of Amherst Street by which some drivers now accomplish this maneuver. There will also be an eastbound-to-westbound U-turn reinstalled at Ames Street.

New traffic lights at the two off-ramp intersections with Massachusetts Avenue are something MIT has been advocating for years. The Institute is contributing both labor and funds to help design and build the improved intersections. This contribution is in addition to the Institute's design and construction of the two new pedestrian traffic signals at Wadsworth and Ames streets last year.

The MDC will restore green space by removing approximately 200 parking spaces and eliminating one of the three eastbound travel lanes in front of MIT.

In the project's first phase, the Massachusetts Avenue overpass over Memorial Drive and the off-ramps will be demolished and rebuilt. This work on the eastbound side has already begun and should be complete by the fall; the westbound side will begin in the fall and end in summer 2004. Workers also will expand the sidewalk on the viaduct from the Longfellow Bridge and improve drainage.

Phase 2 will include landscaping improvements such as new trees, a second path along the Charles River, new benches and sunshades, and shoreline improvements. The timetable for this phase has not yet been decided.

MIT asked the MDC to preserve some regular parking on the south side of Memorial Drive but was turned down. The MDC will provide a 120-foot-long, 16-foot-wide parking and loading bay next to the Pierce Boathouse. The MDC also granted MIT's request for two 90-foot bays at the standard 11-foot width on either side of the entry to the Sailing Pavilion.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 9, 2003.

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