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Improving Environmental Awareness for Chelsea Creek Communities

Improving Environmental Awareness for Chelsea Creek Communities

By Brenda Desmond, Christopher Fitzhugh and Vikram Kheny

Project Advisor: Michelle Ephraim, assistant professor, humanities and arts

Project Co-Advisor: Theodore Crusberg, professor of biology and biotechnology

On-Site Liaisons: Kristi Rea, urban environmental initiative team leader, and Nerissa Wu, outreach and events coordinator, UEI

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Executive Summary

This project, building on surveys and questionnaires given by the Chelsea Creek Community Based Comparative Risk Assessment committee in 1997, analyzed and assessed local environmental and heath issues that impact the communities of Chelsea and East Boston. The Chelsea Creek Community Based Comparative Risk Assessment determined the priority issues to be air quality, water quality, traffic, respiratory diseases, noise, and open space. This project team focused on both car and truck traffic and open space--issues identified by the community as their primary concerns.

The project team assisted the US Environmental Protection Agency, Urban Environmental Initiative (UEI) in collecting data on traffic and open space and created a database in order to track and maintain this information. The project team also developed an informative website aimed to improve environmental understanding and public awareness about the environmental and public health issues determined by the Chelsea Creek Community Based Comparative Risk Assessment.

All open space locations in Chelsea and East Boston were photo documented and evaluated based on their condition, safety, maintenance, and accessibility. The traffic studies were performed at two intersections in Chelsea (the Beacon Street off-ramp and the intersection of Jefferson and Webster Avenues, both include truck exclusion routes) and one intersection in East Boston (Central Square). The residents identified these intersections as problematic due to heavy truck traffic. Traffic counts were conducted with respect to the type of vehicle and the maneuver it performed. Truck exclusion signs were photo documented and evaluated for authenticity, condition and location.

Our results showed that at each intersection more than 95% of the traffic volume consisted of cars and buses. At the Beacon Street off-ramp, we observed that approximately eighteen trucks violated the truck exclusion on a normal weekday. At Jefferson and Webster Avenues, two out of three trucks violated the truck exclusion as illustrated in the picture to the right. Central Square has no truck exclusions, however we observed that trucks were not problematic at this intersection. The truck activity was at its peak when the car and bus volumes were relatively low. In general, truck volumes at these intersections were not significant. However, a single truck traveling could still be considered a problem for a resident in terms of noise, vibrations and air pollution. Traffic affects the quality and accessibility of open space locations. Open space locations are not always accessible; nor do they always provide substantial benefits to the residents. The cities of Chelsea and Boston listed and totaled all open space locations in their respective community without considering the practical use, actual acreage, or accessibility. We noticed that total useable acreage for both communities was an overestimate. From our observations and site visits, we found that a number of the parks in Chelsea were dosed to the public and that a significant portion of the open space in East Boston is marsh.

This figure shows the economic justice score and open space locations. The "economic justice" layer was created by the EPA using data from the 1990 census. A high score, dark regions, indicates neighborhoods with low-income levels and high minority populations. We can conclude that certain neighborhoods, especially the low income and high minority group regions, are underserved. As seen in the picture, the dark areas do not have much open space and/or they are located next to heavy traffic routes.

Traffic can have many negative affects on open space. Traffic decreases air quality and safety. Traffic can prevent an open space location from reaching its greatest environmental and recreational potential. Development of new open space in heavy traffic areas is not appealing as it decreases the value of the open space.

The traffic and open space data was stored in a database and transferred into Geographical Information System (GIS) maps and then displayed on a user-friendly website for residents of Chelsea and East Boston. By providing the information to the community, through the use of the website, we hope that some of these concerns can be addressed by increasing public interest and community action.

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Last modified: Aug 13, 2002, 09:21 EDT
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