Archive for the ‘Mary Ellen’s Meanderings’ Category

Congratulations Mary Vigilante!

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

by Mary Ellen Eagan

This year ACI-NA added a new category to its annual Environmental Achievement Awards to recognize an individual for outstanding contributions to the ACI-NA Environmental Affairs Committee. The winner of the first-ever Peer Recognition for Outstanding Individual Contribution and Leadership Award is Mary L. Vigilante, President of Synergy Consultants, Inc.

Vigilante previously served as co-chair of the Committee’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Working Group, in which she aided airports and associate members to understand how to improve their NEPA efforts. She has been involved with ACI-NA for more than 20 years and has contributed a wealth of experience to the committee.

Mary has been a mentor and inspiration.  It’s great to see her recognized for her contributions to the industry.  Bravissimo!

Photo of Mary Vigilante

Mary Vigilante

Photo of ACI-NA award

2014 ACI-NA Environmental Achievement Award to Mary Vigilante

TBT: Boston’s Southwest Corridor

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

By Mary Ellen Eagan

I’m at an FAA training session on FAA Order 1050.1F, Policies and Procedures for Considering Environmental Impacts (currently in draft). In preparation, I did a google-walkabout on the Environmental Policy Act, and eventually found my way to this photo, which was a fixture of my childhood (not the photo, the graffiti):

Roxbury, MA, 1969

Here’s a bit of backstory on the “People Before Highways” movement of the late 1960s, which (according to this History of the Inner Belt and even Wikipedia) added additional public pressure to President Nixon to enact NEPA in 1969.

The Inner Belt was a proposed interstate highway that was an 8-lane expressway that would have begun at Route I-93 in Somerville and circled through Cambridge near Central Square, crossed the Charles River near the BU Bridge, touched a portion of Brookline, crossed the Fenway and passed the Museum of Fine Arts, moved on through the Roxbury section of Boston to connect to the Southeast Expressway at the point where it joins the Central Artery heading toward downtown Boston. The Inner Belt and Central Artery thus would have joined to create a ring road around and through the inner Boston area, with major intersections along it: at a proposed extension of Route 2 from Alewife, at the Turnpike in Allston, at a proposed Southwest Expressway (I-95 South) originating in Dedham, at the Southeast Expressway, at a new tunnel under Boston Harbor (I-95 North).

Opposition to the Southwest Expressway originated with environmentalists in the outer suburbs and neighborhood activists in the inner city. A group of city planners, community activists, universities, and politicians formed a coalition that by 1969 had become a region-wide alliance that included groups and officials from Brookline, Cambridge, Dedham, Lynn, Milton, Needham, Revere, Saugus, Somerville and Boston’s East Boston, South Boston, Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, Hyde Park, and the South End.

The proposed interchange between I-95 and the planned Inner Belt.  Source: Cambridge Historical Society

The proposed interchange between I-95 and the planned Inner Belt.
Source: Cambridge Historical Society

As a seven-year-old, I remember my mother dragging me to these protests during the summer of 1969.   I’m guessing I was promised a popsicle if I didn’t whine too much – and probably had to wrangle my three younger siblings for full payment. All I really remember is lots of people and hot sidewalks, though I do recall that it was a big deal when Governor Sargent “stopped” the project.

How ironic that 45 years later, most of my career would have been dedicated to implementing the basic tenets set forth in the NEPA preamble:

“To declare a national policy which will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment; to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man; to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation; and to establish a Council on Environmental Quality.”

[National Environmental Policy Act, 1969]

I often wonder if the multi-million dollar studies now conducted in “accordance with NEPA” are really what folks like my mother had in mind when they were looking for a little more transparency in the process (though I’ll bet you they didn’t use those words. Just sayin’.)

The happy ending (in case you were unaware): I-95 was stopped (though there’s still a ramp to nowhere in Somerville), the MBTA’s Orange Line has brought incredible development to an otherwise neglected part of the city – including a lovely linear Southwest Corridor Park and expansion of Northeastern University. And eventually the Big Dig addressed some of the traffic problems. But that’s a story for another day.

The “Ramp to Nowhere” off I-93 in Somerville

The “Ramp to Nowhere” off I-93 in Somerville

How well can you hear?

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

by Mary Ellen Eagan







For all you colleagues of a certain age out there (you know who you are), here’s a nifty little hearing test to see how much of your high frequency hearing you’ve already lost. I’m afraid I’m “age-appropriate.”

Also curious to hear if it’s accurate for others – drop me a line if you test out ok.

TBT: TRB – The National Academy of Sciences

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

by Mary Ellen Eagan


I’m at the Transportation Research Board (TRB)’s Keck Center in DC for several Aviation Group mid-year meetings this week. Here’s a bit of The National Academy history (lifted directly from the NAS website):

The National Academy of Sciences was founded on March 3, 1863, at the height of the Civil War.

The immediate roots of the NAS can be traced back to the early 1850s and a group of scientists based largely in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The group enlisted the support of Massachusetts Senator Henry Wilson, who helped draft a bill for the incorporation of the National Academy of Sciences. Wilson brought the bill to the Senate on February 20, 1863, where it was passed on March 3. It was passed by the House of Representatives later that day, and was signed into law by President Lincoln before the day was over. The National Academy of Sciences had officially come into being with 50 charter members, who over the years would be joined by the election of the nation’s most distinguished scientists.

[T]he Academy shall, whenever called upon by any department of the Government, investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art, the actual expense of such investigations, examinations, experiments, and reports to be paid from appropriations which may be made for the purpose, but the Academy shall receive no compensation whatever for any services to the Government of the United States.

An Act to Incorporate the National Academy of Sciences[4]

Over the years, the National Academy of Sciences has broadened its services to the government. During World War I it became apparent that the limited membership—then numbering only about 150—could not keep up with the volume of requests for advice regarding military preparedness. In 1916 the Academy established the National Research Council (NRC) at the request of President Wilson to recruit specialists from the larger scientific and technological communities to participate in the Academy’s advisory work to the government.  Recognizing the value of scientific advice to the nation in times of peace as well as war, Wilson issued an executive order at the close of World War I asking the Academy to perpetuate the National Research Council. Subsequent executive orders, by President Eisenhower in 1956 and President Bush in 1993, have affirmed the importance of the National Research Council and further broadened its charter.

TRB is a division of NRC. I’m guessing Lincoln never could have imagined some of the discussions that go on in this building, but it somehow seems noble to be carrying out his vision.

Congratulations to Flavio Leo: A Champion of Change!

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

by Mary Ellen Eagan

Flavio Leo with Kevin Burke

Flavio Leo with Kevin Burke

HMMH wishes to congratulate Flavio Leo, deputy director of aviation planning and strategy for Massport, who was honored at the White House today as a Champion of Change! HMMH has worked with Flavio for many years – it’s great to see Flavio recognized for all that he does to help Massport be a better neighbor.