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BOSTON-Just when it seemed that the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority’s controversial land sale of 91 acres in Allston to Harvard University was in the clear, the Massachusetts Historical Commission votes to look into the details of the sale to see whether it can block it from going through.

Harvard is paying $75 million for the property which includes access to a number of key rail yards. A number of politicians, including city Mayor Thomas M. Menino, have come out against the sale because of concern that it could affect future transportation in the state.

According to Brian McNiff, secretary of state William Galvin’s spokesperson, the historical commission is mainly concerned with the possibility of high rise development in the Charles River Basin. Galvin serves as chairman of the historical commission.

“Any major change that would affect the historical nature of the basin would come under the scrutiny of the historical commission,” McNiff tells GlobeSt.com. He says that Galvin is in the process of reviewing all aspects of the sale and looking into what legal action can be taken to block the sale.

This move by the commission comes a few days after Douglas Foy, Governor Mitt Romney’s director of Commonwealth Development, assailed the Turnpike Authority at a hearing of the Joint Transportation Committee for the process in which the sale was done. John Carlyle, spokesperson for the state’s department of transportation, explains to GlobeSt.com that “the way in which the sale went forward could have seriously compromised the rail yards.” He points out that the original deal did not protect the ability to store trains on the site or the access for the trains to points south and west if CSX, which currently operates the rail yards, moved and Harvard bought their property. “The state can’t get into a bidding war with Harvard,” says Carlyle. “They have very deep pockets.”

Carlyle notes that the state worked with Harvard and the Turnpike Authority to secure permanent easements on the land in perpetuity. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which at one point threatened to seize some of this property by eminent domain to prevent the sale, also worked with the Turnpike Authority and Harvard to secure 20,000 feet of storage opportunity and permanent easements on two main lines into the parcels.

“From the rail and transportation perspective we feel the deal now provides for our needs,” says Carlyle. “But we understand there is concern [about the deal]. The Turnpike Authority acted with blinders and could have seriously compromised the transportation network statewide. At the end of the day, we preserved it but getting there was difficult.” Calls to the Turnpike Authority were not returned by deadline.

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