Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I'm Like A Two Year Old - Why? Why? Why?

By coincidence I walked over two bridges today that gave me some insight into questions I would come to ask later this evening.

I bought something at Radio Shack for my Dad, it wasn't right and needed to be returned. So I walked through Thompson Square, over the Prison Point (Gilmore) Bridge, crossed McGrath Highway and over a little bridge that spans the Lechmere Canal. The Galleria Mall is right on the other side. It's just over a mile, very pleasant, sunny, warm.....but you can feel fall right underneath it, know what I mean?

Anyhow, this evening I attended a meeting if the Charlestown Neighhood Council down at the Knights.

Now everything from here forward is my opinion and my understanding of the situation. It's not reporting, I could have some stuff wrong. It was my first meeting on this subject and there have been many others.

It was hosted by the Real Estate Project Development and Transportation subcommittees of the CNC and the guests were representatives from Boston Transportation Department (BTD). Also in attendance were planners and subcontractors who are trying to come up with solutions to traffic problems in Charlestown. In particular, Sullivan Square, Rutherford Ave and Austin St/Prison Point Bridge.

I'll be posting more about this and attending all future meetings when possible. But for now let me posit an answer to one of the many "Why?s" that came up for me and others.

The BTD plans suggest that Rutherford Ave become a total surface road. Right now there are two underpasses. The BTD plan fills in those tunnels.

There is my first "Why?". We were told that less than a quarter of the current traffic travels through the underpasses. That if we fill them in, these vehicles will be forced to the surface. So....why add any cars? Even if it is a small percentage?

We were told that it would allow for shorter pedestrian crossings. Right now crossing from
Austin Street to the Prison Point Bridge/Community College buildings and T station runs about 200 or so feet. Now remember - I just made this trek today. It will be shortened approximately 100 or so feet to about 90 feet. Also, there will be better sidewalks and Rutherford Avenue will be a boulevard with green space, trees and parking spaces.

Ok, my next "Why?" - why is that a fair trade? You add all those cars/trucks from the underpass to the surface congestion to get a shorter crosswalk and some trees? One woman called out "Quality of life" when I was questioning this. Listen, if Cancer Girl here can make it across from Austin Street to the Bridge side.....almost anyone can.

The real answer came out from another question - What costs the City of Boston less - closing the underpasses or leaving them open? Closing them is cheaper.....I'm sorry....more cost effective.

Ahhhh, I see.

After the meeting I spoke informally to some of the other attendees. Their "Why?s" included "Who cares about multiple crosswalks that take us to the industrialized side of Rutherford Avenue? Who cares about parking spaces along Rutherford Avenue?"

Here is where my afternoon trip came in.
This picture is the Lechmere Canal Park from the overpass near the Cambridgeside Galleria.
This is about the midway point of the Prison Point/Gilmore Bridge about a quarter mile north of the first picture.

When I was young the top picture and the whole of the 2nd picture was a mess. All industrial and bleak and weedy. But now development, landscaped public spaces, new condos and office space have crept from the Charles River north toward Charlestown.

Can you see the chain link fence separating the landscaped area from the wild area? That wild industrial area stretches to Rutherford Avenue.

Now, why would you want Rutherford Avenue to be an attractive boulevard connected to Charlestown as opposed to the highway-esque scar that cuts this wild area off from Charlestown, one of the hottest residential neighborhoods in the city?

I'm not against development. Go ahead, build condos and office space and create jobs and landscape your way all the way from that chain link fence to the other side of Rutherford Ave.


Don't pretend it's for us. Don't pretend there isn't lots of benefit to the City (more development/bigger tax base).

And don't try to do it on the cheap - keeping the underpasses costs more, but it is a bigger benefit to the Town.


Charlie said...

The surface option is not just a benefit for redevelopment. It is better for the current residents. It allows the creation of new parkland. It creates an environment that is safer and more appealing for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists. Motorists may not hit 50+ mph as they do now, but that is way too fast to be driving in the city anyway (when you're not on I-93 or I-90 that is). When you preserve the underpasses, you encourage driving at unsafe speeds, which really only sort of benefits the people who are driving. Living on a highway or highway-like road hurts property values and hurts quality of life.

Anonymous said...

The 4 acre park that will be created by the surface option is not just a few trees. This park will also be a buffer from Rutherford Ave to the community. Trees and plant life help curb pollution and add a noise and dirt barrier from the road. Those that live close to Rutherford Ave as I do appreciate this option. This is not something the city is forcing on Charlestown, residents want the surface option. The capacity on rutherford ave is not the issue. Why have a six lane highway, and 8 lanes in some places when you only need 4? Traffic is caused by the poorly designed rotary. Sullivan square is in desperate need of better pedestrian crossings, the surface option offers the best crossings and a continous park to JJ Ryan playground from City Square. If you want to continue to have a crumbling, ugly, noisy, high speed, roadway cutting through Charlestown, I guess that is your right.

BostonMaggie said...

Charlie & Anonymous - I think you are misunderstanding my point. I know that beuatifying and improving this area will be a tremendous boost for all of Charlestown. I am only pointing out a few things.
1. It is more of a benefit to the City & developers and we should get more out of it.
2. Why is it not possible to have both - the improvements and the tunnels.