Letter to the Editor: I Want My Cake - and to Eat It Too!
A response to last week's neighborhood meeting with Rep. Capuano.
The following letter was submitted by Dan Jaffe.
I found the meeting with our Rep. Mike Capuano quite enlightening last Wednesday.
I was very surprised how polar a small but vocal group has become when it was clear the facts don’t support all there assertions. Both designs address many issues equally well. Yes, there are still differences and each has limits on what it can offer. Yet, many limits as outlined in either design could be resolved with a better design that needs to be pushed forward - A Semi-Tunnel design.
I do sympathize with the surface groups position, as I too would love to get rid of all of the traffic on Rutherford Ave. But that is not practical. To start with the traffic numbers showing less traffic are misleading. Yes, the traffic over the years has dropped but this is the result of our earlier work with CANA and The Big Dig projects not due to changes in number of vehicles entering or leaving the city proper. The simple fact here is the traffic load has increased! The Big Dig traffic projections have been eclipsed from the models we were working with at the beginning (probably due to the long delays in its completion). While some may think newer options of transportation will come about we will still be in some type of personal vehicle that will still use these roads.
Some other facts:
- Hazardous cargo going thru Rt-99 & Mystic Ave can’t be rerouted.
- Rt 99 traffic from Everett has no options but to go thru Rutherford Ave
- Washington Street traffic from Somerville and Charlestown West Side needs to get through Sullivan Sq some how.
Thinking all of this traffic can find other routes into and from the city is not realistic. Truck traffic via Rt-99 will continue. Truck traffic needs get through to Boston Sand & Gravel to and from Rutherford Ave. Truck traffic still needs to get to and from Medford St. And lastly, hazardous cargo via I-93 has no other route. There are no options for this traffic no matter what design we go with. True some traffic beyond Everett and Somerville will take other routes when they find going thru Rutherford Ave is not viable but that doesn’t include the simple fact when the Big Dig tunnels have a problem there is no options other than going through Rutherford Ave. Does anyone remember the ceiling tile mess and how we got creamed with traffic when the entire tunnel was closed!
Back in 1989 we started up meetings on how to rebuild the Rutherford Ave corridor we even created a draft Master Plan which appears to have gotten lost. I would hope these earlier documents would find there way back on to the city web site so others can see all of the work that proceeded. In it we outlined the need to have parallel routes between Sullivan Sq area and City Square. The route under the highway would have made a big difference (I still think it can be done). In addition we need to rebuild the on-ramp to I-93 North which was torn down without any community discussion let alone the fact there is no longer a I-93 to Rt-1 off ramp so the traffic needing to go north on Rt-1 now has to go thru local streets. Even if this on ramp were only opened for sport evens at the Garden it would improve things immensely.
What am I looking for:
I don’t like either plan as outlined. What I see is a semi-tunnel (metal grill roof) from Sullivan Square thru to Austin Street bridge with no exits or entry other than at Austin Street from Sullivan Sq going north to Rt-99. The surface roads parallel of the semi-tunnel would offer entry and exits to the local streets. Having this type of design offers the benefits of both designs. The surface roads can cantilever over the semi-tunnel where needed to create more buffering and walkways across can be placed anywhere along it giving you a boulevard like environment along the Rutherford from Sullivan Sq to Austin St. Thus bringing the community collage and its resources back into Charlestown. Sound from the cars and trucks would be focused straight up as the grillwork will act as a polarizer aiming most of the sound straight up.
If we can get the new street on the other side of Bunker Hill Community College traffic from Boston Sand & Gravel could use this as their primary access and offer others in the commercial area better access for their trucks.
One of the long-term improvements I would like to see is the creation of a parking garage serving the College along the elevated part of I-93 and fronted with office and businesses along Rutherford Avenue. This serves two major improvements a means to buffer the din of the highway that city square and the hill gets and covers the eyesore of the elevated structure as much as possible. Having the parking here instead of Sullivan Square T stop would also improve the traffic flows as the people wanting to park could access it from the new Sand & Gravel road or access it via Rutherford Avenue as well.
Lastly, the issue with people trying to get back from Ryan playground is a very easy fix by realigning the entry so it is across from the road going across the overpass.
The only rub here is costs this design is more expensive than the underpass design. But in the big picture it is what we need. Lowballing the design is not an option, as we have to live with its failure.
Remember we fought long and hard for CANA -- doesn’t City Square look good and is the quality of life better in and on the north side of the square? Lets improve the rest of Rutherford. We need to put the traffic designers’ feet back into the fire. They can do better, let’s not take two second-rate designs as our only option.