Nobody Asked, But... the Rutherford Ave Proposal is a Mess

Why hasn't the city produced a plan? How much is this costing us? Why isn't the council listening to residents opposed to leveling of Rutherford Ave?

I went to the Neighborhood Council meeting on Tuesday night to hear what the city had to say about the plans for Rutherford Avenue. Hmmmm!

In case you might not know this about me, I was a reporter for the Charlestown Patriot for 15 years. That was 20 years ago. I covered many town meetings over those years and filed stories on them that were seen in that wonderful old newspaper of years gone by.

Some of those meetings discussed the redevelopment/reconstruction of Rutherford Avenue. In fact, the same personnel who made the presentations from the Boston Transportation Department (BTD) back then are performing the same duties today. Talk about job security! And many of the faces that attended the meetings back then are the same ones who have been attending the current meetings. 

Like me, they have aged, and they still want to change the community to “beautify” it.  Words of wisdom to them: the true beauty of any community comes from within its residents.

This time I came to the meeting as a resident. I got there early to get an opportunity to view the city’s plans. There weren’t any. In fact, there haven’t been any available that I know of. The BTD said to go to their web site to view them, although admitting that they weren’t there yet but hoped they would be “soon.” 

I’ve checked their web site several times over the summer and nothing has been there. They’ve had over 20 years to produce them. What in the world…?  

Back in the 80s and 90s, when the Transportation Department came to the community, they proposed to install a “haul road” behind Bunker Hill Community College to get the truck traffic off our roads. Great!  

The only problem with that was they forgot to check with the owners of that road -- the MBTA and state -- who said “no.” Back to the drawing boards they went. 

I wonder how much of our tax money was spent on that project?! And, they admitted this week that they have been working on this new plan for over two years and that it will take at least two and a half more years before they will file it with the state for approval and funding. ($$$$$$ Hmmmm!)

I have a personal complaint about this meeting with the Neighborhood Council: Mr. Cunha, I feel your representative who led this meeting is prejudiced against 65 year-old women with white hair. Although I held my hand high to be allowed to speak, it was never acknowledged. Nor was that of another older woman with gray hair who sat near me.  

Is a woman of my age considered to be senile and unable to possess a valid thought? I held that hand up for an hour and a half! Ignored, ignored, ignored.  

Gerard Doherty was even told to sit down while voicing his opinion. What has this town come to? What kind of representation do we have on this once strong council? I’m so disappointed in what has happened to this once well respected body on representation.

Here are the comments I wanted to make:

  • Why hasn’t the BTD produced hand outs for the residents to review, take home and study?
  • Why did the schemes presented only reflect Sullivan Square as it played into entering or leaving Somerville or Everett?
  • Where were the plans that included the neighborhood of Charlestown? 
  • Are they so offensive to a residents’ point of view that they are afraid to present them to us? 
  • How could they come up with a true analysis of traffic patterns with the tunnels currently closed on Rutherford Ave. in front of Hoods?


And, as accused by Mr. Gupta of the BTD, Congressman Capuano never presented any plans on the reconfiguration of Rutherford Ave. These included a scheme that I’ve also seen that John Dillon held in his hands, showing Main Street ending at the fire house in Sullivan Square, just before the entrance to the Schrafft’s Center, and forcing all traffic from Main, Bunker Hill and Medford Sts. onto Mishawum Street to enter Rutherford Ave.  

Also included on that plan was the inclusion of an alternate route onto Rutherford Ave. from Main onto Essex St. Are they kidding? BTD denied this scheme although it was included in a packet that came from the office of their boss, Mr. Timlin.

Oh, forgive me. I’m over 65, with white hair and senile!

Finally, I don’t even know why this process is taking place since it was announced at the beginning of the meeting that the council has already voted in favor of the surface option.

Note to Council: I hope you took note that there were many more residents at this meeting who are opposed to the surface option than those who were in favor of it. And that was after a full press effort was put out by those in favor to pack the room.

A sleeping lion was awakened at Congressman Capuano’s town meeting. If you know the history of Charlestown’s past -- be wary.  Don’t mess with this “town we love so well!”

Dan October 21, 2011 at 07:19 PM
AAAM & Joseph - YES!! Agreed we need to have the community vote no this. BUT, once they have ALL the facts! a clear as mud presentation slideware they have given us so far is not what I'm asking for here. A clearly written (long hand with diagrams) presentation with the raw numbers and the adjusted numbers they are working from clearly documented. Lastly, a flow dynamic model created of todays traffic patterns using video tracing. 1 - Surface - as presented 2 - Underpass - aligned as it is today 3 - Tunnel - to move as much as possible the left turning commuter traffic thru Lastly, the Plan B design if the surface design fails. With a method of measure to base it on.
Dan October 21, 2011 at 07:52 PM
Charlie - I must have been under a rock with a lot of others! I made every effort to follow and find out about the meetings: I get the local paper every week, I followed the only web site that has any CNC notices on it http://www.charlestownbusiness.com/ FYI - its way out of date! And lastly, the Patch which has the most coverage. I haven't seen a single flyer on my car or house, nor did I see anything clearly posted notice describing a meeting at Johnnies or other store I visit weekly. I didn't get any emails as others I'm told do even when I gave my info to be put on a mailing list not once but three different times. A little CNC nondescript meeting notice the day of the meeting does not cut it! The times I could get to the meeting I did only to find nothing was forth coming from the city. A proper write up article was called for at least a week before for such a huge project that effects the community for EVERY meeting with proper material available both at the meeting and online. But, I must live under a large rock here! I'm tired of this copout! of proper notice. It's clear the meetings were NOT found by a very large group of people. So how can there be consensus here? Frankly, how could you come to a point to even have a decision with the lack of information so far offered (clearly written, not vague slideware) why one way is better than another? Or, even if the choices are even the right choices (A Vs B what about C?)
Jimmy G. October 21, 2011 at 07:52 PM
There is a Secret Agenda and you all should be worried...The ultimate goal is to make the traffic congestion so bad that no one will want to live here and we can have our town back...HA HA HA (Sinister laugh)
Dan October 21, 2011 at 08:07 PM
AAAM - "One other point on participation. It is very unfortunate, yet undeniable, that not everyone will participate, vote, or attend meetings." Very true!! BUT - You need to make the effort to give them the choice not to be active. Not assume their lack of involvement is based from that vantage point! YOU MUST make sure they KNOW of the IMPORTANCE of a MEETING by doing what I'm doing here making it BOLD and LOUD with plenty of time to adjust their lives to be participants in the dialog. That was not done! That is why Capuano's meeting was a good thing as it brought it out into the light. Now lets restart the process AGAIN! as its clear the process used before FAILED! And lets make sure ALL OPTIONS have been put on the table. I'm not saying I have the right answer here, what I do have is an OPEN MIND willing to hear the FACTS before setting my mind and I'm WILLING to be persuaded why I maybe wrong. ARE YOU?
Dan October 21, 2011 at 08:25 PM
AAAM - Forget the fliers, a 3 x 4 poster at the doorway at the businesses so people would see it as they walked by would be better a week before the meeting. I'm sure Johnnies would even give you a place near the door to have a running notice board for the CNC if someone would keep it up. As far as the local paper something better needs to be done with them. A reporter from the paper should be more active in posting things after a meeting and better notices one that gives the importance of the subject (not done here) For those who have access to the big I-Net emails and web site notices. The CNC needs to get modern with their own web site (nothing fancy) to host the meeting notices and the meeting minutes for ALL meetings and when presentations are made posting copies of them. If at all possible a vote tally (total) per subject and on the bigger issues (like this) a feedback vote from the community (not just up and down but also 'decline' when they think other options should be looked at). I want something that pulls the community together not forge discontent.
Dan October 21, 2011 at 09:00 PM
Jim why can't we have a better answer? It's clear many people think the data offered is not current enough (granted I don't see any way to get a good measure given the mess things are now), but, I think with some doing some fresher data could be helpful here (video tracing of the traffic flows). My common sense tells me the surface design has issues with the morning/evening commuter traffic. All I can see here is more grid lock for us as well as make the time these vehicles are stalled out on Rutherford longer giving off more smog and noise. Think of a hose 2" in size and how much water can be pushed though and now think of a 4" hose and how much can go through it. Another way to see this is how much hose length do you need to hold the 100 gals of water (two times the length of the 2" to equal the 4"). OK, now think cars here: If we have two paths that equal the same as one path (2 x 2" = 4" hose) then nothing changes. If you reduce the one path by 1/4 (3") you then have a back up of 1/4th the flow. Here that would mean a longer time the traffic is stalled by that amount of time. It also means we have to fight through this traffic to get in and out of C-Town (crossing it). OK, If we could drain the traffic out faster it would be better - Right? Well, we can't solve that issue here as the roads below us are only so big. But, we can at least stop the left turning traffic from making things worse. This is where the design fails in my eyes.
Dan October 21, 2011 at 09:15 PM
Jim I've lived here over 35 years. I was involved in the CANA & Big Dig projects both had much better docs than the city has offered us. The presentations are very loose and as clear as mud! sorry this is a copout! It's also clear the meetings were not well attended (as much as you want them to have been). The ones I went to were not well attended given what we had during the CANA/Big Dig meetings. While some facts have been twisted by all sides it's clear we need to start a fresh as the process failed. Forcing this design as is I think would do more harm. Again, I don't like either offered answer as both fail in my eyes. But if I have no choice I would go with the solution that offers a possible re-do design with the least cost. The surface design is not the one here. Yes, I want what the surface design claims to offer but the data offered and common sense does not show this to be true.
AAAM October 21, 2011 at 09:20 PM
Dan. If you've got a hose 4" in size, but only enough water to fill 2", why do you need the larger hose? There really is a lot of information on the city website, I urge everyone to review it. The data is there. From your comments it appears you are not open to being convinced otherwise. You can't just say "it won't work." I'll take start and stop traffic all day over high speed noise, tunnel echo, dirt and pollution kick up, motorcycles going 100 miles an hour in the middle of the night, and trucks going over the joints above the underpass which are extremely loud. Plus the park is a noise and pollution buffer to traffic. How were the big dig meetings adverstised? Let's use that method going forward, granted that was citywide.
AAAM October 21, 2011 at 09:26 PM
Dan, I'm absolutely open to being proven wrong. That's why I've been going to the meetings, listening to others opinions both for and against the surface option. I've been reviewing the plans and traffic studies, the current configuration, the surface plan, and the new underpass plan.
Dan October 21, 2011 at 09:53 PM
AAAM - Well that would be true if you really only had 2" of water but we have 4" (more like 5") in the morning/evening commuter rush. That is the fact I'm working from. The rest of the day the surface design works as you clearly pointed out we only need a 2" hose. Yes, the speed issue is there if you try to cross by foot. That is a good reason to bury the commuter traffic so it can move quickly through without effecting us (i.e. Big Dig in the North-End). Then having all of the stop lights to SLOW the surface stuff makes a lot of sense! and you get MORE buffering for the sound and the smog is cleaned and what is left is pushed away from you (again look at what the Big Dig did for the North-End). I want that too! As for the Web site info I have everything and then some other stuff from other sources. Sorry, they didn't tell you everything and have dumbed this down. They couldn't even get the replacement Austin street lights right! Try exiting out of C-Town going towards the Gilmore now at the first stop line (Rt99 turn) can you see the Stop light looking straight ahead (not the second set)? I've seen two near misses as people don't see the light when I'm turning onto Rt99 from the Gilmore to get into Johnnies byway of the KofC entry. They need to put the two pole lights back. Again - We were given two designs nether works when looking long and hard at the data offered so far (I was at the last meeting and still find the data was not up to snuff)
Dan October 21, 2011 at 09:53 PM
Lastly, We had posters in many shops at the events we needed input or ideas were being presented and the paper at the time was much more active with the group and in broadcasting what was going on (before and after each meeting).
AAAM October 21, 2011 at 10:01 PM
Dan. From the traffic counts I've seen both AM/PM rush hour. We don't need the 4" hose. I don't know what fact you're working from. But I'm using the traffic counts and traffic engineer. Looking at the project as a whole, I can't just throw those numbers out and say "Traffic man, you're wrong." I'm all for more traffic analysis. I also want to see the project completed before I'm too old to drive. I'm also on board for a full on tunnel like the big dig, I agree this would be great. All the thru traffic below and out of sight. The city has said that is not in the cards. I'll gladly petition the city for a more complete answer as to why.
Dan October 21, 2011 at 10:33 PM
AAAM The numbers they are throwing at you are modeled not real numbers as they can't give you real numbers for many different reasons. While I'l agree the high point of the measures they do have were before the down turn the method on how they got them was never disclosed. Second, no effort was put forth to use video tracing of traffic flow to even validate the model. I spend a few mornings and afternoons this summer looking at the mess. Looking at where this traffic is coming from and where it is trying to go. We do have a mess that can't be fixed by our actions alone here. But, we can at least not make is worse. Maybe I need to express my background here: I designed and serviced computer networks as a principle engineer for IBM (which is not very different to traffic flow analysis). That is why I have a strong feeling we are not being well served here by the city. I don't take no lightly and if the issue is getting to the right answer I make sure I at least move in that direction. The city needs to have there feet put back into the fire here for two different reasons: - We want something better as far as data and give us full disclosure of what you have and how you modeled it to come to the conclusions you have. - Put the tunnel back into the dialog and explain why not. If its the money then how to we get there. I'm sure we could more that closer into happening if we could support it with the data.
Dan October 21, 2011 at 10:33 PM
And yes, I too want to see this thing done before I can't enjoy it as well. We need to break the bickering and refocus on getting the city to hear out needs and put them on notice we don't take NO as an answer when it's the right thing to do. Otherwise were just puppets here.
Dan October 21, 2011 at 11:06 PM
AAAM - Maybe the current underpass needs to be re-aligned to better serve us with the changes planned on the surface to get the Win-Win here. What I see here is the left turning traffic slowing or blocking the rest of the traffic in the commuter morning/evening rush (grid locked) so straight or right turning traffic is stuck. If the majority of the left turning traffic had a means to bypass the surface traffic it would allow things to more more smoothly. The one thing I don't want to see here is the three rights to take a left method to get the left turning traffic thru, the volume of turning traffic is to great. Which is the only other method they have with the surface design.
Dan October 22, 2011 at 12:39 AM
I don't about you, but I like to get a second opinion before I get any major surgery. When I hear someone say 'Trust Us, we know what you need" I run the other way unless they show me solid data and even still I get a second and maybe a third opinion to make sure. So, where's the hard data and a clear second opinion here? Oh, 'Just trust us' Sorry NOPE!
AAAM October 22, 2011 at 02:06 AM
This is part of the problem. People start to make up their own facts and spread fear and distrust. Saying the city didn't present traffic counts, they did. The author of this article saying the city has no plans and they are not available on the website, they do have a plan and it's all available on the website. People complaining there is no data to back things up, when there is - then in the next sentance making their own traffic predictions with nothing to back it up. Saying 8 community meetings over three years were not attended and no one saw any notices for the meeting. The city is not telling us what we need, two options came out of many through the community process, like that process or not. The city did not push one or the other. I urge everyone to make their own decision, look at the information on the city website, come to the next meeting. Don't be scared by people trying to spread fear through fabrication.
Dan October 22, 2011 at 03:17 AM
I don't get it you'll running in circles here! The article author like my self was expecting something more than vague presentation slideware (Tuesdays meeting is still not posted on the city site). A proper clearly written report is called out here. No one is making up their own facts here. The city has not offered the raw data nor explain the process on how it was gotten and how it was adjusted to meet current and future load model, Have they? I've looked at the web site presentations it's not there, I've asked Vineet Gupta for it a few times. So there is no hard data to back things up. Just the presentation offered data. Again, the meetings were not attended by many do to the poor notification process. The process was clearly flawed no matter how many meetings you want to tell us there was (could have been a hundred meetings with five people). The eagerness to fix the mess has blinded many into excepting one of the two options offered. With the idea if we don't take one of the options were stuck with a mess. Likewise the beating of the drum with the same noise how the effort was made to involve the community does not fit the facts. Make sure your not the one fabricating the facts. Again, we all want the mess fixed to as soon as possible! But not as a sacrifice for us all. The old Wendy's ad comes to mind "Wheres the Beef" The city needs to answer that Q. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Kathleen Whelan Giordano October 22, 2011 at 04:54 AM
Jim, remember I'm 65, with white hair now and was treated as senile at the latest meeting ~ but I'd love to know where "some of the comments are just wrong." Also remember while you sat on the Neighborhood Council I was sitting across from you taking notes for the paper for those 15 years.
Dan October 22, 2011 at 05:39 AM
AAAM - "I agree this would be great. All the thru traffic below and out of sight. The city has said that is not in the cards. I'll gladly petition the city for a more complete answer as to why." Yes! We (You) need to do this. And, what we need to do to make it happen. We (You) also need to get the RAW and the projected modeling data as well as the method on how they collected them (a map on where they trapped and time windows). Not the 'cleaned numbers' in the presentation, full disclosure. BTW - I'm not telling anyone their wrong here (you or the traffic folks). It just appears where not being given the hard data so we can make up our own minds. Lets also see if we can get a non-binding question added to the coming election ballet (I think in Nov) in our precincts. That way the community will have had a chance to state the direction clearly.
Jim Mansfield October 22, 2011 at 01:04 PM
Cookie: No one should be mistreated at a public meeting and you have always been involved in this community and deserve the right to be heard. The article implied that that city had no plan and that there was no public process. The fact that no information is available on the web was also incorrect. "Why hasn't the city produced a plan?" come on that just isn't true. The Haul Road study was asked for by the CNC and was not something that was brought forth from the City. It was reviewed by the city and funded by the state. The comment about job security for the city personnel that are still there was also not necessary. If you mean Mr. Gupta, he is a wonderfully talented and intelligent planner who has worked hard to improve the quality of life for Boston residents. I guess it just left a bad taste in my mouth, is it an article in the patch or personal opinion? I think you are awesome and usually right on the money.... but on this issue we will have to agree to disagree
Kathleen Whelan Giordano October 22, 2011 at 01:36 PM
Jimmy: Oh, I agree that BTD has plans, they just don't make them available for the residents to review. I'd like hand-outs of that plan to be given out so that we can review them; take them home to share and get a better sense of that plan. And, I haven't been able to find the Rutherford Ave. scheme on the BTD web site. If you say it's there, well, I'll look again. It wasn't there yesterday. As to the public process - of course there was, but it never got the attention of the average resident who goes to work each day, comes home to care for their families and doesn't have the time to attend a meeting unless they can rearrange their schedule. It wasn't until the Congressman held the Town Meeting that the issue hit the streets. Since then, the meetings have held a more accurate voice on the neighborhood; residents are getting involved. Yes, we'll agree to disagree. That's democracy. I know we join together, always, in the final result being what's best for Charlestown.
Charlie Denison October 23, 2011 at 03:26 AM
It is unfortunate that folks who would have attended the meetings in 2008/2009/2010 did not find out about them. I can also understand skepticism about the outcome of those meetings from folks who did not attend them. Fortunately, ALL of the presentations and handouts from those meetings are on the City's website: http://www.cityofboston.gov/transportation/rutherford/ Based on my experience observing this project as compared to other roadway redesign projects in the Boston area, this one had an unprecedented amount of outreach and more public meetings than have been historically held in an effort to get as much feedback from the public as possible. Could more have been done? Of course. Publicizing meetings so that everyone can easily find out about them is challenging. I like the ideas that have come up of the CNC (or other neighborhood orgs) publicizing these types of meetings on their website and via email. To answer some of the questions about traffic data, the City surveyed traffic at various locations to determine current traffic flows and volumes. Overall, traffic volumes throughout the corridor have been going down, especially since the Big Dig was completed. The City then used a growth rate (assuming traffic will increase as new development takes place) to project what future traffic volumes will be 20 years from now. The City narrowed down the options to only ones which would handle the traffic sufficiently, and included the levels of service in the presentations.
Dan October 23, 2011 at 12:19 PM
Charlie - Yes, it saddens me this has taken so long needlessly. We need to get this ship righted and sailing again, but not at the expense of leaving people behind. There was a mistake made in the process and we need to go back and fix it, this is too big not to. The data needed to come to a consensus is also not complete (a well written report with complete accurate diagrams and full data disclosure) so we can have a dialog based on facts not on conjecture. Presentation slideware/handouts is good for presentations so everyone can have a framework at a meeting. But, that same material is Greek to anyone who was not present for the dialog. Besides, it was only an outline of the direction it did not put down in stone what we're agreeing to. On something this big the whole community not a select few must be involved in the final direction. The CNC has a duty to act as proxy for the community to collect and disseminate the information and focus the dialog. They should also advise the community on what course of action would be best when based on the same shared information the community has access to. Likewise, when the information is lacking put the party (the city in our case here) on notice to comply. This has such a large impact the CNC needs to allow the whole community (residents & businesses) to vote on it either by paper ballet or a web site that can validate the person voting. So the community can see what the consensus is.
Dan October 23, 2011 at 01:02 PM
Charlie - Your remark: "To answer some of the questions about traffic data, the City surveyed traffic at various locations to determine current traffic flows and volumes. Overall, traffic volumes throughout the corridor have been going down, especially since the Big Dig was completed." First, the methods of the collection (where the traps where) and the time points have not been fully disclosed. At the last meeting it was stated the last collected data was June '05 (as far as what they remembered). I know some had issues with the age of the data as being so far back. I my self don't have an issue with that as it was before the Big Dig was completed back on Dec '07. I do agree this was most likely the time point we saw the most traffic through the area. But, without understanding the physical points they trapped the data it may not offer the framework to base things. That is why we need to have the full disclosure. I was also trying to get them to do a video traffic tracing for the morning and evening commuter times. This would show the flow patterns so we would know where the traffic came and went. As the numbers alone is not the best way to base things here. In my view the left turning traffic is the key issue here not the numbers alone. This is what I question when I sat out there over the summer for five days watching things.
Kathleen Whelan Giordano October 23, 2011 at 01:33 PM
Charlie, I checked the BTD plans again and they are almost 2 years old. Has nothing changed in 2 years?
Dan October 23, 2011 at 08:48 PM
Kathleen - Sorry to say no. The traffic numbers shown in the presentations are entry into Sullivan not the exit and when these cars are exiting (timeline). As far as I can tell they extrapolated the exit traffic as they didn't have the data collected (no fault on them as they are working on someone else's data). The best info we got so far was the other night, but it's still not there either. Again, it's all slideware not a proper written presentation (long hand with figures and hard data). Given what we had in both CANA & the Big Dig if you remember. There we had a clear version to version outline as we went through the process and had the methods disclosed, warts and all. In fact some additional data was gotten in part because we pointed it out as missing and it did change things. I understand their plight here as they fear seeing what they really have will send shock waves. But, that could be defused with a video trace of the traffic over a few days to validate the view of things. One point that was cleared up verbally (not written) the other night was the short section of Main st. in front of the fire station is now two way. The balance between community access and commuter/shopping was one sided in the surface design. In an effort to make entry into the community harder so as to discourage going through it, but that blocked the people living there reasonable access. If we don't get this written what happens if this detail gets lost?
Charlie Denison October 24, 2011 at 02:39 AM
Kathleen, That's correct. The Preliminary Design phase was completed as of the last official public meeting held in 2010. Those are the materials that are posted on the BTD website. The next phase is 25% Design. It is my understanding that that phase can not proceed until funding acquired to do so, and that once that phase beings, BTD will hold a series of community meetings to discuss the details of the design as it develops further. The meetings that have been held recently were scheduled at the request of Rep. Capuano, who had not participated in the public meetings held in 2008/2009/2010. He had concerns about the surface option that was chosen at the end of that process, and suspected that residents who had not participated in the process may also have similar concerns.
MJ Campbell October 24, 2011 at 08:19 PM
Bravi, Kathleen, Julia, Joseph and Dan! You have made excellent observations. Clear,concise information, readily available in various media - the Patch, the Bridge, flyers, neighborhood signage, etc. is vital to the maintenance of an informed citizenry .As to a comment that we are too concerned with the past, George Santayana left us with a comment based on experience : "Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it". Given what had been done to Charlestown and the West End among other communities, we would be wise to remember this. As Faulkner said, "The past is not dead, it's not even the past." These guys are are worth our attention.
nick czech November 29, 2012 at 06:26 PM


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