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Your Take: Rutherford Ave Change to Reduce AM Drivers?

Give us your take in the comments.

Readers reacted strongly to our —with opinions ranging from optimism to resignation.

The Boston Cyclists Union concluded that adding traffic lights near the intersection of Rutherford Avenue and Austin Street would significantly reduce morning traffic generated by suburban commuters who take Rutherford Avenue to avoid the $3 one-way toll on the Tobin Bridge.

Reader (and frequent commenter) Garry Waldeck told us over twitter that he agreed with those conclusions, but the story kicked up more of a dialogue on our Facebook page.

Reader Julia Gaynor thumb-nailed the annual cost of crossing the bridge in the morning at around $780 for a five-day work week commute.

“My guess is that people will still sit in traffic rather than spend almost $1,000 per year to cross a bridge,” she said.

But reader Jay Konieczka said that the small daily fee may not be much of a deterrent.

”Not everyone will be doing the math on how much it costs annually—they just need to get where they're going,” he said. “The reduced speed, which is guaranteed by the light, should reduce traffic.”

Reader Karen Goggin Scanlan agreed that the lights may divert traffic away from Rutherford, but still offered a pessimistic outlook on what the change would mean for Charlestown.

“They're just going to come down Main St,” she said.

Larry Fine May 17, 2012 at 02:28 AM
BTW, what is up with the no turn on right sign on Rutherford Ave at BHCC? Traffic in the morning going across Gilmore is a nightmare. The yield sign worked for pedestrians. These traffic guys at BTD sure know how to mess with us.
Jay K. May 17, 2012 at 10:56 AM
Right, but the rotary area as it stands isn't designed to handle that throughput. Sullivan square will be redesigned route traffic in an efficient way.
Mum22 May 17, 2012 at 11:04 AM
The "no turn on red" sign has been gone for a while. Cars are allowed to turn at that light when it's red.
Jay K. May 17, 2012 at 11:08 AM
I don't understand. Why will everyone be going through Rutherford and Sullivan to get to Assembly square? People coming from Boston will take 93 or McGrath. Either of these is going to be way faster than going through lights along Rutherford. Some people from East Cambridge might take Rutherford, and some from Charlestown. But I don't see how there is going to be enough Ikea traffic on the weekend to cause gridlock.
PattyK May 17, 2012 at 11:37 AM
At the meeting I attended at the knights last week...vinny gutpa the engineer said even if we came to a consensus today about which plan we want, it would take 7 years to complete the construction. my understanding is that ikea will open next year. So I firmly believe we will be facing gridlock during the interim years of construction completion.
Jay K. May 17, 2012 at 11:45 AM
Oh I see. That's probably true. But I guess like you said its true with any plan. Maybe some pubs will go in so we can crawl where we're going!
Dan May 17, 2012 at 12:08 PM
The lights are not even correctly placed let along timed correctly. If you exit C-Town the light on the right lane can't even be seen from the stop line (you need to look straight up!) The boneheads who designed the new hanging lights really messed up. Now who could they be??? Yep the same ones telling you to trust them on the design they have put forward. Again, we do need a better Rutherford Ave and the surface design looks great! BUT, the commuter traffic kills what you want. You need to get rid of this Tobin bridge bi-passing and the rest of the commuter traffic. OK, How about dropping the tolls altogether? Then commuter traffic would take the bridge right? Not so sure of this as the beed-off in town is not able to handle the current Tobin traffic. So whats next? push the Rutherford Ave commuter traffic into a tunnel as much as possible. That way the community doesn't get the noise and smog and gets to reconnect to it's severed pieces again. The rub here is the cost but if you do the math over 50 years it's not as bad as they want you to think. Remember most of the work is already done! the current trench walls are in good shape the problem is they don't have any roof to hold them up (the tubes going across replaced the viaduct that held the walls up). If you build a full cover (grilled or solid) that would solve issue. The only cost is digging out the section between Austin St to Sullivan Sq and covering it.
Joseph May 17, 2012 at 12:14 PM
Judging by the looks of people in Charlestown, including myself, walking a few blocks to go shopping wouldn't hurt any of us. Patty, more lights, less lights, whatever it takes to get the job done. I was specifically talking about the current lights at the 99 and how they aren't timed properly given today's traffic situation. G'day
Charlestown joe May 17, 2012 at 12:40 PM
Joseph, I guess you are right more or less lights,what does it matter.... Mmmm let me think what purpose do more lights serve? More traffic stopping and also more areas tied up with them (as per the surface plan) one at west school st ????? Essex St ???? Cross over to A st. So you have traffic xstopping on Essex and Rutherford ave and A st waiting at different times, Baldwin st ???? Access? Mishawam st to get across.. And my question is what for? Do they have lights on memorial drive in Cambridge? Or for that fact Storrow Dr. Same type of road,that they want to make Rutherford ave! Next question! Why do you think they put the expressway all underground from the North End to South Boston ????? And put the Greenway on top?
Jay K. May 17, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Hi Dan. Someone proposed the tunnel idea at last weeks meeting, maybe it was even you. I completely agree that this is the ideal solution. What I find most appealing about it is the walking space and being (or at least feeling) more connected to Cambridge and Somerville. But in terms of the cost, the city doesn't see this being realistic. My concern with some kind of a hybrid solution or a cost-saving tunnel option with a grilled cover, is that it will increase traffic through the area. It may not be that loud since its tucked away a bit - but the pollution would be worse than the Surface Option because of increased traffic. Roads tend to be occupied with as much traffic as they're designed to handle. If you restrict the flow, there's less traffic overall. If throughput is increased, you get more pollution. With a grilled surface or a series of decks it won't prevent the smog from coming into Charlestown, and it won't be as connected. What I find most appealing about the Surface Option is the attraction for small businesses - a connected space for pedestrians with parking will attract small business, which means more tax revenue (and I hope more restaurants and pubs). I agree with you though, a fully covered tunnel would definitely make us all happy. But given the history with the Big Dig, I don't see this gaining any traction.
Joseph May 17, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Memorial Drive has lights CJ, albeit spaced out, but they are there and they seem to serve the purpose of allowing people to cross Mem Dr. With regards to the intersections you bring up, wouldn't lights allow you take left instead of having to do a U-turn on Mishawum in order to get back into the city or Cambridge? I'm afraid I don't see how you're able to compare Storrow and Memorial Drive to Rutherford Avenue? Apples and oranges IMO. And we all know why they put the expressway underground. Glad they did.
Dan May 17, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Jay - Remember the root issue is the morning/evening commuter traffic. While you may feel the tunnel would cause more smog I don't think you'll see more traffic as the routes below us just can't handle more. Remember the idea here is to not create stalled out traffic which is were you will get the pollution and the noise (and when you do have a means to clean or move the smog away). The current surface design faces this exact issue - Stalled out traffic with no means to remove the smog. The cost factor is an issue for sure. It will be more expensive but not by as much as they want you to believe. Remember the current trench is still in good shape if you keep it that wide once you put the needed ceiling structure in. Even if you made it narrower with new structure the cost is still lower than what the Big Dig cost was as it's all open. The area eastward to City Sq would need more work but even here it's not as bad as we're not digging as low as the Big Dig was and newer methods with precast panels would be better and quicker. With a true tunnel (grilled deck of solid ceiling) I see more of a chance for small businesses to take hold along the route. Look at what the North End gained from the Big Dig thats what I want for us! Yes, the city is timid as the Big Dig has had it's problems and the cost went way over. I don't think we face the same issues they faced as they needed to keep the city open and had to use cutting edge tech due to the depth they needed to go.
Dan May 17, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Joe - We all need to stand up and send a clear message to the city we want a proper tunnel not an open trench. While I hate to say this we are better off leaving things as is until we get the tunnel. If they fill in the underpass we'll never have a way to get a tunnel built. Currently they don't have enough money even to do what they want. I would be willing to accept the re-aligned streets keeping the underpass as is until we can get the needed funding to do the tunnel correctly.
Jay K. May 17, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Well we definitely agree that we want the same thing as what the North End has, Dan. Glad to hear it. I'm also very much against the open trench. This is a worst of both worlds proposal as far as I'm concerned. But at the root of it, I suppose we disagree on whether or not to believe the city planners. I believe their modeling work with respect to the redesign of Sullivan adequately handling traffic flow in peak hours. I also believe them when they say a tunnel will cost too much. But I definitely agree that it's worth exploring. I also agree that we should hold out if they're going to leave an open trench. I'm calling that the sofabed option - you combine the two and you end up with the worst of both.
Charlestown joe May 17, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Jay Can you answer one question? Where are these business that you speak about with the surface option actually going?
Charlestown joe May 17, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Joseph And as for your comment , did you ever try to cross memorial drive? I did! And as for left turns to go back to Cambridge or downtown, that only means traffic stops to make them turns and which leads us back to the pollution issue!
Jay K. May 17, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Hi Joe. Immediately, mostly in the Sullivan Square area. But with the space and parking opened up with the Surface Option and especially with a full tunnel, there are various options all along Rutherford for future development.
Charlestown joe May 17, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Jay You kill me, we can't even agree on a roadway, what makes you think that you could get people to agree on putting buildings up along a roadway if it ever happens!
Charlestown joe May 17, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Also while we were speaking about useless lights ! Can someone "Please" explain to me why we have a new light at the corner of Dunstable st.?? I understand for the children to cross going to school, but WHY,! Does it have to be an operating green and red 24-7 There is a thing called a pedestrian controlled light! When you want to cross press the button, very simple, why stop traffic for no reason! The traffic stops on Main even if there is none on Sullivan or Dunstable???? And further more it isn't even an intersection! I will be questioning Mr. Tinlin on that one..
Joseph May 17, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Yes, I've crossed Memorial Drive. I don't follow your point? Pollution issues? You're reaching.
Charlestown joe May 17, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Joseph Not reaching, when you are talking about three directions of traffic stopping for at least 3min each way idling, do you think there would be more or less if the car is stopped or the cars are moving...? And my point is about memorial drive at least there is something to go to on the other side! Your point is to cross Rutherford ave for what, exactly!
Joseph May 17, 2012 at 08:59 PM
To get the chicken? Use the fields at BHCC? Freedom to just walk? Whether the car is moving or idle, I don't think that car emissions is a significant factor. I'm not an auto mechanic, but I would have to think cars in motion would produce more "pollution" (burning more oil, friction from the tires against pavement, noise, loud music) than idle ones. Again, I'm not an expert, nor did I sleep at a Holiday Inn last night.
Charlestown joe May 17, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Joseph Then why do you think there is a law on the books, and is a finable offense against idling more than 5 min??? And as far as using the fields at BHCC, for what purpose if it is to have any kind of activity, besides walking around the track, you have to get permission. And I do believe that is the real reason why the chicken crooked the road just to get on the other side for no reason..
John R May 18, 2012 at 01:09 PM
I think the "new Rutherford Ave" will increase street traffic and ultimately put pedestrian traffic at risk. BunkerHill St. as it stands now is a speed way!
Dan May 18, 2012 at 11:21 PM
Joe & Jay - The only area I can see any new businesses is the BHCC parking lot and the CANA lot next to it getting rebuilt. The freed up land in Sullivan Sq is not very useful in size or placement for most businesses (going by the offered surface design). All I can see there is some new housing if people are willing to live in such a noisy area. In truth, it would be better leaving most of it as open space for future mass transit options going up either Somerville (Rt38) or Everett (Rt99)
Dan May 18, 2012 at 11:25 PM
Jay - The parking? No one will be parking in these spots with such a heavy traffic flow (personal safety as well as car safety) with the surface only design, the tunnel makes this much more workable.
Dan May 18, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Joe - Their design requires the lights to slow the traffic {cough... cough... choke... choke} moving traffic creates less pollution and noise than stop and go traffic. Granted high speed tire noise becomes an issue when cars or trucks go over 45mph. I agree with just a surface design you have problems. As you get all of the traffic day & night. Y have two issues depending on the time frame: the morning crawl or the free to speed mid day or worse at night. These two traffic patterns is the problem here how to deal with it with only one right of way. If you have two routes and can focus the traffic you can solve this problem. Having lights on the surface to slow the traffic with light local traffic and then letting the tunnel deal with the morning stop 'n' go and the mid day and night traffic just passing through. Now you have a means to control the pollution & noise, let alone the safety issues in crossing a heavily trafficked pathway. Thats why the North End is so much better now.
Dan May 19, 2012 at 12:04 AM
John - Your so right! the rub here is the traffic studies they are working from (what little they have let us see) imply a surface only design will work. As you know one can make numbers support or disprove what you want them to when you don't show the raw numbers and the proof on how you derived the model your working from. The other part here is the limits of the data. The time points and the locations where it was gotten from. As an example if you only trap the entering traffic of Sullivan Sq you loose the fidelity on when the traffic is going. Sure the numbers in must reflect what is leaving but where? If you stand out there you will see traffic entering the circle from Mystic ave. Somerville going to Boston as well as a lot going to Everett in the morning rush. None of the numbers offered show this traffic. When I did my sampling I also got much higher numbers during the morning rush. So as you can see I saw something different than what they saw. As I understand how some of this is modeled, I know they didn't deal with the complexities of watching where the traffic was going only by a few fixed inbound and exiting counting traps.
Dan May 19, 2012 at 12:42 AM
Joseph - Your right a car or truck idling uses less fuel or creates less noise than a moving vehicle. With that said, we're not talking about idling vehicles here, were talking about vehicles stopping and restarting from a stop line imposed by a stop light. The pollution and noise is much higher than moving traffic! Even with the tire noise. Just stand behind a diesel bus or a truck when it starts up from a stop. The only way to lessing things is to contain the traffic in a tunnel were you can control the air flow and by design the noise. The issue here is: Is the volume of traffic and the type of traffic low enough a surface design by it's self will work or does one need to split the load with some of the traffic going via a tunnel? Let alone what happens in the future or as an alternate route when another route in or out of the city is blocked. The city has not come forward with the raw data or how it was collected so we can get a second option on the traffic studies. All they have show us is polished numbers and if you've been watching the numbers have changed from presentation to presentation.
nick czech November 29, 2012 at 06:30 PM
http://www.rcic-charlestown.org/

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