Letter: Rutherford Ave. Surface Option Best for All

This letter was submitted by a group of Charlestown residents.


Charlestown has a historic opportunity to redesign Rutherford Avenue. Given this chance, a group of Charlestown residents called the Rutherford Corridor Improvement Coalition (RCIC) started meeting with other residents and asking three key questions: 1) what does Rutherford do well or poorly for Charlestown today;  2) what should it do in the future;  and 3) what does that mean for its new design?

After dozens of discussions across the neighborhood, the answer is clear: Rutherford Avenue should become a vibrant, surface-level city street that works for everyone, not an intimidating highway that divides.

The Boston Transportation Department (BTD) will soon finalize the basic blueprint for a re-designed Rutherford Avenue and Sullivan Square. One remaining issue is whether to follow the “Surface Option” at Austin Street that was chosen earlier, or rebuild an underpass and ramps.   

We support the Surface Option, and here’s why we hope Charlestown will unite behind it.

Rutherford Avenue was reconfigured and widened in the 1960s thanks to pressure by residents and public officials to reduce traffic cutting through our neighborhood. Today, Rutherford still moves traffic, but is used much less than before the Big Dig: current vehicle trips are less than half of what they were in 1960.

Meanwhile, Rutherford has become an awful “neighbor.” It spews noise and black dust into our homes and endangers pedestrians. It leaks water and tax dollars into its underpasses and scares off new businesses. Despite its 10-lane width, it crowds out walkers and bicyclists. It’s not helping people get to the T stations, Community College, or North Point Park quickly and safely. And it rarely lets us park on it.

The deteriorating underpass at Austin Street will be rebuilt or eliminated. The Surface Option will replace the tunnel and its long, deep ramps with a surface-level, four-lane roadway and green space. The surface design will:

  1. Relocate traffic 50+ feet away from neighborhood residences, screening noise and pollution with greenery, a walking/biking path, and on-street parking (the underpass option only offers 22 feet of space and no parking at Austin Street);
  2. Provide shorter crossings to the T stations, Community College, and pathway to North Point Park;
  3. Allow for better future use of land near the Hood Business Park and at the Community  College parking lots;
  4. Lower construction and maintenance costs; and
  5. Be able to handle current and future traffic as well as the underpass option.

We know that Charlestown has had mixed experiences with large scale planning in the past, hindering trust in this process for some residents. But we have also seen that good things happen when our community works together. Powerful community advocacy led to the Tobin Bridge ramps being buried in the 1990s. A strong and united community then led the design for new buildings and the creation and funding of City Square Park. The homes, businesses, and park in and around City Square today symbolize what a united Charlestown can do.

And we will do it again … this time by uniting for a Rutherford corridor that works for all of us. 

We need to show strong support for the Surface Option at BTD’s upcoming meeting on Thursday, Dec. 6, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Knights of Columbus at 545 Medford Street. Please join us, and please speak up.

—Your neighbors on the Rutherford Corridor Improvement Coalition (www.rcic-charlestown.org)

(Submitted by Jay Konieczka)

Got something to say on this or any other local topic? Email Letters to the Editor to becca.manning@patch.com. Be sure to include your full name and address.

Just a person! December 06, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Mmmmm,does it really matter if idea is coming or not! Let's stay on subject , Rutherford ave traffic is a mess Overpass, and the underpasses are needed and should be re-opened No matter what, if ikea isn't coming or not ,something will be going there and that means traffic. Wake up!
Joseph December 06, 2012 at 09:55 PM
100% correct JAP. When the overpass existed and the tunnels were open, traffic flowed nicely. I've changed my opinion on this matter as I read more. I support greening up Rutherford, but build a tunnel, hide Rutherford and put the green surface option on top. Problem solved. Then again, it's really a moot point. BTD & Co have already made their decisions.
Just a person! December 07, 2012 at 02:17 AM
Well, I guess I was right again, went to the meeting tonight, didn't realize that they have already decided to eliminate the Sullivan Sq. underpass! Hello big surprise! I attended every meeting since the beginning to find out that the CNC back in 2009 voted to close the underpass. Thank you CNC for making my decision.(again) Like I said before these meeting's are "Bullshit" they have already made up their minds. And to all you surface option people! Wake up, you already have the surface option it is out there now, there will be no change except the cost to do some planting. I am disgusted with the City, the CNC and all the BS
Dan December 07, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Yes, JaP it was a depressing meeting as they are railroading us with a design thats flawed! Well I guess we'll be back after its completed to redo it still again! Hopefully, the correct way the second time - What a waste of tax dollars! So close, yet so far. If they just add in the tunnel it would work. I pity the people would live along Rutherford after all of the work is done and not seeing any improvement. I pity the rest of us who won't be able to get in or out during the morning and evening rush hours and having to fight the added traffic trying to find other routes around the log jam we have created. The only out here is to sue the city to stop this madness. Which is a shame because we all want this mess to be fixed.
Just a person! December 07, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Thanks Dan I am glad to see that someone also can see problems.. I am one that dosen't see any change in what is there now ,with their surface option. I am also disgusted that I have wasted my time going to these meeting not realizing they have already decided to fill in the Sullivan Sq underpass.if they had told me that was already a done deal I would have put my time to better use than to listen to the stupid CNC My only wish is that they loose all the money allocated for the project and nothing at all is done.


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