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:
- 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);
- Provide shorter crossings to the T stations, Community College, and pathway to North Point Park;
- Allow for better future use of land near the Hood Business Park and at the Community College parking lots;
- Lower construction and maintenance costs; and
- 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)
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