Growing concern for unchoking the Charles River Throat

Tuesday’s meeting hosted by WalkBoston and the Charles River Conservancy about how MassDOT’s reconstruction of the Mass Pike in Allston can Unchoke the Charles River Throat brought out 150 people and a renewed emphasis on the need for the project to prioritize removing barriers, creating connections and healthy transportation. The project will replace the existing interchange and set a framework for a 21st century residential and office neighborhood. Removal of the 3000’ long viaduct, now nearly 60 years old, could open the opportunity to allow new and improved walking and biking access between Allston and Brookline neighborhoods and the river.

The initial design review period closed in February, which generated over 550 comment letters to the environmental agencies responsible for setting the agenda for future planning on this project. (See WalkBoston's summary of the initial environmental review process).

Creative solutions are still needed to provide space for drivers on Soldiers Field Road and the Pike, trains to South Station and Kendall Square, and people to enjoy walking and biking due to the narrow right-of-way.

The forum provided the opportunity for the public to learn about several concepts to significantly enhance quality of life and economic development through a better public realm. The design firms of Sasaki and NBBJ described concepts prepared for WalkBoston, the Charles River Conservancy and the non-profit organization A Better City that represents that business and academic community, for improved paths along the historic parkway in the throat area using boardwalks or a narrow band of fill in the shallows of the Charles River adjacent to the parkway. Harvard described its concept for the “Wadsworth Path” adjoining their land along the south boundary of the project area (adjacent to the rail lines) which would include a landscaped path adjacent to a high wall that would mitigate railroad noise and vibration for the very nearby homes. The Path would provide an off-street connection from Allston Village and Harvard Street to West Station and Agganis Way, and ultimately to the river paths.

Together, the Wadsworth Path and the riverside path options would create a network of off-road paths to serve Allston, Brookline, BU and the 100-acre property that will be developed with institutional, commercial and residential uses. This network would provide an exciting and needed addition to the I-90 Interchange Project and help to undo the damage to the public realm and neighborhood connectivity that the Turnpike and rail yards have caused for the last century.

NOW WE WANT YOUR HELP to make sure that the Allston I-90 Project really does Unchoke the Throat. Massachusetts has often led the way on enlightened thinking about transportation projects - now is the time to do so again. Let's use the re-building of the Allston I-90 Interchange to create new and improved multi-modal transportation options that include a Charles River Allston Esplanade that provides safe, pleasant and memorable environment.

What you can do:
1. Sign up for email alerts from People’s Pike and follow on Twitter and Facebook for notices about future meetings & when to send feedback to decision makers.

2. Attend the next Joint Meeting of the Fiscal & Management Control Board and MassDOT Board on April 23, 2018 at 12pm in the State Transportation Building, 2nd Floor, Transportation Board Room, 10 Park Plaza. Let them know why this project is important to you. Public comment takes place right at the beginning of the meeting!

3. For more from Tuesday’s forum, look at the hashtag #UnchokeTheThroat

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Comments

I have a smaller plan

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It doesn't involve any filling in of the river or crazy, floating paths. And it's only a couple KB because it's just this one line of text:

Remove Storrow Drive/Soldier's Field Rd.

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And the cars will go

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where?

Oh that's right. All the people who drive on that road will magically dematerialize from their origins and materialize at their destinations, and we can all sit in a circle, smoke pot, sing songs, and have deep philosophical conversations about the moral implications of teleportation.

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They could go onto the pike

However, there would need to be modifications to add a couple of exits in the Back Bay. Otherwise, the river roads from the Allston Tolls and through the Back Bay are quite redundant, separated from the pike by mere blocks.

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Topology lessons in order?

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Those roads go to different destinations in both directions from that point. One forks south, the other hugs the river.

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Topology of mental contortions

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If you take out a road, you will reduce the capacity of that road to carry vehicular traffic.

All else being equal, the amount of traffic stays constant because the same number of people live outside the city and work inside the city or vise-versa. Thus that traffic will eat into spare capacity on other roads, no matter how it's routed.

Oh wait, those other roads are at or over capacity already.

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They should

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Run a train along that route

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Oddly, you're wrong

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It seems intuitive that you'd be right. Traffic has a fixed volume, right? If you reduce the roads, that fixed volume will crowd other roads, right?

But it turns out that people are amazingly adaptable and they can work around road closures and capacity changes quite well. When there are more roads, we drive more. When there are fewer roads, we drive less. I admit that it is completely crazy sounding. But it seems to be true.

But don't take my word for it. Here's a pretty good writeup with links to actual studies and other examples.

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Clearly that can't always be true

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Otherwise you'd conclude that the optimal amount of roadway is zero, which would be silly.

So it's incumbent on the people pushing to shut down the road to prove that it will improve the flow of traffic, not to just throw up their hands and say it will magically melt away. It's also incumbent on those people to demonstrate that they understand how Paris, New York, and San Fransisco differ from Boston in terms of the nature of the demand on that particular roadway instead of making assertions that it'll work itself out.

Here's a hint: most of the people who use those roads don't have other options. It's not all city traffic the way it might be in Paris or New York. The fact that there's a rush hour means it's commuters from suburbs, not people who might be convinced to take the bus or ride a bike in the freezing rain instead.

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Toll the Roads

The roads are overcapacity because we give them away for free. Anytime anything is free, from (see: Ben & Jerry's free ice cream day) people over consume and you get traffic, lines, and shortages.

Add dynamic tolling and you would magically see that "fixed" traffic volume disappear because an estimated 50% of people do not actually need to drive during rush hour and would go at a different time if they had to pay for the privilege to do so.

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I should get in on that racket

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because I must be doing it wrong. I'm paying excise tax on my car, gas tax on my fuel, not to mention paying for the car and gas itself. And insurance, and vehicle maintenance, and state income tax, and federal income tax.

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I think the point is that the

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I think the point is that the only costs that are really variable based on how much you drive is the gas tax and more frequent maintenance. Everything else is a fixed/sunk cost, so the marginal cost to drive more or less is very small. The point of variable tolling is two-fold: to impose some kind of per-trip cost to driving that is obvious to the driver, and more importantly to be able to encourage people to drive at less-busy times by making the tolls cheaper at those times. Right now, congestion costs everyone equally in time wasted. With variable tolls, we can keep traffic moving, and people can then choose whether they want to pay to drive at times when demand is higher or pay less at times when demand is low.

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Citations needed.

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Citations needed.

Everyone else is backing up their "contortions" with solid research and science.

You? You can't seem to get anything that isn't directly simple.

I feel sorry for your DifEq TAs.

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Not functional

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Storrow is as bad a money pit as owning a boat. It will take increasing amounts of resources to maintain due to flooding, and the fact that it should never have been built in the first place.

It is not redundant in any meaningful way - note what happens to trucks and buses?

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Silppery slope

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CAN'T QUESTION CAR USE IN A COMPACT CITY EVER!

You'll have to pry my car off my massively obese dead arse!

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Well, the street right

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Well, the street right outside my office, South Market Street downtown, is where they did remove the cars. It resulted in lots more people using it.

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Other similar alternatives:

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Other similar alternatives: Through the throat, narrow Storrow Dr/SFR down from 4 lanes to 2; narrow the Mass Pike from 8 lanes to 6. (The right-most Mass Pike lanes are really just exit/entrance lanes only, so there's no need for them to be continuous.)

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"Unchoking the Charles River

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"Unchoking the Charles River Throat"?

That's some really crummy terminology they chose.

I saw the headline and figured it had to be about the work along the Muddy River. Either that or some radical and unlikely idea to remove the dam and restore natural tides and currents upstream.

"The Throat"? Really?

I first started coming to Boston regularly 25 years ago and lived here for nearly 20 years. I've driven, walked, biked, and taken transit all along there. I have NEVER heard nor seen any reference to that as "The Throat"

Is this one of the same people who gave us SoBo and "Midtown"?

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Don't forget my favorite

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Is this one of the same people who gave us SoBo and "Midtown"?

SoWa.

I've never heard of the Throat either and I also thought it was about the Muddy River.

The creativity of these geniuses will elicit jokes about Watergate and a certain film from the 1970s. Way to get taken seriously, guys!

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So

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Do you still call Arlington "menotomy"?

How about that Tidemill Station!

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History Nugget

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As we approach Patriots' Day, a historical quote came to mind, written by a British soldier retreating from Concord through present-day Arlington: "We were much annoyed in a village called Anatomy".

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We can't ever call anything something new

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Chinatown is still the combat zone
Fort Point is still the South Bay
The Seaport is still South Bay
We use all native American names for Jamaica Plain, Hyde Park, West Roxbury, Dorchester, Roxbury, etc.

Never forget TriMount!

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Allston "Village"

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Another term not used by people who are from the area. It was invented by planners.

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It'd be great if we can get this right.

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I'm skeptical about the whether that entirely new neighborhood is going to be as vibrant as it could be, or a lost opportunity (like the soulless Seaport). But the pathway sounds like a wonderful idea, and I think there's way we could both improve and expand the non-car areas while also fixing some of the dangerous bits of Solders Field at Cambridge Street.

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another big dig $$$$

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I hope everyone understands that this project is slated to begin in a few years . . . but the BIG concern is the cost - almost ONE BILLION DOLLARS! What a waste of money! Do you think we need more public transportation? Or Education funding? Or how about the "missing link" between North and South Station?es?

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Reclaim the Roads

At least 12 lanes of highway and the hostile, high-speed four lanes of Soldiers Field road pass through this part of the city. Go Boston 2030 set a goal of reducing the percent of residents who drive alone to work (currently 39%) in half by 2030. Unless and until we rebalance our existing land use to prioritize walking, biking, and transit we will not reach this goal.

Marty Walsh and Charlie Baker should take a lesson from a politician who has demonstrated real leadership and vision. Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris since 2014, has in just a few short years reclaimed the formerly high-speed and high-trafficked roadways along the Seine River for people. Despite intense initial opposition from drivers, the area is now a beloved part of the city once again. Our city and our riverfront deserves the same.

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You are correct, it is not

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However Soldiers Field Road is four lanes. Add that to the eight lanes of the Pike, that's 12 lanes. I think that's what the original poster was referring to.

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Typo

You're correct. I double-counted the Soldiers Field Road lanes this morning.

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