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Shut Storrow Drive!

Swirlygrrl raises an excellent point: With the cost of fixing, um, replacing, the Storrow tunnel suddenly up past the $100-million mark (raise your hand if you really think it'll "only" wind up costing $130 million), why not just shut the road altogether and figure out how to divert traffic to other roads? That money will buy an awful lot of improvements to those roads (such as the turnpike for people coming in from Allston/Brighton and Newton) and give us even more parkland along the Charles.

Even better, why not take a look at what San Francisco did after an elevated highway collapsed during the 1989 earthquake - replace the whole thing with a trolley line. No doubt there would be some interesting engineering challenges connecting it to the Green Line in the Leverett Circle area, but, again, we're talking $130 million, maybe more, just for the Storrow tunnel, and so far state officials haven't asked where that money is coming from. Maybe even think really big and have Riverside II continue along Soldiers Field Road to Harvard's new mega-campus (and give the northern parts of Brighton and Allston real rapid transit in the process).

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Because that would make too much sense!

Yeah, ad a few more exits to the pike for backbay, kenmore, and brookline, and drop the tolls within 128. Sounds like a good idea to me! I know running along the charles can be kinda crappy breathing in all them car fumes.

Put a green line to L.A./ Brighton in (i'm sure havard would love that with their plans for LA/Brighton)

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I love the idea of new trolley line on that right-of-way. I think it would be an excellent use of taxpayer money.

(Yeah, I'm still a Libertarian, but I also love trolleys.)

Suldog
http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com

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I think we could put in an Ayn Rand statue at one of the stops ...

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... we may as well put a webcam in her grave, and some monitors at the stations, so we can watch her spin when she finds out.

Suldog
http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com

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Thanks for bumping this idea up, Adam!

Truth be told, I don't know what the answer to the issue is or if Storrow can be removed. With huge millions of $$$ proposed to fix just ONE problem with a horrendously inadequate roadway, I just thought the option to shut it down and spend the money elswhere is something that should be on the menu!

When I visit the 'rents, I see this jewel http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_McCall_Waterfront... Once upon a time, Portland, OR had a road called Harbor Drive, very much like storrow if I recall. Upon further study, they decided they could do without it, tore it up, and built a tremendous waterfront facility. Keep in mind that people travel to go to festivals like Portland has in this new space, and how much stress it would take off of the Common to reclaim the rest of the original Esplanade.

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If it's going to cost 130 million dollars just to replace one tunnel, how much is it going to cost to replace the entire parkway? It's not like you can just sod over the blacktop, tell the cars to go away, and you're done. The blacktop would have to be dug up. The blacktop would have to be disposed of. New fill would have to be trucked in. That fill would need sprinkler systems, paths, sod, lights, wiring, drainage...

And then there's the connections. Every single ramp or turn that now goes to Storrow would have to be routed to somewhere else, demolished, and rebuilt. Every single access point that only goes to Storrow would have to be rebuilt on another road.

The cars now not going on Storrow would not simply evaporate. They would need to go somewhere else, and it wouldn't always be the Pike. Traffic studies and, potentially, significant work, would be required on nearby roads (for example, Beacon and Mem Drive), because the use of them would increase drastically.

Portland's park cost about 20 million dollars over 17 years a couple decades ago, and it's only 36 acres. Storrow Drive is much larger than 36 acres. It would be Son of Big Dig for Boston.

Another thing to remember is that Portland could get rid of the freeway because they had another parkway just parallel to it. Naito Parkway is still there... say, remarkably like Storrow Drive parallells the Esplanade.

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A guy can dream, can't he?

Another thing to remember is that Portland could get rid of the freeway because they had another parkway just parallel to it.

What's the name of that other river road? Memorial Bridge? Something like that :-).

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Memorial Drive is just what those recalcitrant yokels in Cambridge call it. ;D

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Well, if Memorial Drive were properly updated, that is. And if the DCR war on pedestrian crossings ended with a sea change and proper walk signals.

My 'rents live at the foot of The Ross Island Bridge, so I'm familiar with the local scene by bike and by car.

It is true that reclaiming the esplanade and modifications would cost money - I don't deny that. I'm not quite sure it would cost as much as some here are saying, though, because a different scheme might be eligible for federal funds when Storrow very likely is not (because the Pike is I-90 and Memorial Drive is US 3 and there may be parks money in it somewhere, too).

That is why I want to see this costed out and thought about as an alternative to OMFG We gotta make a new Tunnel! If it isn't reasonable, so be it. If it is viable, then why not?

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The T is allergic to new trolley lines. They want to replicate the Silver Line all across the city, even if it is more expensive than faster, and higher-capacity light rail options. The Urban Ring is going to be almost exclusively "Bus Rapid Transit" until the light rail portion is built. They've saved that phase of the construction for the end, so it can die a slow death like most trolley proposals in the city.

The GL extension to Medford should be seen as an aberration.

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"The GL extension to Medford should be seen as an aberration."

The extension of the MBTA's Green Line out to Somerville and Medford is necessary and long, long overdue, to boot.

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The fact that the extention is necessary and long overdue does not contradict it being an aberration (a state markedly different from the norm) when compared with other MBTA planning.

What other new rail lines has the MBTA laid lately that were necessary and long overdue?

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They could always just put Storrow Drive underground seeing all the success they've had with the central artery.

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I'd love to see Storrow Drive removed, but in order to do that, the state first needs to figure out some way to add westbound exits and eastbound entrances to the Mass Pike in the Back Bay and/or Kenmore-Fenway areas. That's not going to be easy. Once you do that, there really is no more need for Storrow.

Even if you end up adding totally non-standard hairpin-turn 10mph ramps to the Pike (such as what you see at Route 9 and the Jamaicaway) , this is worth doing in order to improve the quality of the riverfront parkland.

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Sometimes, I really do wonder what Storrow Drive ever came into existence for!

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and the Pike was never designed for local service between downtown and the Back Bay or Fenway. It would need a redesign to take over that function from Storrow.

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Sometimes, I really do wonder what Storrow Drive ever came into existence for!

It's called a parkway. Think about what purpose a "parkway" might serve .

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Then they could call it the Storrow Park Driveway.

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Whenever there's an event at the Hatch Shell? I wonder if the MDC DCR still claims that this is really a safety measure to protect people attending the events.

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Technically, it was built as a high speed traffic sewer along what was then a stinking river.

It bears the "pleasure vehicles" signs as a wink and nod to the fact that it had to be a parkway for motoring enjoyment to legally suck up so much land that was supposed to be park land.

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so what the signs really mean are that trucks (even those low enough to clear the overpasses) aren't allowed there.

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Is the internet a pleasure vehicle?

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I've thought if closing it completely, but the idea of putting a trolley (light rail) along it is genius! Storrow Drive (and Soldiers Field Road) is a huge impediment for pedestrian and bicycle access to the riverfront. It also severely degrades the experience of enjoying the parkland.

Boston needs to take some RISKS! Make some big bold moves that really make some positive changes to the city! They could even experiment with how traffic reacts by simply closing the road for a 1 month trial period to see what happens.

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While I agree with the idea of closing Storrow Drive and creating a park in that area for all to enjoy, I agree with the idea of putting a light rail or some other public transportation near it is also an excellent idea. That path running along the Esplanade--a lot of it is from hunger, anyway. It needs to be replaced with a wider path, imo.

You're right--Boston needs to take some risks. Not to hijack this thread too much, but I think that
Boston ouught to not only build a park instead of Storrow Drive, but they should create affordable housing here in the city for people who need it, as well as more mixed use.

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While the idea of returning the Esplanade to Helen Storrow's original vision is noble, the idea of changing this crucial traffic pattern for the entire city is a bit far-fetched. Just think of all the ramps that were *JUST* built (umm... the Leverett Connector) so that people could use this road.

That said, if they did this, I would advocate for improved connections to route 2 in the Alewife area. Make it easier for people coming from the north (I-93) to go AROUND the northern side of Somerville and Cambridge via route 16, and fewer people would need to come south on 93 and then get on the expressway-like storrow to head west towards allston, brighton, or watertown. I speak from experience... that's my current commute.

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The cost of the new tunnel is only a fix for a single aspect of a crumbling mess.

Bike from Brighton in on the Boston side - if you dare - and you will see some scary stuff long before you reach the tunnel in question.

Massachusetts roadway infrastructure is a total mess already and the maintenance backlog is rapidly converting to a replacement backlog in many zones. Before money is spent on another tunnel, Boston needs to think very critically about the entire picture and where money is best spent to serve civic needs.

All options - including shitcanning Storrow - should be on the table and costed out. How many memorial drive footbridges and Masspike exits could this money buy? Local roadway improvements? Mass transit options? There is way too much work to do on transit infrastructure and way too little willingness to come up with money for it around these parts to just drop $130 million on a single tunnel in a blind moment of panic without thinking long and hard about how to best accomodate regional and local needs.

As for the Leverett ramps, they don't just serve Storrow - they also serve Memorial Drive, Prison Point, North Station, etc.

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Lets say you have an elderly car that you happen to love.

One fine hot day, said car blows a head gasket and warps the head and cracks the engine block, destroying the engine.

Your mechanic notes the amount of rust, the warn ball joints, the messed up suspension and pronounces the car a total loss.

Do you run out and order a brand new engine at high cost and have your mechanic put it in anyway? Or do you start evaluating your options - gee, its summer, can I bike for a while? Zip Car? New car? Used Car?

Is putting an expensive new tunnel on Storrow Drive like dropping a brand new engine in a rusted out Hyundai Excel. If this were a personal finance decision, would you be crazy to do it before costing out other options?

Maybe Storrow should be fixed or maybe it shouldn't. All I want to see is some serious consideration given to removing the roadway given the numerous other issues and problems it poses.

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A new engine can cost as much as a used car. Compared to the cost of replacing or abolishing the entire Storrow Drive, the tunnel repair is relatively minor, even at an astounding 130 million. The tunnel is a very small part of Storrow Drive, and the rest of it can be assumed to be comparably pricey. So compare it to a brake job on a Jaguar instead of an engine in a Hyundai -- in a town where the only cars for sale are new Jaguars. (Have you seen any cheap used parkways for sale lately?)

Following your analogy, the question then becomes 'Should you fix your car or should you stop driving to work?'

Personally, I really wish I could stop driving to work. And so, no doubt, do the 100 thousand people who use Storrow daily. But we can't, unless either we move or our jobs move, or public transportation suddenly becomes 100 times as pervasive. So fix it we will.

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They had a highway like this on their waterfront. They debated for years whether to take it down or replace it, then Mother Nature made the decision for them (Loma Prieta, 1989). They seem to have gotten by just fine without it since then; in fact, they've since removed a few other sections of elevated highway.

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Phillip McCarthy argues against the Embarcadero analogy.

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There used to be a big elevated highway somewhere near the Harbor. I vaguely remember it.

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For people worried about where the Storrow traffic would go were they to completely close or even reduce the capacity of the road, I suggest they read this:

http://www.transalt.org/press/askta/020923.html

Massive British Study Shows Closing Streets REDUCES Traffic

At fifty locations in Europe, Asia and United States, researchers funded by the British government examined the traffic effects of closing major streets or bridges on surrounding areas. They found that in almost every instance, traffic on surrounding streets decreased after the closures. The study was funded after an earlier British government report (SACTRA) found that if a highway is built, or a road widened, traffic increases. The British wanted to know if when road capacity is decreased, traffic will go away. In the Traffic Impact of Highway Capacity Reductions: Assessment of the Evidence (1998, Landor Publishing) researchers found clear evidence that taking away road space reduces traffic.

The study includes a short statistical synopsis of the collapse of half of the West Side Highway in 1973. Before its collapse, the highway, which stretched from the Battery to 60th Street along the Hudson River on Manhattan’s West Side, carried 110,000 vehicles a day. Afterwards the remaining section carried 50,000 cars a day, but massive traffic jams did not materialize. In fact, overall north south traffic in Manhattan declined by 8% or 50,000 vehicles. Other examples are even better documented, including reductions in traffic caused by the aftereffects of recent earthquakes in LA, San Francisco and Kobe, and many street closures in London.

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If the traffic does indeed go down, what is the reason?

Suldog
http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com

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From the report's summary:

http://www.cts.ucl.ac.uk/tsu/tpab9828.htm

In explaining what was happening to the traffic, the following model of behavioural response emerged. Initially, when road space for cars is reduced, drivers simply change their driving styles in ways which pack more vehicles in, for example, by driving closer together. As conditions deteriorate, they then take the next easiest options - swapping to neighbouring streets, or changing their time of travel, leaving a bit earlier or later to avoid the worst of the traffic. As such adjustments also become problematic, a whole variety of responses is triggered, ranging from people altering how they travel, or where they carry out activities, through to people moving house or moving job, where the change in travelling conditions ‘tips the balance’ in a decision that was being made for other reasons anyway. Taken together, this third set of responses accounts for the measurable ‘disappearance’ of a proportion of traffic from the networks studied.

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Clearly, many of you agree that the DCR needs to be bold when it comes to Storrow Drive. Don't let your opinions stop on this page. Send the DCR an e-mail and let them know what you think. The more voices, the better!

The DCR's e-mail address is [email protected]

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