CHARLES RIVER CROSSING – ROAD TRIP!
Archie Mazmanian reporting, Bob Editing.
2. Bob response. Nice work Archie.
In the movie “Animal House” with trouble brewing for the members of the Dartmouth-like fraternity, the call was put out for “Road Trip.” Perhaps there should be a call for a Road Trip to examine the Charles River crossing contemplated for Phase 2 of the Urban Ring as set forth in the Executive Office of Transportation’s (EOT) Notice of Project Change (NPC). Of course, this Road Trip would be on foot.
A good starting point for this Road Trip might be the Cambridge side to (1) traverse Magazine Beach, (2) examine the rotary under the Memorial Drive overpass with its many ways running to and from it, (3) the nesting grounds of the White Geese between the easterly side of the BU Bridge and the BU Boathouse, (4) the Grand Junction Rail Line (GJRL) under the BU Bridge, (5) the River shore easterly to the Hyatt Hotel, and, if time permits, (6) locating the continuation of the GJRL north of Memorial Drive.
With this portion of the Road Trip, consider the changes that might be required to the rotary and its ways to accommodate Phase 2’s 60-foot articulated BRT buses for access to and from the BU Bridge if that turns out to be Phase 2’s Charles River crossing, considering also how the GJRL easement area in Cambridge might be utilized with the addition of two (2) lanes for these 60-foot articulated buses. Also consider that if the GJRL trestle under the BU Bridge were to serve as Phase 2’s Charles River crossing, how two (2) lanes for these 60-foot articulated BRT buses would be added to the trestle and their impact on the Charles River.
Then cross the BU Bridge, taking care to observe from both sides – but for safety reasons one side at a time – the Charles River. In particular, on the westerly side of the BU Bridge, note with care the GJRL trestle under the BU Bridge as it crosses Storrow Drive in Boston and then turns westerly. If the GJRL trestle is to serve as the Charles River crossing, the added two (2) lanes for Phase 2’s 60-foot articulated buses would extend southerly over Storrow Drive and then easterly via a tunnel under the BU Bridge on the Boston side to the easterly side, surfacing in the area of the BU Academy that would be demolished; in addition, these two (2) bus lanes may have to be expanded westerly towards the rail yards to accommodate Harvard’s proposed Allston campus. Also, while on the BU Bridge, note the traffic and in particular 40-foot buses in traffic and imagine they were Phase 2’s 60-foot articulated BRT buses if the Phase 2 Charles River crossing is to be by means of the BU Bridge.
On the Boston side, take Commonwealth Avenue east, use the pedestrian bridge over Storrow Drive (in back of BU’s Marsh Chapel) to access the walkway on the southern shore of the Charles River to observe the GJRL trestle under the BU Bridge from both sides of the BU Bridge. In particular, from the westerly side of the BU Bridge, consider the addition of the two (2) bus lanes and their route under the BU Bridge via a tunnel, surfacing on the site of the BU Academy as noted above, if the Charles River crossing for Phase 2 is to utilize the GJRL trestle.
Then return to Commonwealth Avenue and head towards the BU Bridge. At University Road, consider traffic issues its closing might entail regarding access to and from Storrow Drive east; BU has proposed such a closing for its plans for the BU Academy site down to the Charles River. Take a close look at the BU Academy site, where a Phase 2 tunnel would surface to accommodate the Charles River crossing via the GJRL trestle under the BU Bridge. Also, take a good look at the southerly side of Commonwealth Avenue which from its sidewalk southerly is in the Town of Brookline, and in particular the Carlton Street bridge over the MA Turnpike Extension. BU has its eyes, long range, on the development of air rights parcels over the Extension from Essex Street (the extension of the BU Bridge to its south) to St. Mary’s Street, bounded on the southerly side by Mountfort Street. (Mountfort Street would serve as a portion of the Phase 2 route between the Charles River crossing and the Longwood Medical/Fenway/Academies area.)
The next step of this Road Trip would be to observe the westerly side of the BU Bridge at Commonwealth Avenue. That’s where the MA Turnpike Extension from the west dips sharply under Commonwealth Avenue to the Extension’s trench easterly of Essex Street. A significant portion of Commonwealth Avenue is itself a bridge at the BU Bridge, the extent of which can be identified by metal expansion joints in the roadway. This bridge is in need of significant infrastructure replacement, a major undertaking. The B Branch of the Green Line on Commonwealth Avenue crosses this bridge, with trolleys required to reduce speed to a crawl because of this bridge’s condition.
Looking northerly from Commonwealth Avenue over the MA Turnpike Extension where it dips, the GJRL over Storrow Drive can be observed. Consider the addition of two (2) bus lanes at this point to the GJRL to accommodate Phase 2’s 60-foot articulated BRT buses that would swing easterly under the BU Bridge by means of a tunnel surfacing on the easterly side in the area of the BU Academy if the GJRL trestle under the BU Bridge serves as Phase 2’s Charles River crossing; in addition, consider two (2) lanes extending westerly in the area of the rail lines to service Harvard’s proposed Allston campus – and how such may tie-into the two (2) lanes in the tunnel under the BU Bridge to the BU Academy area.
But if Phase 2’s Charles River crossing is by means of the BU Bridge (and not the GJRL trestle under the BU Bridge), then Phase 2’s service of Harvard’s proposed Allston campus may require the use of Commonwealth Avenue westerly of the BU Bridge.
While at Commonwealth Avenue, observe traffic patterns in the area to get some idea of traffic issues if the Charles River crossing for Phase 2’s 60-foot articulated BRT buses were to be over the BU Bridge, keeping in mind the recent reduction of the BU Bridge from four (4) to three (3) lanes, as well as the use of Commonwealth Avenue westerly of the BU Bridge to service Harvard’s proposed Allston campus.
While on this Road Trip, keep in mind that a major goal of Phase 2 would be 7-minute trip frequencies to encourage riders to take these 60-foot articulated BRT buses for cross-town transit trips rather than taking a radial line into the hub in downtown Boston and then out to a destination on another radial line. And consider the engineering feats that would have to be addressed if the Charles River crossing is by means of the GJRL trestle under the BU Bridge.
Hopefully this Road Trip might disclose some good ideas or recommendations, addressing issues with the Charles River crossing and encourage a “tripper” to review EOT’s NPC and respond to it with public comments. [Reminder: public comments are due by August 7, 2009.]
By the way, in the course of this Road Trip, don’t forget the plight of the White Geese on the Cambridge side of the Charles River that will only worsen with Phase 2’s Charles River crossing. They deserve better, having provided for many decades joy to children and other nature lovers. Their little bit of space cannot be permitted to be destroyed.
For a spectacular view of the Charles River showing both sides taken easterly of the BU Bridge see:
2. Bob response. Nice work Archie.
The proposal for change talks about a lot of difficulties in the "Southern Tier" proposal including problems with the Grand Junction.
Archie's excellent analysis flags at least one very major possible defect for which I thank him. To the extent more sinks in, I will try to further study.
The one that stands out reenforces a point which he has been making to me for some time with my not fully gronking him.
Archie has repeatedly commented on the difficulties associated with widening the Grand Junction Bridge as is proposed by the state. He has driven that point home very effectively above.
In particular, he reminds me on the MBTA analysis which first demonstrated the engineering feasibility of an off ramp from the Mass. Pike to Cambridge to and from the west only.
The limitations of the approach were underscored by the fact that, all of a sudden a moribund concept to create a Mass. Pike U turn at the Allston Exit became not only active but also implemented. Supposedly, this U turn allows traffic from Back Bay to go to the airport by way of Allston. I understand it is essentially unused for this purpose.
However, that U turn makes the exit to Cambridge by way of the Grand Junction bridge an exit for traffic coming on the Mass. Pike both to and from the west and to and from the east.
The important point, however, is that the bus proposal on the Grand Junction going to University Road and then to Yawkey has to do EXACTLY what the T said could not be done in that location and more so.
The T said it was not feasible to connect the Mass. Pike to and from the east and the Grand Junction bridge. The busway proposal would require ramps even mnore convoluted than that.
Nice work, Archie.