Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Brookline and Cambridge in the Same Boat Concerning the BU Bridge Area.

1. DOT’s Transparency Failure.
2. Summary / background.

1. DOT's Transparency Failures

From Archie Mazmanian:



What happens on the Cambridge side of the BU Bridge impacts the Boston/Brookline side, and vice versa. We had the inconvenience of several years of "fixing" the BU Bridge by reducing the vehicle travel lanes from 4 to 3 to accommodate bicyclists. Yes, the BU Bridge needed fixing. But it was recognized that so might the infrastructure on both sides, including the Cambridge rotary under the Memorial Drive overpass. I don't know if the MA Department of Transportation (DOT) is addressing the issue of the function of this rotary as an efficient means of traffic control in the 21st century while DOT addresses fixing the overpass. I noticed yesterday the impact on the Boston/Brookline side of the BU Bridge with heavy commuter traffic requiring multiple police details, presumably the impact of the situation on the Cambridge side of the BU Bridge.
This brings me to infrastructure issues on the Boston/Brookline side of the BU Bridge that I described in my following submission to the Brookline TAB months ago that its editor declined to publish:


By Archie Mazmanian

Work on the repair and renovation of the BU Bridge has finally been substantially completed following several years of inconvenience for Brookline and other area commuters on both sides of the Charles River.

Alas, fairly soon these same commuters will have to deal with the replacement of the bridge/deck portion of Commonwealth Avenue over the MA Turnpike Extension in the area of the BU Bridge extending from westerly of the BU Bridge in Boston to the westerly side of the Carlton Street at Commonwealth Avenue in Brookline. A small segment of the bridge/deck includes Essex Street in Brookline.
I have heard that replacement of the bridge/deck is imminent as it is in bad condition. The MA Transportation Department has the responsibility for replacement of the bridge/deck, as well as responsibility for the complex traffic system that is part of the Commonwealth Avenue/BU Bridge area that includes, in Brookline, Essex and Mountfort Streets, the Carlton Street Bridge over the Extension, as well as the short University Road in Boston that serves as an exit from and entrance to Storrow Drive East.

I understand that the MA Transportation Department has had discussions with Boston, Brookline and Cambridge officials regarding possible redesign of this complex traffic system to provide traffic improvements, including pedestrian safety, for the Commonwealth Avenue/BU Bridge area. It is not clear that the MA Transportation Department has the funding for such redesign. But it would seem appropriate to include such redesign of this complex traffic system at the same time that the bridge/deck replacement takes place. Since the Town of Brookline and its residents would be impacted by such redesign, both the Brookline Board of Selectmen and Transportation Board should hold public hearings for concerns of residents. [Note: Such redesign may include replacement of the Carlton Street Bridge, which would not be a major project.]

With regard to the timetable for replacement of the bridge/deck, I understand that the MA Transportation Department has indicated that such may be accomplished with minimal inconvenience over several weekends similar to several small bridge replacement methods successfully employed north of Boston. Hopefully this can be accomplished without the years of inconvenience with the BU Bridge project.

Replacing the bridge/deck is a major project that has to address traffic flow along Commonwealth Avenue, including for the MBTA?s B Green Line, the BU Bridge and the complex traffic system described above. At the same time, it has to address traffic flow, including trains, along the MA Turnpike Extension below.

Hopefully Brookline’s Board of Selectmen and Transportation Board will provide timely public hearing forums to address the bridge/deck project?s issues. This is not a bridge to nowhere.


With respect to the Memorial Drive overpass, it seems from your posts that the closing was a surprise. Apparently DOT does not keep communities apprised of projects that might impact their neighborhoods. My purpose with my submission to the Brookline TAB was to bring attention to the issues described therein so that the communities on the Boston/Brookline side would have the opportunity to learn of what DOT may be planning and how it may impact their neighborhoods. Perhaps DOT's next surprise will be the anticipated project on the Boston/Brookline side of the BU Bridge. If so, what happens on the Boston/Brookline side of the BU Bridge will impact the Cambridge side. SURPRISE, SURPRISE!

The issues are regional, as the BU Bridge serves many commuters from many communities. DOT should be more transparent with its projects. The "weakly" DOT newsletter fails in this regard.

Archie Mazmanian

2. Summary / background.

From your editor:

I provided an extended analysis on the closing of Memorial Drive’s Reid Overpass at http://charlesriverwhitegeeseblog.blogspot.com/2013/04/memorial-drive-closing-in-response-to.html.

The municipal geography on the southern end of the BU Bridge is the sort of thing that, I should hope, can only happen in Massachusetts.

When you leave the BU Bridge, you are in the Allston neighborhood of Boston.

Unless you are turning right, you have a choice between going onto a traffic circle and maneuvering left or going straight ahead.

If you go straight ahead, you are, for all practical purposes, in Brookline.

To the right of the traffic circle is a large former car dealership now owned by Boston University.

Across the street behind the car dealership is Brookline. Archie Mazmanian, the author of the principal part of this report, lives in Brookline on the second street behind the car dealership.

Although Archie lives in the second community to the south, his distance from the BU Bridge is pretty close to identical to the distance of the nearest Cambridge residents from the Reid Overpass / Memorial Drive.

An additional confusion comes from a regional government controlled by the Department of Conservation and Recreation which has had responsibility for the area and which seems to be in the background exercising too much power. Note that I went to the governor with my complaints. I consider the DCR’s regional government beneath consideration. I think the entire mess should be fired for destructiveness and incompetence. Cambridge fits in hand and glove with the DCR’s very bad regional government.