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Group aims to clean up what's left of park destroyed by overpass to failed highway at Charlesgate

The Boston Sun reports on the nascent Charlesgate Alliance, which aims to restore what grandeur it can to Charlesgate, once a tree-lined pond where the Muddy River entered the Charles but now a dumping ground where homeless people drown.

In addition to cleaning up the Muddy River and its banks, the group is also trying to foster a unique neighborhood identity for the Back Bay and Fenway residences on either side of the river and the overpass.

Much of Charlesgate, part of the Emerald Necklace, was put into permanent shadows in the 1960s when the state built the Bowker Overpass to connect Storrow Drive with the Fenway. More recently, the state decided to repair the hulking span, rather than tear it down and restore Olmsted's original design for the park.

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It would be nice to restore the park and eliminate the overpass but it's a pretty crucial artery for those of us who live in the southern reaches when we want to go north of the city. I'm skeptical that a street level solution would be feasible, especially considering Fenway traffic during the season. It certainly is a sub-optimal situation aesthetically right now.

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The Bowker is not pretty, but unless someone wants to pay for a tunnel to replace it, it is totally essential.

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would make the problems with leaks in the Big Dig tunnels seem insignificant by comparison.

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It is completely inessential. Proper surface roads would do the job just fine. How are we still having these type of arguments after the Casey and Big Dig projects?

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"Completely inessential"...are you nuts?

First of all, a bridge is needed to go over the Mass Pike. The only nearby bridges are Brookline Ave & Mass Ave and there is NO way they could handle the traffic. Secondly, whether we agree with it or not, Fenway neighborhood has just exponentially in the past few years and that's their lifeline to Storrow Drive & I-93.

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  1. Demolish the part of the overpass between the Masspike and Storrow Drive, so we're left with a bridge connecting Boylston and Comm Ave over the Pike.
  2. Add new on-ramps from that bridge to I-90 E and from I-90 W.
  3. (optional) Change Storrow Drive into a boulevard instead of a highway that blocks access to the river

Now people can cross the Pike and access I-93 without a dilapidated highway overpass trashing up the park and blighting the Back Bay/Kenmore area.

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That's a nice idea, but it wouldn't work. First of all, all on/off ramps from interstates need some serious room (which would probably be a net negative) and driving more people through I-90/I-93 may not be the solution. That bridge is the artery for the Fenway neighborhood

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in exchange for getting our parkland back. For the least impact on surrounding property, the ramps should go to and from the left lanes of each direction of the Pike, meeting the remaining bridge structure at a simple four-way stop intersection.

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Unfortunately that's not how it works. New construction must meet current safety standards.

If MassDOT followed your advice and built substandard ramps, and then someone crashed on them, guess who's liable?

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Just plain nope.

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You are out of your mind if you think that surface roads can handle 30,000 people coming out of Longwood every day trying to get onto Starrow Drive, particularly if it occurs, as sometimes happens, at exactly the same time Fenway park lets out.

The overpasses is ugly. Unremittingly ugly. But it's essential to preserving the quality of life for people in the neighborhood, who already endure hours of honking every single day by frustrated people trying to get through the traffic to get home.

The people pushing hard for the removal of the overpass are largely comprised of people who are looking to increase their property values, and by people who unrealistically believe we shouldn't have any cars in the city

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Where have we had this discussion before about razing overpasses...let me think. Oh yeah the Arborway/Casey overpass that is no more. How's that project going now? what is it now? 1.5-2 years behind original completion date? People driving through there yesterday afternoon probably have a different idea about the usefulness of an overpass.

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You are out of your mind if you think that surface roads can handle 30,000 people coming out of Longwood every day trying to get onto Starrow Drive, particularly if it occurs, as sometimes happens, at exactly the same time Fenway park lets out.

The overpasses is ugly. Unremittingly ugly. But it's essential to preserving the quality of life for people in the neighborhood, who already endure hours of honking every single day by frustrated people trying to get through the traffic to get home.

The people pushing hard for the removal of the overpass are largely comprised of people who are looking to increase their property values, and by people who unrealistically believe we shouldn't have any cars in the city

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But residents here should be elevated over cars and car commuters outside the city.

Forcing people onto the existing highways and converting Storrow from BU in into a surface road should be Boston's next project.

The sale of the rail yard there and ready plans to straighten the like and improve the LA ramps should include an interchange with Storrow there for the majority of traffic. Access to the BU bride would be the last funnel before it becomes local only into a normal network.

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Why is it that the automobile needs of those of you who live in the "southern reaches when [you] want to go north" are more important than the needs of those who live in the Kenmore Square -to - Mass Ave area to have access to parks?

100% of the "park space" between Charlesgate E and Charlesgate W is functionally inaccessible due to roads. SAme goes for the vast, vast majority of park space north of Beacon, east of Charlesgate W, and west of Mass Ave.

The Esplanade is a median for highways, when it could (should!) be a park that allows for active use by neighbors.

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this is an existing piece of infrastructure. As such, the needs of all people impacted by a change should be considered. If it was a parkland and I was saying we need to install an overpass, your reasoning would be 100% on point, but it's not true in reverse. If I were to move to Savin Hill, can I suddenly demand that I-93 be removed because it's loud and polluting to my neighborhood? There's a hint of elitism that pops up around the demands of those who can live in the core of the city that the city should exist for their personal optimal experience.

As for access to parks, again, this is super ugly but the entirety of the Fenway from the community gardens to the fields by the MFA are right there as is the entire Esplanade and the Comm Ave Mall. That argument doesn't hold up at all for me.

I understand the argument that the bridge be brought to ground level at Comm Ave. but I'd guess the traffic flow here is a factor above what Forrest Hills handles at peak hours and don't know if it would work as well (assuming end product at Forrest Hills is as good as hoped).

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It WAS parkland that was ruined by adding car-serving infrastructure. And the Esplanade WAS a park without a freeway, and the Storrow family was devastated by the wholesale disregard for their wishes not to have a road installed into the park. Neither Storrow drive nor the Bowker overpass should ever have been built.

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Kinda like how Allston-Brighton had the A-Line taken away, only to be replaced with a bus? Any talk of bringing it back usually is met with cries of the parking spaces and car lanes that would be taken away, ignoring that those only came from removing the A-Line corridor.

Personally, I'd love to see Storrow Drive returned to pedestrian parkland and an extension of the Green Line that serves the parts of Lower Allston that have no access to Light Rail. The Pike is there for people going East/West, no need for TWO massive roads going in the same direction right? And we'd have a good excuse to get rid of this overpass!

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What's the option for people who live in Fenway, JP, Rosi, Brookline to get onto the Pike to get to I-93 north? Are you just shunting all that traffic through Roxbury instead of Fenway to get on via Melnea Case? Or out onto 128?

I mean, by all means, let's improve public transit, bike lanes all that. Some times people who live in 'southern Boston' want to go say NH or ME or Cape Ann. We don't need to prioritize the needs of those residents but neither should we simply pretend the demand for car thoroughfares don't exist.

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Arborway/Morton/Gallivan

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The Pike is there for people going East/West, no need for TWO massive roads going in the same direction right?

God forbid we should have redundancy anywhere.

After all, there's never such a thing as a major accident that completely snarls up one highway or maintenance that requires closing some lanes, right?

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"The Esplanade is a median for highways ..."
That's describes it very well. The noise and exhaust fumes just don't belong in a riverside side park and bike path.

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Once the Bowker goes over the Pike should be completely removed north of the and then at grade with Comm Ave and Beacon. Same with Storrow Dr - create a roundabout there or even a signal. Then 20 years later, just remove the whole connection to Storrow Dr. Everyone will be on E-bikes by then...

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The bridge over the Mass Pike is essential (and was part of Olmsted's original plan, back when the Pike right-of-way was just a railroad), but there's no need for the rest of the overpass, above Comm. Ave. and Beacon Street. That traffic can go on existing Charlesgate East and West.

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Only before the Bowker, it was a curving, stone-faced overpass that then didn't go over the parkland.

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Underground creek from the other side of Boston Charles River through Cambridgeport to and under the Fire House area in Cambridge Central/Lafayette Square... True? False?

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It would be cool to see a map of where the natural waterways of Boston used to run.

For example, the stream that runs through the Arboretum which then disappears into the netherworld somewhere around Forrest Hills. Where did that used to flow and where did it empty- Charles, Neponset, or?

Did the Jamaica pond ever connect above ground to the Olmstead pond below?

Why are they apparently fixing the Mother Brook entry by RT1? It's a man made cut-through to serve a mill which doesn't exist...

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the stream that runs through the Arboretum which then disappears into the netherworld somewhere around Forrest Hills.

Yeah, I have wondered that myself. Even on the Google map it just ends between South and Washington street. The stream has a pretty good flow this time of year, it must go into a pipe or something...but where to then?

Why are they apparently fixing the Mother Brook entry by RT1?

I was under the impression they were just fixing the bridges over the brook, not so much "fixing" the brook itself.

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That brook to nowhere in the Arboretum runs, I think, into what used to be Stony Brook, which used to connect to the Muddy River at the Back Bay Fens, which then emptied into the Charles at, ta da, Charlesgate.

The major focus of the Rte. 1 work is probably to repair the bridge, not do anything about the Mother Brook, but the brook still serves a purpose, even though the mills it once fed are long gone (except for one complex in Dedham that got converted to condos or apartments): It keeps the Neponset flowing and can be used to divert some water from the Charles after it rains a lot.

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Makes sense that it would run basically along the Orange Line past Mission Hill then cut over to the MFA. That's pretty flat over there.

I'm not opposed to keeping the Mother Brook open but does seems like just filling the channel with dirt at Rt 1 and then paving over it would be cheaper.

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Fill in Mother Brook? Seriously? You do know it is first man made canal in the U.S.? Never mind it is one of the more scenic areas of East Dedham used by many (i.e. fishing) for recreation. Get a clue, Dude.

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What I see is a ditch running behind the IHOP which was created for a function which no longer exists. I was only asking about the input where roadwork is being done there, not that somehow we're going to fill in the whole works down into Hyde Park

Is the entire flow along River Street fed by the Charles? I though that was an existing branch of the Neponset which the Mother Brook only augmented.

Anyways, all friendly internet commenting here, no need to get mean about it.

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Very few people ever go near Mother Brook with a fishing rod. A few at Bussey st, but that's about it. More recreation comes from feeding the ducks behind the East Dedham plaza.

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1. Sawmill brook, Arboretum: http://stonybrookinboston.blogspot.com/2008/04/over-hills-and-roslin-dal...
2. Jamaica Pond to Ward's Pond: http://rememberjamaicaplain.blogspot.com/2008/07/jamaica-pond-goes-to-co...
3. Mother Brook serves as flood control for the Charles. And it has run for over 300 years, so just shutting it down would affect the environment from the Charles to the Neponset. And after all, first canal and mills in the future USA, etc.

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I just learned a ton!

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One of the best colonial maps of the Boston area is the Pelham map. A better example can be found in the collection of Mt Vernon. The map shows Boston and its waterways before all the landmaking happened.

Two books to look at are Gaining Ground by Nacy Seasholes and Frederick Olmstead and the Boston Public Park System by Cynthia Zaitzevsky. Both discuss the evolving nature of Boston's shoreline and the waterways within.

The stream that seems to disappear near Forest Hills is most likely Stony Brook. It enters a culvert there and travels through the culvert to the gatehouse in the center of the Bowker Overpass. From there, it empties into the Charles River.

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That area looks like it could be a cool place if it's fixed-up and maintained. Wishing them the best of luck.

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There are 3 or 4 other bridges within a mile of this overpass... I think this one could be razed to bring glory back to the area.

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Don't get me wrong, it's good it was never built, but it wasn't supposed to come close to where the Bowker was built. It was to cross the tracks and Turnpike at the BU Bridge.

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The Bowker Overpass had nothing to do with the Inner Belt, which would have crossed the river at the BU Bridge, interchanged with the Turnpike, then followed Park Dr and the Fenway south toward Ruggles.

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I got that bit from the Sun story (which doesn't specifically mention I-695, but which talks about construction of a highway from Providence to Boston, which could only be the I-95 extension and the Inner Belt), but, yeah, other sources say it was more mundane - just to connect Storrow to the Fenway, in an era when the MDC thought roads were more important than parks.

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Ah yes, the Bad Old Days when state bureaucrats thought cars were more important than parks! Glad those days are over!!!

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I checked the Sun's story, which didn't add up.

Of course, severing the link from Boylston Street to Storrow altogether (unless there is some plan we don't see) doesn't add up either, but that's a different story.

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No one is advocating taking it away. It's the continuation of the highway over Comm Ave and Beacon that people don't like.

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Surface streets can handle all the traffic that the overpass does. Check out the video and presentation here:

2015 / 06 / 15. Restoring Charlesgate Park: A Surface Alternative for the Bowker Overpass.
http://www.northeastern.edu/peter.furth/presentations/

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