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State commits to replacing decaying Bowker Overpass; new configuration will mean reconnecting the Emerald Necklace with walks, more parkland

State officials announced today they now have the money in hand for what could be a ten-year project to replace the current decrepit hulk of an overpass that connects Storrow Drive and the Fenway over part of the Emerald Necklace with more graceful roads - and new paths and parkland aimed at reconnecting the Emerald Necklace and the Esplanade, which were severed when the overpass went up over Charlesgate in the 1960s.

The first project will focus on replacing the structurally deficient Bowker Overpass over I-90, Ipswich Street, and the MBTA’s Worcester Commuter Rail line. On its current schedule, the project will be advertised in early 2024 and is expected to cost $59 million based on current estimates. The project will take approximately 2.5 years to complete once construction begins.

The second project will consist of the replacement and reconfiguration of the Storrow Drive eastbound bridge over Bowker ramps. Based on current estimates, this project is expected to cost $120 million and will be advertised in early 2027. The project will take approximately 4 years to complete once construction begins. ...

MassDOT and DCR will coordinate to replace and reconfigure the ramp system to better manage traffic patterns and maximize parkland. The projects will also restore usable open space along the Charles River and day light a key segment of the Muddy River, resulting in a number of environmental benefits including improved stormwater management.

Also, the new road alignments will end the current curved can-opener configuration on the exits on the outbound side that produce some of the best storrowings as trucks get caught at an angle, tipped over and peeled back. The proposed new Kenmore/Fenway exits would have truck drivers finish their curves before heading under the inbound side of the road, so while they might still have their roofs peeled back, their vehicles would no longer be left hanging at an angle.

More details on the proposal, including a series of before-and-after sliders of what the new Charlesgate will look like.

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Comments

The link to the Northeastern article is a worthwhile read. It will once again become possible to traverse the entire Emerald Necklace, and Charles Gate will be a real jewel once this project is complete.

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For what this is, which is retaining the car-centeric highway ramps on and off of Storrow Drive, this is an excellent project. The Adams's design, by pulling the roadway back from the river and opening up the Muddy, will be transformative for the pathway users there, and provide much better connections on and off of the river trail system there. The project will be a game-changer and dramatically improve the area …

… with the caveat that a much more transformative project would be to have decided that the 1950s- and 1960s-era CARS FIRST infrastructure which chokes light from the river and neighborhood is not appropriate for a 21st Century city and that the overpass should have been taken down years ago. Now we are baking in decades more car-centric planning for some of the most walk-, bike- and transit-able areas of the City, all because certain local politicians (some of whom may or may not be from Belmont) prioritize people driving cars in the city over everybody else.

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This looks good, although even with the sliders I don't 100% get how it will look. (It won't be falling down, so that in itself is a vast improvement.)

As one of the limited places to cross the pike - be it in a car, bike or on foot - the Bowker will always be necessary.

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It is not all about the Back Bay / Fenway / Brookline / Kenmore.

The regional highway system, of which this is part of is part of a big, big network, but you already knew that.

Not everyone wants to take the Green Line to Fenway, or to get their cancer treatment.

Please don't forget that.

A lot of you within the Davis Square to Forest Hills corridor seem to not realize that there is more than just you out there.

If you disagree, I have no problem making any car registered in the UHub area onto local roads for all trips.

Going to the Cape? Have fun taking Route 28 from JP to Bourne. Stay off Route 3 since you don't like highways. Route 28 moves in Brockton onto a street you wouldn't expect and then gets mixed in with Route 18 later.

Going to visit Mom and Dad in Cheshire. Have fun on Route 20 to Route 12. Stay off the Pike.

I love when people complain about car culture and the the effect of light on a neighborhood, a neighborhood that is on filled wetlands and completely artificial to begin with and crosses a stream of water that is a manmade sewage conduit.

The hypocrisy is golden.

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26

Where to start?

The regional highway system

Believe it or not, these are not highways at all. They are pleasure roadways managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Just because they are used for commuting doesn't mean that they need to remain that way in perpetuity for as many vehicles as use them today!

Not everyone wants to take the Green Line to Fenway, or to get their cancer treatment.

Not everyone has to. People can walk, bike, take Commuter Rail or take the bus. Or drive! Closing Bowker would not keep people from driving. It might make it slightly less convenient to drive (horrors!) but we're not pedestrianizing the entire LMA. And people with cancer can choose those modes as well; although some may have a medical reason to need to drive, the vast majority of people using the Bowker are not cancer patients. (The "but cancer patients!" canard is particularly tiresome. Why even have traffic lights if it might slow down a cancer patient on their way to an appointment? Sure, people might die in car crashes, but cancer patients can't be slowed. Come on.)

A lot of you within the Davis Square to Forest Hills corridor seem to not realize that there is more than just you out there.

It's funny, because a lot of people from the Burbs don't seem to understand that the city they drive through or into was not exactly designed for them to drive into at their utmost convenience.

Going to the Cape? Have fun taking Route 28 from JP to Bourne. Stay off Route 3 since you don't like highways. Route 28 moves in Brockton onto a street you wouldn't expect and then gets mixed in with Route 18 later.

Going to visit Mom and Dad in Cheshire. Have fun on Route 20 to Route 12. Stay off the Pike.

None of these roads are Storrow Drive! In fact, none of them are DCR roadways. Highways are perfectly fine, especially outside cities. Would I be okay, living in Boston, with a slightly slower trip out to 128 to pick up the Pike to go out to the Berkshires? Sure! If you read my post, I did not say "ban all highways" but rather "you know maybe we shouldn't have roads going through parks along the river in the middle of the city."

I love when people complain about car culture and the the effect of light on a neighborhood, a neighborhood that is on filled wetlands and completely artificial to begin with and crosses a stream of water that is a manmade sewage conduit.

Let's just say there's a bit of false equivalence here. Do you know how many cars there were when that neighborhood was built? Zero. You'd be amazed to learn that the legislature had to change laws to allow the road to be built in the first place, and that under current regulations it would never pass muster. Did I argue that no change should ever be made to any natural object? Nope, just that roads built in parks should, you know, maybe be thought about critically rather than the convenience of the suburban motorist being put above all else.

The hypocrisy is golden.

Just come out and say it: "I support highways instead of parks."

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Storrow is a highway.

Don't fall back on that "For Recreational Vehicles Only" argument. It makes you sound like Henry Lee Higginson complaining about cars going over 10 mph.

I used to have a lot of respect for your opinions but people trying to make a small town village out of the Back Bay can jump in that part of the Muddy filled with scum by Ipswich Street.

I support highways AND sensible parks, not making 1,200 square feet of grass on Newbury Street into some kind of Eden In Your Own Mind.

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Are you only supporting sensible parks but not sensible highways?

Also I'll give that I see some conflicting mentions of Storrow as a highway or parkway, most referencing it as a parkway but nothing definitive in terms of a debate.

https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2021/08/19/boston-storrowing-what...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storrow_Drive

https://www.wbur.org/news/2009/07/17/esplanade-future

Do you have anything that might shed light on this?

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Of course.

Because why have anything if you can't terrorize it with a couple tons of motorized exophallus?

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A lot of your references lately have been about penises.

Are you ok?

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After all, I'm not the one who is constantly equating the use of a motorized transport with manhood.

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Fabulous take down Ari, addressed all of John's points and called out his usual BS.

Cheers!

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I see your simple mind gets off on a half arse rebuttal.

Have a cookie and smile.

Can't even comprehend that Robert Moses died long ago.

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Where to start?

The regional highway system

Believe it or not, these are not highways at all. They are pleasure roadways managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Just because they are used for commuting doesn't mean that they need to remain that way in perpetuity for as many vehicles as use them today!

Not everyone wants to take the Green Line to Fenway, or to get their cancer treatment.

Not everyone has to. People can walk, bike, take Commuter Rail or take the bus. Or drive! Closing Bowker would not keep people from driving. It might make it slightly less convenient to drive (horrors!) but we're not pedestrianizing the entire LMA. And people with cancer can choose those modes as well; although some may have a medical reason to need to drive, the vast majority of people using the Bowker are not cancer patients. (The "but cancer patients!" canard is particularly tiresome. Why even have traffic lights if it might slow down a cancer patient on their way to an appointment? Sure, people might die in car crashes, but cancer patients can't be slowed. Come on.)

A lot of you within the Davis Square to Forest Hills corridor seem to not realize that there is more than just you out there.

It's funny, because a lot of people from the 'burbs don't seem to understand that the city they drive through or into was not exactly designed for them to drive into at their utmost convenience.

Going to the Cape? Have fun taking Route 28 from JP to Bourne. Stay off Route 3 since you don't like highways. Route 28 moves in Brockton onto a street you wouldn't expect and then gets mixed in with Route 18 later.

Going to visit Mom and Dad in Cheshire. Have fun on Route 20 to Route 12. Stay off the Pike.

None of these roads are Storrow Drive! In fact, none of them are DCR roadways. Highways are perfectly fine, especially outside cities. Would I be okay, living in Boston, with a slightly slower trip out to 128 to pick up the Pike to go out to the Berkshires? Sure! If you read my post, I did not say "ban all highways" but rather "you know maybe we shouldn't have roads going through parks along the river in the middle of the city." And guess what: when I am driving in the city in traffic, which sometimes I have to do, because, you know, I can't easily take the train to New Hampshire, I sit in the traffic and don't mind it too much because it's the price I pay for not having the entire city paved over. (Now, if only we had better options for people so they didn't all feel like driving was the best option, but I don't expect you to come and advocate for investing billions in our regional transit system.)

I love when people complain about car culture and the the effect of light on a neighborhood, a neighborhood that is on filled wetlands and completely artificial to begin with and crosses a stream of water that is a manmade sewage conduit.

Let's just say there's a bit of false equivalence here. Do you know how many cars there were when that neighborhood was built? Zero. You'd be amazed to learn that the legislature had to change laws to allow the road to be built in the first place, and that under current regulations it would never pass muster. Did I argue that no change should ever be made to any natural object? Nope, just that roads built in parks should, you know, maybe be thought about critically rather than the convenience of the suburban motorist being put above all else.

The hypocrisy is golden.

Just come out and say it: "I support highways instead of parks."

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I get around the city mostly by bike, and for many years had a daily commute that went under the Bowker overpass. I'm happy to have those cars go up there and out of my way, instead of having to deal with them at intersections. I'm fine with keeping the overpass there.

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The cars up above don't seem to make a difference in the number of intersections to navigate to each side, as there are on and off-ramps involved.

I passed it in the late 80s and again in the early 00s and during the pandemic and it was always a mess of people taking turns without looking, blowing through lights, and generally not bothering to notice numerous cyclists and pedestrians and other motorists moving along Beacon St. and Bay State Road. The more recent traffic calming has helped some.

But there’s still going to be a huge concrete and steel overpass separating back bay and Fenway, no? Or will those on ramps be at street level now?

Moving Storrow inland of what?

The entire Back Bay used to be a, well, bay? It is in the name.

Do you mean away from the river? Well, move it 500 meters and there's already a high speed road there. It is called Interstate 90 aka The Massachusetts Turnpike.

Time to sunset a roadway "for pleasure vehicles" that never should have been built before flooding takes it down, and reorient the motorized cage scene around some additional pike exits.

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definitely affect the number of dead bodies found floating in that area. The more open the better.