Air Rights (writ-large) Thread

bigeman312

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Is anything planned for the block between Surface, Lincoln, South Station Connector and Kneeland in Chinatown?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Is anything planned for the block between Surface, Lincoln, South Station Connector and Kneeland in Chinatown?
Not that I'm aware of, but that's a hard parcel to try and deck over because Lincoln and Surface are on inclines and the 93 portal retaining walls are at different levels from each other: http://goo.gl/maps/VLFtX. Not a bad candidate for a small park or adding another tennis court or complementary basketball court to the tennis court on the other side of Lincoln, but that parcel screams "not worth the effort" for going tall with the slant and how difficult the retaining wall cover-over is.

Hudson St. can get the entire Kneeland-SS Connector block filled in, though. That's got a nice amount of open space to put a bunch of medium-size buildings on.
 

George_Apley

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Would the CR need to be dropped down at all for decking? I'd assume it would be decked at least to Beacon Street if not to Wilson Sq.

Also, if the GL was brought to Porter, it would need to duck under the CR right? Make Porter three-level. I assume then if it was ever continued to Watertown/Waltham, it would emerge somewhere after the Walden Street bridge.

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Aside from Porter, the parcels along the NEC and the Orange Line stations are screaming for TOD, air-rights or not.
 

novitiate

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Inspired by the Deck the Pike Extension thread, for other ugly gashes around town that need to be covered and clothed. . .

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Exhibit A: http://goo.gl/maps/jCzLq
As long as even Porter Sq. itself is a sea of parking spaces, I don't really expect this land to be worth developing on... I guess maybe if the deck was built as part of a Union-Porter extension of GLX?
 

George_Apley

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As long as even Porter Sq. itself is a sea of parking spaces, I don't really expect this land to be worth developing on... I guess maybe if the deck was built as part of a Union-Porter extension of GLX?
Most of that land is part of Lesley's IMP. I think that the only way that RoW will be decked is as part of just the sort of extension you describe.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Would the CR need to be dropped down at all for decking? I'd assume it would be decked at least to Beacon Street if not to Wilson Sq.

Also, if the GL was brought to Porter, it would need to duck under the CR right? Make Porter three-level. I assume then if it was ever continued to Watertown/Waltham, it would emerge somewhere after the Walden Street bridge.

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Aside from Porter, the parcels along the NEC and the Orange Line stations are screaming for TOD, air-rights or not.
Cambridge and Somerville have wasted no time studying this and holding community meetings:
http://www.somervillema.gov/sites/default/files/TRA-MBTA-AirRights06-13-2011.pdf
http://www.somervillema.gov/departments/ospcd/planning-and-zoning/porter-square,
http://www.utiledesign.com/projects/porter-square-air-rights/.

Note on the architectural firm's analysis they proposed setting the first floors of any buildings a few feet above street level to ensure proper clearances if the trackbed can't be dropped. They're intent on doin' this thing when they can get a state commitment for it. And of course GLX to Porter is an official long-term advocacy for STEP. So I wouldn't be surprised if they pitch a combined build as the quickest and most bang-for-buck way of getting this done.


As for how and where...the retaining wall disappears at the end of the car wash property and the Fitchburg Line returns back to ground level. So Wilson Sq. and the Elm intersection is the furthest possible extent of the decking. With the Beacon overpass the 'safe' fallback if Wilson's too big a reach. The Fitchburg trackbed was already undercut in this area once in the early 1980's. Freights used to have to divert at Alewife over the Freight Cutoff line that ran on what's now the Community Path because the Fitchburg bridges starting at Mass Ave. were way too low to clear the top of a freight train. When the Freight Cutoff went away during Red Line construction they raised bridges and did a lot of trackbed undercutting to get proper clearances the rest of the way inbound. You can see an earthen embankment appear on the retaining wall at the far edge of the Porter platform down to the Beacon St. bridge where the trackbed was dropped a good 4 feet: http://goo.gl/maps/VFrwM. Another embankment appears approaching the Dane St. overpass. All of this was done one track at a time without any disruption to service, so there are no underground obstructions or utilities to relocate. Plus solid bedrock in this part of town and a Red Line that's more than 100 ft. below ground.

I think at most another 3-4 feet ought to do it for getting level clearances, and it wouldn't be everywhere because the prior undercutting left the canyon at variable depth with deeper cut clustering around the bridges. Porter station wouldn't need anything until you get past the old Somerville Ave. staircase. More from the edge of the platform (which one would assume would be torn up and redone as a full-high) to the Beacon overpass approach. Nothing in immediate vicinity of Beacon. A little more towards Wilson Sq. Not hard to do.

As for a GLX extension punching through the Prospect St. overpass's retaining wall...other than disruption to the Union Sq. substation the Fitchburg's full 4-track width here until Beacon St., so it's matter of shifting tracks over like they're doing for the existing Union extension. Maybe widening the Washington St. overpass, but Prospect and Dane are wide enough. On the Porter approach the easiest way to do it is slip into the air rights portal at Wilson Sq., then incline down on the Beacon approach before the ROW width starts getting cannibalized by the Porter platform. And then dip under the Fitchburg tracks into Porter ultra-shallow such that the GL tunnel roof is the literal Fitchburg trackbed with nothing more than ballast on top of the concrete roof. Then interface with the Porter lobby as stairs/ramp up to the CR level, stairs/ramp down to the GL level. Since it's shallow up and down would be about the same number of stairs. And then put tail tracks ending under the Mass Ave. overpass so the tunnel wall allows further extension.


Easiest to do as a combined build with the air rights because you can get the retaining wall, the trackbed undercutting, and the shallow tunnel + tunnel roof as new trackbed over with all in one fell swoop. Wouldn't be too expensive for all the combined economic benefits they'd get out of it.


Any which way they need to do something about that canyon dividing Somerville from Cambridge, and the Lesley campus from Somerville. I don't even care if there's no buildings on top of it. A linear park and bike path down to Beacon and Wilson Sq. connecting with the Alewife/Minuteman/Fresh Pond path network west of Mass Ave. along the Fitchburg ROW, a bus turnout on Somerville Ave. so the curbside pickup doesn't squeeze the traffic lanes, a Somerville Ave. egress from the parking lot of the Lesley/ex-Sears building and shops. Maybe a playground. Any of that would heal the scar and provide huge accessibility and economic boost to that corridor.
 
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FitchburgLine

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Does anyone *cough*F-Line*cough* know if raising the Porter Commuter Rail platforms is possible or remotely feasible, with or without decking? IMO, even on semi-express trains, there are big dwell times as people climb into the train.
 

Scalziand

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That might be a safety issue, what with how narrow the platform gets. I'd be pretty confident though, in saying that if the GLX ever makes it to Porter, they'l fix the CR platform as part of the project.
 

Shepard

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What's the history behind the Shaws and the Crowne Plaza in Newton? Of all random places, how and why did air rights developments happen there? Any lessons for today?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Does anyone *cough*F-Line*cough* know if raising the Porter Commuter Rail platforms is possible or remotely feasible, with or without decking? IMO, even on semi-express trains, there are big dwell times as people climb into the train.
It's on a slight curve when it ducks under the station canopy so there's some complications. Borderline case on whether the geometry would work on a full-high without too much of a platform gap. Most likely they wouldn't mess with it, just railing-off a dozen or two feet of platform at the northern tip into an extended egress, and extend the straight south end of the platform equivalently to make up for the lost length.

The platform narrowing is no problem. That only exists as an artifact of the station's reconstruction when they had to keep a temp platform in-service for the construction duration. See here: http://goo.gl/maps/zvJWs. Derelict stairs and temp platform area still readily visible. They can very very easily spread the tracks closer to the retaining wall--on both sides--and buy a regulation-width island as far down Somerville Ave. as it needs to go.


No urgency to do it, though, as long as Belmont Ctr., Waverley, Lincoln, Concord, Ayer, and Shirley are still non-ADA and the shitty Weston trio still need to be replaced by a new consolidated 128 stop. Fitchburg Line is second-only to Worcester at appalling lag in accessibility. And since a number of those non-compliant stations are attached to historic buildings or in a deep cut like Waverley they are more expensive and more involved to fix than your normal prefab slab-o'-platform. No way can they or should they mess with Porter until they settled up all the laggards outbound. It's the law.

My guess is it's GLX + air rights talk pushed hard by Somerville and Cambridge before any changes come to Porter CR. And tactically that's kind of what they want: all those efforts to converge into one single large project with the game-changing juice to get approved. Small bits are too easy to ignore; they'll take a home run swing after GLX is in the closing stages. It's politically better for STEP to start reaping benefits at Union when pressing its case for Porter, and politically better for them to have scored a win on the McGrath teardown so they can approach Porter and healing the Somerville Ave. gash while on a formidable winning streak.
 

FitchburgLine

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Concord has abuttments galore, so I'm guessing that station isn't fixed for decades. I can't speak for any others, but there really appears to be no good way to ADA the outbound Concord low level.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Concord has abuttments galore, so I'm guessing that station isn't fixed for decades. I can't speak for any others, but there really appears to be no good way to ADA the outbound Concord low level.
It's been done many places. There are historic structures all around the northeast that got modded for high platforms. It's just delicate, not cheap to do, and aggravating as hell with the towns running interference left and right about messing with their precious "town character". But watch what Amtrak and CTDOT are going to be doing on the Springfield Line retrofitting historic Berlin station for full-highs next year. That'll be instructive on how to handle a difficult retrofit.

Ultimately, though, they don't have a choice. Concord's the third-busiest station on the line after SA and Brandeis, and after new SA goes live it'll be the 7th busiest non-accessible stop on the entire commuter rail. Several of the ones ahead of it on the list are full of equally complex accessibility jobs: Winchester Ctr. (on a viaduct with grafted-on stairs), Walpole (historic building), Natick (in a deep cut), Franklin (cut + historic building). It's not optional. They won't get granted an exemption for such busy stops when other much more complex cases have been successfully accessibility-modded, or when there's always the option to just move it a block away or on the other side of the grade crossing to do a far less quaint fully accessible prefab platform. They will have to pony up the bucks sooner or later and just do it.
 

FitchburgLine

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I was under the impression only new or "key" stations needed up be ADAed, and I didn't believe Concord was one of them. Is the MBTA required to upgrade Concord within any sort of timeframe, or would it depend on a lawsuit?
 

BostonUrbEx

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I was under the impression only new or "key" stations needed up be ADAed, and I didn't believe Concord was one of them. Is the MBTA required to upgrade Concord within any sort of timeframe, or would it depend on a lawsuit?
I think ADA compliance has varying levels of necessity to comply. It seems that grandfathering in a station is never a permanent solution to dodging ADA. Ridership and other accessibility factors seem to impact the timeframe on which stations must be upgraded. For example, stations with 2,000+ boardings a day should/will be all compliant by 2020 or something, whereas stations with 200 boardings a day might be good until 2040 or something.

I mean, I don't know that this is actually the case, but it seems to be how the MBTA handles ADA, at least.
 

alexander

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What's the history behind the Shaws and the Crowne Plaza in Newton? Of all random places, how and why did air rights developments happen there? Any lessons for today?
The Shaws and Crowne sites were developed when That portion of i90 was constructed, eliminating any construction/use conflicts. It's the same reason the Prudential/Copley was developed integrated into the highway infrastructure.
 

Matthew

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Matthew

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Air Rights Dreaming
As land available for development in core urban areas grows scarce, some cities have started to look to the air rights above transportation facilities, such as rail yards and freeways, as potential locations for growth. Unfortunately, building over this infrastructure, especially rail yards, only makes sense for high-margin projects in very built-up areas. To see why, let’s take a look at some existing air rights projects, and explore the challenges that confront the engineering for such projects.
 

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