- May 28, 2006
- Reaction score
the Courant said:Group Says Death to Bowker Overpass
by Jim Cronin
Boston Courant - June 30-July 6
A proposal to demolish the Bowker Overpass could allay public safety and aesthetic concerns surrounding the 43-year-old structure.
City Councilor Michael Ross called the meeting on June 26 to elicit suggestions from the community as to what should be done with the deteriorating roadway, which has been an eyesore, while the dark area beneath has raised safety concerns. Pam Beale, president of the Kenmore Association and owner of Cornwall's pub, supported removing the overpass.
"People don't like to walk under the Bowker Overpass," Beale said. "It's like a mental barrier between the Back Bay and Kenmore. This would ease the transition."
She suggested that displaced traffic could be rerouted from the overpass, which brings traffic from the Fenway to Storrow Drive, through a turnaround in a parking garage planned as part of an air rights project near Kenmore Square (is that project still alive?). Lanes on Charlesgate East and West would be widened by narrowing the sidewalks closest to the Muddy river to accomodate the extra vehicles. The Kenmore Association is currently conducting a study of the overpass which should be completed in September.
A second concept proposed keeping the overpass and building a restaurant, cafe or market beneath it to create a vibrant area that is more attractive to pedestrians. Panos Demeter, founder of Newbury Street-based Demeter Development Group, LLC, said he saw a similar use of space while traveling in Buenos Aires. He circulated photos of a restaurant that was built adjacent to an Argentinean overpass, showing people sitting outside in chairs under the bridge.
"You would raise the values of the abutting propertyies and increase safety at the same time," Demeter said.
Noel baratta, chief engineer for the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the state agency that oversees the overpass, said emergency work to ensure cracks or holes don't develop on Ramp H, which connects the overpass and Beacon Street to Storrow Drive West, is scheduled for the fall of 2008. The Bowker Overpass, which is on a list of 31 repair projects that could be transferred to MassHighway, would cost about $50 million to renovate, and work would begin in 2011. However, since the Charlesgate area could be incorporated into the Muddy River restoration project, a collaboration of city, state and federal agencies to control flooding along the river, a decision has not been made regarding the fate of the roadway, which is missing concrete in some places.
"We're looking at a real challenge with the Bowker Overpass," said Ross. "The [area under the Bowker Overpass] doesn't look the way it should. It's just kind of a dead spot in our city right now. The Kenmore Association's study and discussions of the future of Storrow Drive will weigh in on what happens here."