Bowker Overpass replacement?

kz1000ps

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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."
 

Ron Newman

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The overpass over Beacon St. and Comm. Ave. could be removed without any changes to surrounding streets, since Charlesgate East and Charlesgate West already connect to Storrow Drive in both directions. I don't understand why it was built in the first place.

Obviously you'll need to keep the part of the overpass that crosses the Mass. Pike.
 

czsz

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I don't understand why it was built in the first place.
Probably for traffic flow reasons: the cars using it avoid two sets of lights on Beacon and Commonwealth. I'm surprised, though, that there weren't more objections to covering a public park.

One problem with removing the overpass is that it would make Beacon and Commonwealth slightly more dangerous for pedestrians; the greater volume of cars hurtling from Storrow to Boylston might present a greater obstacle.
 

vanshnookenraggen

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I always felt that the overpass acted as a great gateway between the Back Bay and Kenmore/Fenway. It wasn't pretty and was dirty and nasty but the effect was the same (ok, not as nice as maybe a Roman arch.) If they could make it more pedestrian friendly then it would be cool.

I am thinking of the Arc de Triomphe only you can drive over it...or something. Comm Ave would be the Champs-Elysee; Perhaps I should sketch this one out.
 

Beton Brut

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Ron Newman said:
I don't understand why it was built in the first place.

Obviously you'll need to keep the part of the overpass that crosses the Mass. Pike.
I believe it was initially built to address the need to cross the Turnpike Extension (and the rail ROW).

czsz said:
I'm surprised, though, that there weren't more objections to covering a public park.
FWIW - My guess is that the state of activism (and NIMBYism) was a little different in the bad old days of eminent domain -- this was built in the same era as the fall of the West End.

czsz said:
One problem with removing the overpass is that it would make Beacon and Commonwealth slightly more dangerous for pedestrians; the greater volume of cars hurtling from Storrow to Boylston might present a greater obstacle.
This is likely true, given the state of motorist and pedestrian behavior in Greater-Boston.

vanshnookenraggen said:
I always felt that the overpass acted as a great gateway between the Back Bay and Kenmore/Fenway. It wasn't pretty and was dirty and nasty but the effect was the same (ok, not as nice as maybe a Roman arch.) If they could make it more pedestrian friendly then it would be cool.

I am thinking of the Arc de Triomphe only you can drive over it...or something. Comm Ave would be the Champs-Elysee; Perhaps I should sketch this one out.
A good idea for something bold and iconic to replace this disgracefully (un)maintained overpass. Better (for both aesthetics and traffic-flow) would be to re-configure the Bowker's northernmost ramps to address the current connection to Storrow Drive as well as the Mass. Ave. Bridge. Rather than a heavy Romanized structure, I'd prefer something light and airy, like a miniature riff in the Zakim. Calatrava's done a few urban bridges like this in Spain. The proposed cafe would fit right in underneath.
 

Ron Newman

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Beton Brut said:
FWIW - My guess is that the state of activism (and NIMBYism) was a little different in the bad old days of eminent domain -- this was built in the same era as the fall of the West End.
It was also a historic low point in the affluence and influence of the Back Bay. It had fallen a long way from its swanky origins, with many buildings cut up into student apartments and rooming houses. And several more decades would pass before it became an expensive condo area.
 

Beton Brut

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I drive over this hunk of shit from time to time. It's nice to see it being polished.
 

vanshnookenraggen

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I'd still rather see it demolished. I don't understand why any work is being done to repair it.
Because the powers that be can't fathom a world without cars. I'm with you, rip it down and get rid of that interchange along Storrow Dr, connect the Fenway to the Charles like it used to be.
 

Ron Newman

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I wouldn't go that far -- yet. For now, the interchange can remain. It would just connect to Charlesgate East and West instead of to the overpass.
 

vanshnookenraggen

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GET RID OF ALL ROADS EVERYONE WILL BIKE EVERYWHERE


I've heard that been said with a straight face.

[/tangent]
 

bbfen

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I'd still rather see it demolished. I don't understand why any work is being done to repair it.
Pieces were falling out, so this was a stop-gap emergency repair until decisions were made. My concern on closing this is funneling traffic to already oversaturated intersections at Mass Ave/Boylston through Marlborough. The other half of me really likes it going away.
 

Lurker

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If the Bowker if removed the lights on Beacon and Commonwealth Avenue are going to need to be replaced with smart signals.

Gaston Square will probably need to become a rotary again to keep all the traffic contiguous on Boylston street without passing Longwood traffic off onto Ipswich and Commonwealth like it does now. The only way to do that with such high traffic volume would be with with special signals to limit the number of cars in the rotary at a given time. The stretch of Boylston between Gaston Square and Ipswich Street would probably need to be configured to not be the raceway it is now.

Oh, and while their at it they can reconnect Newbury street to be continuous with the overpass supports removed and the original bridge design reinstated.
 

bbfen

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Oh, and while their at it they can reconnect Newbury street to be continuous with the overpass supports removed and the original bridge design reinstated.
All other points are good, but sell it to the Mayor and the BRA starting with this: word is that Hizonnah would love to extend Newbury Street. This is why the 95 Mass Ave project changed its name to 407 Newbury (or whatever the address is).
 

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