Eliminate the River Roads?

Wash

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[MOD NOTE: This thread is split from here]

Unless your proposal is to make them no longer a roadway at all, I don't see how "boulevarding" or anything of the sort would be likely to make much of a difference to the construction schedule, or even what you wind up building.
Could we actually do that? Say we turned Storrow Drive into nothing at all; back into the park that Olmsted imagined. We'd probably have to build a couple of rapid transit extensions in the near future to replace Storrow and Soldier's Field, but what if we just ripped them up?
 
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chmeeee

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Could we actually do that? Say we turned Storrow Drive into nothing at all; back into the park that Olmsted imagined. We'd probably have to build a couple of rapid transit extensions in the near future to replace Storrow and Soldier's Field, but what if we just ripped them up?
Conceptually I like your idea, but where are you going to find capacity in ANY mode of transportation to replace the 82,000 car trips per day that are happening on Storrow east of the interchange?
 

George_Apley

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Could we actually do that? Say we turned Storrow Drive into nothing at all; back into the park that Olmsted imagined. We'd probably have to build a couple of rapid transit extensions in the near future to replace Storrow and Soldier's Field, but what if we just ripped them up?
Near future? Try concurrently. We've talked about (in Design a Better Boston) about how Storrow could be eliminated in favor of a Blue Line extension from Charles/MGH to Kenmore. That doesn't help Storrow commuters though, many of whom are coming from Northwest of the city–Rt2 corridor especially.

To help them, we also would need some sort of rapid transit and/or RUR service in that direction. A Fitchburg line PnR station in Waltham/Weston would be a start, as would another at Riverside on the Worcester Line.

Ideally we'd figure out a way to get Red northwest of Alewife, but Lexington is a major political blocker to using the Minuteman ROW to get to Rt128. I've made crazy proposals before to swing Red south to Rt2 after Arlington Heights and stagger several PnR's en route to the 2/128 interchange in Lexington. But that's crazy.

I'd love to hear more ideas about how to eliminate Storrow, but all that traffic isn't induced demand. It won't disappear if the freeway does. It will funnel onto the Turnpike instead, or onto local streets in Cambridge. The Pike doesn't currently have either the capacity or a good distribution of ramps to serve is a replacement for Storrow.
 
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millerm277

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I'm not sure I believe it's plausible anytime in the near future.

But if you're making a list of roadway prerequisites, probably the first thing on my list for any downgrade or elimination would be that the Pike interchanges between Allston and downtown need to become full interchanges intended to handle substantial traffic instead of the incomplete mess they currently are.

The "Allston U-Turn" on the Pike is a half-assed hack they put in to make it a little less bad, but that or driving across multiple neighborhoods can't be the way to handle all of the traffic with a local origin/destination that currently uses Storrow and doesn't have the ramps to make a comparable movement on the Pike.
 

George_Apley

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Storrow is obviously a beast, but Memorial Drive is currently serves as a relief valve for Storrow in addition to being one of the main routes to Kendall. Memorial Drive is definitely pretty easy to downgrade/eliminate if Storrow remains in place, but have zero circulators along the rivers would create a major regional traffic challenge. Remember that Fresh Pond Pkwy, and both SFR/Storrow and MemDrive serve in place of the abandoned (for the best) freeway connector that was going to blast through Camberville in the 1960s. Northwest commuters lock up those roads instead of a highway. While I'd love to see all of the parkways between Alewife and Back Bay/Downtown downgraded or eliminated, there are much bigger transportation network things to tackle before we can make that happen.
 

Arlington

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Calm them. Toll them! Multi modalize them (bus! & bike ) and trim them in favor of transit.

But they are too woven in to delete.
 

odurandina

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Near future? Try concurrently. We've talked about (in Design a Better Boston) about how Storrow could be eliminated in favor of a Blue Line extension from Charles/MGH to Kenmore. That doesn't help Storrow commuters though, many of whom are coming from Northwest of the city–Rt2 corridor especially.
Ya think?
Sorry, but we need both. Not either/ or.

(satire/not intended to offend).
Like i was telling Robert Moses: "Dump the Henry Hudson.....
and Triborough Expressway while you're at it."
Chicago should dump Lakeshore Dr.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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The one that comes up most often is Storrow between Kenmore and Public Gardens, because that is the section that does have direct exit duplication via the Pike and has the most clear-cut induced demand from toll evaders. Public Gardens to 93 is the MA 28 mainline...that's a unique catchment physically furthest from the Pike. And Soldiers Field Road between the Pike and Kenmore is necessary because presence of the Worcester Line tracks make direct Pike EB ramps to the Kenmore area impossible. So we're not ever going to make the (wholly man-made) Charles Basin wild parkland, but we can definitely streamline it a ton by tearing out that redundant midsection that just so happens to have the most lane sprawl and toughest maintenance structure (the tunnel). An agreement to trade in one of the carriageways for a Riverbank Subway to Kenmore attached via Blue Line @ Charles MGH is a plausible reach because the target number of commuters displaced to transit can approximate the amount of non- induced-demand study volumes enough to achieve "justice" as a trade-in and probably qualify for some federal fast-tracking because part of the trade in would include more Pike WB on/off ramps in the project overlap area (assuming we haven't already done that at the more-or-less agreed-upon recommended locations). Of course, since induced demand reduction is part of all this trade-in math a necessary concession will have to be making Pike trips between 93 and Allston toll-free.


Elsewhere I don't think you're looking at any outright eliminations, but severe lane diets should be deployed and a whole lot of substandard MDC-era interchanges need to be modernized for flow improvements. SFR in Allston needs its sprawl compacted at the Pike interchange and Eliot bridge, with the 6 lane sections pared way back. Memorial Drive at MIT needs to lose the parking lanes. And since the incredibly dangerous midday right-land parking on WB between JFK & Ash St.'s can't be offset on side streets, they may as well just make it a permanent lane-drop WB. Compact the malformed Gerry's Landing rotary when Eliot Bridge gets done to keep the west end orderly. And on the east end lane-drop Land Blvd. from 6 to 4 lanes between the Broad Canal drawbridges and MA 28, where that area will hopefully already be seeing some induced-demand improvements by the McGrath/O'Brien road diet coming sooner.
 

Arlington

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As an example of what is possible (calming, dieting, multi-modaling), note that the Longfellow Bridge inbound has become (as of very recently) a single multipurpose lane with a bike & emergency lane. You can even see where they've ground the original "skinny bike lane" markings off. (Quibble: I personally would have put the flex posts on the bike-edge of the zebra stripes, the better to let cars pull onto the zebra to let MGH-bound ambulances pass)

Longfellow_Bridge_Inbound.jpg
 

odurandina

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ok,
with all the construction and height going up in the West End + East Cambridge, i like Storrow Drive staying as it (more than ever). Digging it up for 3~7 yrs would be a lot of pain for the City. So, instead of digging under Storrow Dr for Blue Line heavy rail
what about doing this instead>>
 

BostonUrbEx

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All Memorial Drive lanes, both directions, should be placed into the current footprint of the Memorial Drive Westbound lanes. It really wouldn't be that complex at all. More prime park space per dollar than trying to solve the Storrow Drive mess.
 

Cortes

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Just perusing threads and came upon this one. I always have had this dream of putting Storrow Drive under the water just west of the BU boat dock, and having it thread between the bridges. Just a pie in the sky, really, but just imagine... The engineering challenges would be huge, but if the main length of the tunnel was in the middle of the river, I do believe the overall benefit to the Charles River watershed (i.e. Muddy River) would be huge, among other benefits.
 

Charlie_mta

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Instead, use that considerable amount of funding to build a second east-west rail transit tunnel to supplement the overcrowded Green Line Central Subway, and also convert the GJ to light rail connecting Lechmere to the new West Station. Doing that would allow elimination of the River roads.
 

Joel N. Weber II

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And Soldiers Field Road between the Pike and Kenmore is necessary because presence of the Worcester Line tracks make direct Pike EB ramps to the Kenmore area impossible.
If we diet I-90 to three lanes in each direction (or maybe even keep four lanes in each direction), possibly reduce the width of Montfort St, probably shift the tracks south, and rebuild the St Mary's St bridge across I-90, couldn't we make space for an I-90 eastbound off ramp and an I-90 eastbound on ramp at St Mary's St?

I think eliminating Storrow Dr / Soldiers Field Road between Charlesgate and the Allston Interchange should be the priority, because that would simplify the construction through the throat between the BU Bridge and the Allston Interchange, and probably simplify a potential future pedestrian bridge to connect BU to the waterfront across the throat.
 

Joel N. Weber II

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Conceptually I like your idea, but where are you going to find capacity in ANY mode of transportation to replace the 82,000 car trips per day that are happening on Storrow east of the interchange?
What are your thoughts on how this sort of thing worked out for San Francisco?

 

Charlie_mta

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Narrowing roadways always looks great on renders, but I question if 1 lane in each direction would be enough for this section of Memorial Drive. Until more transit lines are built, I think narrowing key arterial roads would just result in more gridlock
 

F-Line to Dudley

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If we diet I-90 to three lanes in each direction (or maybe even keep four lanes in each direction), possibly reduce the width of Montfort St, probably shift the tracks south, and rebuild the St Mary's St bridge across I-90, couldn't we make space for an I-90 eastbound off ramp and an I-90 eastbound on ramp at St Mary's St?

I think eliminating Storrow Dr / Soldiers Field Road between Charlesgate and the Allston Interchange should be the priority, because that would simplify the construction through the throat between the BU Bridge and the Allston Interchange, and probably simplify a potential future pedestrian bridge to connect BU to the waterfront across the throat.
Eastbound Pike ramps are going to be brutal. And this particular area around Mountfort is reserved for the BRT-option Urban Ring tunnel as means of getting between the BU Bridge hillside and Lansdowne Station (the LRT option being an under-reservation burial of the B). So until the UR picks its mode of choice amongst the two primary Alternatives don't expect the rump of hillside around Mountfort to be fair game for anything else.


Westbound you do have plenty of ramp options. There's the downtown augmentations previously studied, and then Allston at Birmingham Pkwy/N. Beacon where if you cut wholly-redundant Birmingham from the street grid and repurpose it as a WB offramp into the rotary with reciprocal onramp just west of the rotary off Nonantum Rd. you'd be doing everything in Allston a favor on load-spreading by taking loads away from the overloaded eastern river roads and shifting it to the underutilized western river roads...as well as taking huge Watertown-bound volumes off dense Galen St. in favor of way under-capacity Nonantum. It's outside of the locus as where we see the problem primarily piling up in the form of traffic jams, but the half-assed connectivity between the Allston exit and first Newton exit contributes to all the overloading from afar.

So while Storrow/SFR pretty much has to remain (Bowker-less, mind you) to Charlesgate, it'll be asynchronously loaded more eastbound less westbound traffic if you work the Pike WB extra exits to pry induced demands off the river roads. Which is a huge and decided improvement over that section of Storrow being overloaded in both directions. Means you don't have to go searching all that hard for operational improvements to the WB side because it'll be less critically overloaded...whereas EB you definitely need to find a lot more breakdown lane space everywhere but where the most-pinched riverbank allows, and more accel/decel room at the University Rd. and Charlesgate offramps. So the residual parkway keep in light of the limited Pike EB options really isn't all that terribly impactful in the New World Order of rebalanced loading, and much less a festering traffic sore than it is now even despite the fact that there are no currently viable alternatives for outright elimination.

Ultra-ultra long term I guess we can keep squinting at the environment to see if that segment of riverbank can ever be liberated. I'm not all that optimistic anything game-changing will be found, but keep overturning every stone in study as due diligence. In the meantime you have to chunk out the Kenmore-Charles Circle midsection as a whole different diet/elimination project and not worry about Allston-Kenmore coattails. Separate universes for now. The midsection is the one that's completely Pike-redundant to both directions, that has the largest share of purely induced demand traffic, that has the most overbuilt 6-lane capacity to slash back, that has the EB underpass tunnel nearing end of maintenance life, that has the most parkland acreage to restore, that has the potential "equal or better" transit trade-in that can go immediately on the board as an offset, and that has some Back Bay flood protection bona fides to weigh if the vacated EB carriageway + Back St. retaining wall were framed with a semi-surface transit box tunnel that doubled as an enhanced passive flood wall. Target the corridor in independent projects: midsection diet hashing out the politics of transit trade-in + WB bust-down to lazy park access lane first, because that's got the strongest bona fides and cleanest/least-impactful trade-in allowances. Study Allston-Kenmore as the wholly separate next step...keeping expectations appropriately low because the Pike EB options are all difficult to stage and pretty ugly-flowing even if they can be staged. And treat Charles/Public Gardens to O'Brien as a unique forever-keep catchment because it's the MA 28 mainline, but explore lane-dieting from its 6-lane + half-frontage sprawl if area traffic loads get reshaped by things like McGrath teardown removing the induced demand on O'Brien, Rutherford Ave./93/1 improvements strengthening Gilmore Bridge as the head-and-shoulders get outta town route for Kendall, and some of the Somerville/Medford interchanges on 93 that are missing key legs getting infilled so 28 can be a lot less load-bearing.
 

Joel N. Weber II

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Eastbound Pike ramps are going to be brutal. And this particular area around Mountfort is reserved for the BRT-option Urban Ring tunnel as means of getting between the BU Bridge hillside and Lansdowne Station (the LRT option being an under-reservation burial of the B). So until the UR picks its mode of choice amongst the two primary Alternatives don't expect the rump of hillside around Mountfort to be fair game for anything else.
Who's going to advocate for reserving that for BRT? Doesn't seem like it would be freeway drivers who might want new ramps, or people who want to open up the waterfront, or most of the transit advocates who probably would prefer LRT.

And St Marys St freeway ramps have BRT potential in the form of Kenmore Sq Logan Express, if the Newbury St I-90 westbound on ramp just to the west of Mass Ave was moved far enough west that traffic using it would still merge onto the I-90 mainline before crossing the Muddy River, but making room for a new off ramp between Mass Ave and that newly relocated on ramp. The bus would exit the freeway just after Mass Ave, stop at Kenmore, then get back on the freeway eastbound at the St Marys St on ramp to go to Logan.

For I-90 westbound, we might want to build an on ramp and off ramp just to the west of the BU Bridge which would connect to a one lane in each direction road that would go under the BU Bridge exactly where eastbound Storrow/SFR currently does, and connect to University Rd. We probably could build a flyover ramp west of the BU Bridge to feed into that as an eastbound I-90 to University Rd off ramp as well, although I think a potential major concern with this is that we probably don't want University Rd overwhelmed with high speed traffic. (Maybe 10' lanes on University Rd and a 20 MPH posted speed limit would help if we don't let freeway engineers redesign University Rd to be as freeway like as possible?) And a University Rd to I-90 westbound on ramp keeps traffic out of the heart of the BU Bridge / Commonwealth Ave intersection, whereas any off ramps feeding into there have potential to bring too much traffic to an intersection that may already be strained.
 

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