Grounding the McGrath

ant8904

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At first, I was hesitant of the idea. But thinking about it now. I think as long it goes with the Green Line and the exchange with I-93 and 28 are done, this could work well. Especially if it moves trucks off that an onto 93 (of course, part of the exhange modification I hope can allow it to soak move the traffic off 28 on to it). I'm not sure it will really improve that much, a two/three lane highway on the ground is only sightly less disconnecting versus a elevated highway.
 

Ron Newman

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Ideally we'd return this section to what it was before the highway overpass was built -- which was just 'Medford Street'.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Ideally we'd return this section to what it was before the highway overpass was built -- which was just 'Medford Street'.
Bingo. How many opportunities are there left in the urban core to add a new square where there wasn't one before. That eyesore is chewing up the space of basically a taffy-stretched Union between the Medford St. intersection and the Somerville Ave. intersection. Plus side streets like Cross St., Linwood, Poplar, Greenville, Prospect Hill Ave. (with its proximity to Prospect Hill Park and the lookout point) that are severed off the grid by dumping onto one-ways. It's an immense footprint of barren land underneath there, plus underdeveloped asphalt properties on the corners (shuttered gas station at McGrath/Medford, the Washington St. ramp maze, the Autozone, the used car lots on facing sides of Somerville Ave./Medford, the McGrath-facing industrial property on the corner of Poplar). Immense amount of prime real estate in moderate state of decay locked onto sides of one-way ramps into expressway off-ramp type car-centric usage. Just in terms of developable urban storefront property that's almost a new Union right there.

It is damn hard to pass up those kinds of redevelopment opportunities. Simply giving Somerville its street grid back does a ton of good alone, but the chance to re-knit it with square-oriented urban development? Huge. And maybe more importantly, out of the grasp of the BRA so it could actually be square-oriented street-facing commercial instead of Meninotowers buffeted by useless greenspace, like Northpoint up the street.

28/McGrath/O'Brien was I-93 before there was an I-93. That's what it was built for: the highway route into Boston. It's been superseded in that capacity for 40 years now and subsists only as a redundant induced demand trap. There's no strategic reason for it still existing...or still existing in tandem with 38/99/Rutherford Ave, which was the other half of "proto-93". There is no reason why a cleaned up 93/28/38 interchange can't siphon all the thru surface traffic that absolutely has to be there away from it and redirected to the frontage roads, slightly more capable and accessible Rutherford Ave., and (eventually) the under-93 Rutherford Ave. truck/frontage road when that street is returned to its neighborhood. The volume of trucks using McGrath is absurd, and far outstrips anything that actually has to maneuver around East Somerville and Union to make local deliveries. And it makes Leverett Circle that much worse when the 6 highway lanes have to compress into 4 in front of the Science Museum. I think the redundancies are definitely there to absorb all this traffic elsewhere without a blip. Moreso than even the Casey Overpass. Shrink McGrath to 4 parkway lanes + crossable grass median from Broadway to Medford St. "Square" it to Somerville Ave. Then 4 lanes and a much wider sidewalk over the bridge and on O'Brien until Lechmere Sq. and the Cambridge St. convergence.

Nothing to fear. This one's going to become Boston's Exhibit A for taming the induced demand boogeyman. I literally think within 2 years of completion people will be asking themselves "Where did it all go? 93 and Rutherford don't seem any worse...but the traffic doesn't go here anymore? Why?" And a light bulb starts to flicker on.
 

Charlie_mta

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Let's not make it into another RKG. Put up some buildings and make it an urban setting.
I prefer this concept for the transformed McGrath Hwy. This is what the RKG should have been:

 

BostonUrbEx

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Some stats I found interesting were:

The McGrath currently carries as many cars as Mass Ave in Back bay.

The McGrath has lost something like 40% of it's car volume since the Big Dig, and continues to drop.


This, coupled with GLX = buh-bye multiple lanes.
 
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cozzyd

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I often cross (jaywalk across?) O'Brien to get to the 87/88 stops in front of the sketchy (abandoned?) warehouses. Not during rush hour but I don't ever have trouble...
 

Ron Newman

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Can you be more specific about the location? Do you mean from Glass Stop to Poplar Street? There's a painted crosswalk there now.
 

BostonUrbEx

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I just thought of something: the McGrath elevated over the Fitchburg causes an engineering constraint for the GLX interchange. Perhaps this project could be accelerated and the GLX project modified in order to bundle and consolidate costs.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I just thought of something: the McGrath elevated over the Fitchburg causes an engineering constraint for the GLX interchange. Perhaps this project could be accelerated and the GLX project modified in order to bundle and consolidate costs.
No...McGrath overpass is almost 500 feet away from where the flyover ramps are going to be for the GLX line split and yard leads. And it's about 6 tracks worth of space underneath, enough to fit 2 GL tracks, 2 Fitchburg tracks, and the Grand Junction branch. I haven't read anything about there being project impacts related to this bridge.

All of the studies about McGrath have excluded this bridge from the project scope because there's no easy way of modifying the steep inclines on both sides. But they probably could realign the S-curve on the north side and make the forgotten Somerville Ave. Ext. southbound underpass to Linwood a little more inviting (possibly even connecting Fitchburg St. to Medford St. right by the rail bridge if that barren auto shop parcel were redeveloped). Most definitely knocking the bridge back to 4 travel lanes with the overall reduction and widening those single-file sidewalks would do wonders to the ped access between Lechmere and Brickbottom.
 

HenryAlan

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Some stats I found interesting were:

The McGrath currently carries as many cars as Mass Ave in Back bay.

The McGrath has lost something like 40% of it's car volume since the Big Dig, and continues to drop.


This, coupled with GLX = buh-bye multiple lanes.
Given this data, there is no justification for it to be anything other than a boulevard. Two lanes for cars in each direction, bike lanes, wide sidewalks, and three to five story buildings facing it. That would be such a huge asset to Somerville, and would clearly handle the traffic.
 

Digital_Islandboy

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Love the idea. Has anyone noticed the severe crackage (cracking) of the overpass at the junction with Somerville Avenue??? Clearly that will have to be rebuilt at some point, unless a plan is put in place to radically alter it going forward anyway. I like the idea of finding alternatives for that area.
 

BostonUrbEx

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No...McGrath overpass is almost 500 feet away from where the flyover ramps are going to be for the GLX line split and yard leads. And it's about 6 tracks worth of space underneath, enough to fit 2 GL tracks, 2 Fitchburg tracks, and the Grand Junction branch. I haven't read anything about there being project impacts related to this bridge.

All of the studies about McGrath have excluded this bridge from the project scope because there's no easy way of modifying the steep inclines on both sides. But they probably could realign the S-curve on the north side and make the forgotten Somerville Ave. Ext. southbound underpass to Linwood a little more inviting (possibly even connecting Fitchburg St. to Medford St. right by the rail bridge if that barren auto shop parcel were redeveloped). Most definitely knocking the bridge back to 4 travel lanes with the overall reduction and widening those single-file sidewalks would do wonders to the ped access between Lechmere and Brickbottom.
I though the inbound track's incline (inbound to Lechmere from Union) was at a steeper grade due to the short distance between the McGrath and the inbound track from Brickbottom?
 
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cozzyd

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Can you be more specific about the location? Do you mean from Glass Stop to Poplar Street? There's a painted crosswalk there now.
Well, this is still in Cambridge (I think.. close to the border) but basically across from Sciarappa.
 

Ron Newman

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Yeah, that's Cambridge. I think the city wants pedestrians to cross O'Brien at the Twin City Plaza light.
 

Digital_Islandboy

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F-Line to Dudley

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Near the same forementioned Glass Stop corner of Medford St. / Somerville Avenue.

http://maps.google.com/?ll=42.37722...4bdhv-kMEeoZKWxWNU-nRQ&cbp=12,127.24,,0,-1.57

I wonder how long ago Streetview did this photo.

If you proceed to turn (sharp) left and travel underneath McGrath you can see rebar exposed in places.
The "tunnel" ramp from Somerville Ave. to Washington has exposed rebar all over the roof. And Pigeon Shit Park where Washington crosses is another area to stoke your inner Chicken Little. And I wouldn't be brushing up against any of the few working light poles because there's totally uninsulated wiring sticking out of the conduits and they've had problems with the metal poles going live.

I was living in East Somerville when the Sullivan Overpass was condemned and closed. And even back then it was hard to tell the condition apart between that infamous deathtrap and the McCarthy overpass. There's been literally zero repair done on it since. I don't even see that much in the way of wood planking on the girders to keep the crap from raining off the roof and control the pigeons like the Bowker's got. They're just daring it to keel right over.
 

Kahta

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This is one of the few roads in the Boston area that should be downgraded.
 

Ron Newman

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At tonight's meeting, the assembled crowd of more than 100 people were united in asking the state to cancel the repair project, post lower weight limits on the bridge, and proceed as soon as possible to demolition.

According to the presentation, this was built in 1955, repaired in 1982 then again in 2007-8.
 

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