The Overpass came down at *precisely* the right time...just as 93N through the Big Dig had freshly opened for business and the surface Artery was reduced for that last transitional year to southbound-only with bunch of permanently shuttered ramps. Volumes on Rutherford through Sullivan took a big--and permanent--dip just as MassHighway and the neighborhood were at the cusp of hashing out what would happen to the condemned structure after it was closed to traffic. That made the decision to tear it down and replace with nothing fast-and-academic, with no second-guessing. Spared the neighborhood the years-long protracted debate that ended up happening elsewhere like with Casey Overpass at Forest Hills. As an East Somerville resident at the time I was gearing up like I was going to be attending lots and lots more contentious meetings...figuring there was a multi-front war afoot with the state between the overpass/Rutherford dieting, McGrath teardown & dieting (since that was the other big recipient of permanent post- Big Dig traffic reductions), GLX advocacy, the fate/future of Assembly Square, and fishing Sullivan-proper out of the gutter that were all going to be dividing people's attention around one complex city line. I moved to Cambridge within a year...but was genuinely flabbergasted in my last months there when the physical overpass came down it was virtually never spoken of again with so little pushback. Certainly compared to all the other efforts, which were exactly as contentious as advertised...including McGrath to this day still malingering as a non-final decision.I remember in the late 1950's and through the 1960's, waiting on the old Sullivan Station inbound platform, and the elevated roadway zooming by just on the other side of the inbound el tracks. At the end of WW II, that elevated highway, the tunnel, and the gigantic rotary all leveled the once dense area into an edge-city wasteland, and, as you say, the elevated highway blighted what little was left. I was hoping they could finally do away with the remaining roadway mess and restore the former grid, but the Casino allegedly requires the tunnel to be preserved. Stupidly bowing down to the automobile, again.
Then again, that horrible structure almost made McGrath's pigeon-shit plaza over Washington look inviting by comparison...so maybe the Sully O. was simply that universally loathed by citizen & state alike. It basically taunted all comers into the square with a chant of "Blight blight blight blight blight!" And, remember, the thing was so shoddily constructed during peak wartime steel rationing to begin with that it collapsed and pancaked on the square...in 19-fucking-52 when it was only a decade old!
I certainly don't have any major quarrel with the underpass. Other than reconnecting Main-to-Main up top (a gash caused by the overpass placement, not the underpass) as the renders recommend, there's not enough geometrically changing here to make a toothy case for altering it. I mean, the area by Ryan Playground where the roadway is at its bowlegged-widest was historically an industrial loading dock and road salt pile further back in the 100-yr. pic behind that little tennis court; there was never any neighborhood there unlike the areas to the west/south/southeast that got nuked. And you're never *precisely* going to get all of that back. Besides, the removal of the overpass makes it easier to park-deck over the underpass between the little residual rump of overpass that's left and Maffa Way, so if you can traffic-calm the surface Rutherford frontages keep all 4 lanes of the dang thing's footprint and just plant over it straight to Maffa Way and that little residue of El-overpass platform that's right next to Maffa.