CITYminusTRAFFIC - Urban Expansion along the Charles River BasinCITYminusTRAFFIC - Urban Expansion along the Charles River B...
The Charles River Basin is often called the Central Park of Boston. Our purpose is to encourage visions, concepts, and discussion about what might happen in the 21st century to Greater Boston along & around the Charles Riverbanks, specifically along ... Read more
The Charles River Basin is often called the Central Park of Boston. Our purpose is to encourage visions, concepts, and discussion about what might happen in the 21st century to Greater Boston along & around the Charles Riverbanks, specifically along the middle of the lower-Basin, around Allston, Brighton, Cambridge, and the Fenway. CITYminusTRAFFIC envisions great expanses of parkland where all traffic is currently: No more river roads along long stretches of the Charles (all traffic underground). The website shows:What it might look like (drawing of a romantic urban design for the riverbanks), How it could be technically done (with a long deep-bore tunnel), How it might be financed, and How much it might cost; But CITYminusTRAFFIC also explains there is good reason why the TIME TO PLAN FOR urban ideas such as this one is RIGHT NOW. Why right now? Our website suggests that as part of their multi-billion dollar Allston Initiative, Harvard University ought to pay for a very long tunnel (a "deep-bore tunnel") This might sound far fetched, but Harvard has already put forth very preliminary plans for depressing a part of Soldiers Field Road at their own expense. (Its at http://www.allston.harvard.edu/vision/CRP_Interim_Report_June_2005.pdf - on Adobe Reader page 19 of 41) Ours is a proposal for a year-round and greatly expanded RIVERBEND PARK - the name of the weekly street closing of Memorial Drive each Sunday near Harvard Square. (Riverbend Park has been going on since about 1976.) The website continues a 150 year-old tradition of making Utopian Visions for the Charles River Basin. This tradition was described in Karl Haglund's book INVENTING THE CHARLES RIVER (2003 MIT Press & The Charles River Conservancy), which depicts how, before the creation of the basin could begin, the river first had to be imagined as a single public space by visionary people. A rephrased excerpt from the introduction to Inventing the Charles River follows:
" IN THE INVENTION OF THE CHARLES RIVER,
WHO WILL PROPOUND THE VISIONS OF THE RIVER'S FUTURE?
HOW WILL THESE VISIONS BE SHARED?
WHAT OF NEW SCHEMES MIGHT BE REALIZED?
HOW MIGHT THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY CHANGE GREATER BOSTONIANS' VIEW OF THE PUBLIC REALM? "
Here are some ideas. What ae your ideas? (That's the primary catchphrase of CITYminusTRAFFIC.org.)
CITYminusTRAFFIC is several things:
Most notably, it is a romantic vision of a future Charles River Basin without traffic on the riverbanks.
Its website - www.CITYminusTRAFFIC.org - includes a detailed design of specifically how a "deep-bore" tunnel from Fresh Pond Parkway (in Cambridge) to Charlesgate (in Boston) would make all the following possible:
* ALL TRAFFIC REMOVED from a length of Memorial Drive: - between its intersection with Fresh Pond Parkway & Greenough Blvd in the west (where Mount Auburn Hospital is), - past all of Harvard University in Cambridge, - eastward to Western Ave in Cambridge.
* Almost ALL TRAFFIC REMOVED from Fresh Pond Parkway in western Cambridge: - from Huron Ave, - past Brattle Street, - to Memorial Drive.
* ALL TRAFFIC REMOVED from three existing auto bridges over the Charles River: - the Eliot, - the Anderson, - and the Western Ave Bridges.
* ALL TRAFFIC REMOVED from Soldiers Field Road & Storrow Drive: - from a little west of the Eliot Bridge (- about 1/2 mile west of Harvard Stadium, - beside the Herter Center & WBZ), - all the way to the Mass.Ave Bridge (- officially called the Harvard Bridge, - just to the east of the Boston University Campus.)
* ALL TRAFFIC GONE between the Boston University Campus and the Charles River.
* An Elevated Highway interchange called the Bowker Overpass - built in 1966 to connect Rte 1 with Storrow Drive - would be COMPLETELY REMOVED. (It ruined the entrance to the Emerald Necklace parklands at Charlesgate, - just to the east of Kenmore Square in Boston.)
* In Allston, the northern ends of North Harvard Street, Western Ave, and Cambridge Street would be UNDERGROUND, as well as both the Mass Pike & its exit roads, and all the freight yards.
The CITYminusTRAFFIC vision is proposed as an alternative to Harvard's idea to build a cut-and-cover tunnel for only one short section of Soldiers' Field Road, - before their Allston campus.
CITYminusTRAFFIC.org also suggests that Harvard play the major role in FINANCING this alternate deep-bore tunnel for the Charles Riverbanks, INSTEAD OF their paying for the cut-and-cover tunnel.
Considering alternate tunnel scenarios is one example of reasons to BROADEN CIVIC DISCUSSION of urban planning issues along the Charles River Basin - beyond only the Allston Initiative - RIGHT NOW, BEFORE commitments are made that would forestall larger pubic ventures in the 21st century. (For instance, if Harvard were to bury part of Soldiers Field Road in the short-run, there would be far less incentive to build a more ambitious tunnel in the long run.)
Many people feel there are HIGHER PRIORITIES in Greater Boston than upgrading the banks Charles River Basin Historic District.
WE AGREE, and consequently present this private financing proposal that uses no public money. (The website however, also has a public-transportation alternate - to include another branch of the Green Line within this proposed deep-bore auto tunnel - paid with federal Dept. of Transportation mass-transit money, so that Harvard & the US. DOT could share the construction cost.)
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The audacious urban design idea (the proposed deep-bore tunnel) is an effective way to focus public attention on the future.
But advocating for a particular urban design is by no means the only purpose of CITYminusTRAFFIC:
We are experimenting with using the Internet to further DEMOCRATIZE - LARGE URBAN-PLANNING / REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT PROCESSES:
Historically, most roles for, and actions done by, urban community groups have been mainly reactive to initiatives of large, - institutional, - urban stakeholders.
CITYminusTRAFFIC intrigues activists by potentially reversing this pattern:
We are a miniscule group initiating a big urban dialogue, instead of the normal big stakeholder initiation. Note, we are trying very hard to tone down (but not play-down) the potential disquiet for big stakeholders. Still, because we initiated the dialogue, we may have some influence over it's bearing, tone, and direction (more than we had imagined).
This will not last. Volunteer with us while it does.