Saturday, July 31, 2010

Blog Post No. 2010-16: Three July Things

They report it, we give it the once over...

As much of the Boston region prepares to enter the August hiatus, we here at RTUF are far from asleep at the wheel. We are continuing to scour the print and intertube-based media for spicy tidbits of information related to the urban fabric here in the Hub. In the last third of this, the month of birthdays (my daughter's, my brother's, Harry Potter's), we have indeed had some exciting news:

First up: We here at RTUF thought a good temporary location for the Boston Public Market while it continued its Odysseus-like search for a permanent home was City Hall Plaza, but they have finally found their proverbial Ithaca in the first floor of the combined retail-office-garage building on Greenway Parcel 7. This is the building on Congress Street sandwiched between the Government Center Garage and the Blackstone Block near Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market. The news reported in the Globe this week indicates that the commonwealth has finally done the right thing and designated them as the tentative tenant of that space, subject to release of about $4 Million in state bond funds (of the total $10 Million allocated) and gap fundraising to the tune of approximately $3 Million. Congratulations BPMA! Raise those funds and get open as soon as possible!

Next: Restoration work on the Longfellow Bridge, aka the "Salt and Pepper" bridge, that links Cambridge Street in Boston with Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge and has the Red Line running down the middle, is finally about to start this fall. As reported, again, in the Globe, the first phase will be principally exploratory with actual construction work to start in the spring. That phasing is helping put off the decision on final configuration of the restored bridge, about which there appears to be lively debate. There are multiple stakeholders here, including public entities -- the cities themselves, MassDOT, which has charge of the bridge itself, and the MBTA -- and private actors in including MGH, Mass Eye and Ear, and bicycle and walking advocacy organizations. To my mind, the most compelling vision is from WalkBoston, which is pushing for a road diet that would result in one fewer vehicular traffic lane in each direction than is currently the case. If that happens, the bridge would have the potential to become a prime strolling and viewing venue -- and its views of the Esplanade, Charles River Basin and downtown are truly inspring -- on a par with some of the world's great urban bridges. There are of course countervailing concerns about where the traffic could be expected to go and what would happen to emergency vehicles trying to reach MGH and MEEI if the single inbound lane were blocked or full of traffic. As a former transportation planner, this is going to be a fascinating debate. We'll follow it and let you know how it turns out.

And finally: Going back to my hometown where another transportation-related debate has been brewing in the Bronx over the Tri-State Transportation Campaign's long-running effort to get the elevated Sheridan Expressway demolished and replaced with a boulevard. The poster child for this kind of an effort is the former Embarcadero Freeway along the waterfront in San Francisco, which was condemned after the Loma Prieta Earthquake 20 years ago and replaced with a bouelvard instead of a new highway. The New York Times reported a couple of weeks ago that a recent NYSDOT study had concluded that traffic that would have been on the Sheridan would end up on local roads if it were removed. I can't say that's really surprising, but the Times reports that it's a "blow" to removal proponents. We'll have to stay tuned.

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