A modest proposal

 

by Karen Cord Taylor, Beacon Hill Times

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a project that would:

1. Significantly reduce the number of vehicles coming into Charles Circle.

2. Increase Esplanade parkland at Charlesbank by 78 percent to more than 16 acres. The expanded Charlesbank would be 70 percent of the size of the 24-acre Boston Public Garden.

3. Create a short, at-grade crossing from the West End to the Esplanade, replacing a crumbling overhead pedestrian bridge.

4. Increase the appeal and value of West End condominiums and apartments due to its new, easy parkland access and the elimination of seven lanes of traffic. Charlesbank would become the West End neighborhood’s front yard, much like the Boston Common and the Public Garden serve Beacon Hill.

5. Increase the number of parking spaces for the hospitals (Mass. Eye and Ear and MGH) to a level that would fill their needs for many decades, without putting more cars on city streets.

6. Eliminate the fight with neighborhoods when MGH and MEEI attempt to increase their parking— which they plan to.

7. Provide a chance to further improve drainage on the Teddy Ebersole’s Red Sox Fields.

8. Bring the part of the Esplanade between Leverett and Charles circles back to a closer approximation of its historic design.

9. Give patients a handicap-accessible indoor route from their cars to both hospitals. 10. Eliminate Mass Eye and Ear’s unsightly parking lots near Charles Circle.

10. Open up chances for reuse of buildings and land near the Science Museum (Craigie) Bridge for restaurants, perhaps a marina or other festive, active uses.

There is such a plan. It has been created by a person of some standing in the community. I’ve got it in a pdf, and you can have it too if you send me your email.

The long and short of the idea is to bury Storrow Drive between Leverett and Charles circles, re-align the underground lanes so that they are closer to the river and build an underground garage serving both MGH and the MEEI that would fill the two hospitals’ needs for some time to come.

“It would transform this section of the city,” said the plan’s originator. The plan meets federal standards, and parking fees would pay for the parking garage.

You may be thinking this plan sounds a lot like a little Big Dig. Not really. For one thing, there is no land-taking—not that the Big Dig had much of that, but still. There are few utilities under the Esplanade, so that expensive portion of the Big Dig’s cost would not be a factor. Finally, the section that needs to be buried is short—about a mile, replacing a section that is about 7/10 of a mile—and with only two entrances and exits that don’t have to be reinforced since no structures would go on top of them. There’s no Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge. There is no tunnel to the airport. There’s no rerouting of roadways, as when we rerouted the access to the Tobin Bridge.

It’s too bad this plan wasn’t vetted and ready to go when stimulus funds became available, since this is the kind of plan that would benefit the city enormously. But it needs to be looked at by those now planning the renovation of the Longfellow Bridge, because taking out thousands of cars at Charles Circle would dramatically relieve the traffic coming from the Longfellow through the circle.

I don’t have the ability to post pictures on this web site, but I repeat: send me your email and I’ll send you the proposal. Then let’s start discussing how this plan, which could dramatically add to the quality of our lives, could be implemented in some way.

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Karen Cord Taylor founded The Beacon Hill Times weekly newspaper in 1995 and served as its editor and publisher until late 2007. She also founded and served as editor and publisher of the Charlestown Patriot-Bridge and The Back Bay Sun weeklies. Her column appears in those newspapers as well as the Regional Review, which serves Boston’s North End. These weeklies are now owned by the Independent Newspaper Group.

She is the author of “Blue Laws, Brahmins and Breakdown Lanes: An Alphabetic Guide to Boston and Bostonians” and the co-author of “The Lady Architects,” a book about three women who practiced architecture in New England and elsewhere in the early 20th century.

She lives in downtown Boston.

karen@bostoncolumn.com

 

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