While looking at my proposal for the Mass Pike realignment, several people have pointed out that drivers should not be encouraged to use Storrow Drive, instead encouraging traffic to use the Mass Pike, so Storrow may one day be downgraded or all out eliminated. I agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly, but getting traffic off the Pike and onto Storrow is a long process that will involve exits being added to the Pike, better transit, and an assessment of what is more important to Bostonians: at-grade access to the Esplanade, or free flowing traffic.
As part of this plan, I have superimposed a new street grid on top of the existing one. Below, you will see the Bowker overpass completely removed, with traffic exiting and entering Storrow using the at-grade roadways of Charlesgate East and West. The mainline of Storrow Drive is reconfigured as an overpass, which would be constructed of stone similar to that which carries the Riverway over Boylston street. This enables the Muddy River to be restored in this section to Olmsted’s original vision, as pictured above.
But wait, MassDOT has said this would be impossible as the traffic volumes existing and entering the Bowker would simply overwhelm the intersections!
This may be true, even though car ownership is showing to be in decline, many cars use the Bowker to access the Fens and Longwood from points east and west. But this does not mean we have to keep an overpass cutting through the heart of the Back Bay. It means we must find a way to get these users to the Fens and Longwood without having to use Storrow Drive in the first place.
As such, I have reconfigured the westernmost portion of Newbury Street into a Collector/Distributor road. Cars can enter from Mass Ave, Charlesgate East or West and Kenmore Street to access the Mass Pike westbound. Cars exiting the westbound Pike can use this same road to access Charlesgate East, Kenmore Street, and Brookline Avenue.
Removing the Bowker and consolidating the ramps at its Northern edge allow a massive amount of the Esplanade to be restored, as well as the majority of the original Charlesgate. Cycling facilities could be vastly improved, and at-grade pedestrian access is possible.
This is not perfect. The eastbound Mass Pike does not have room for exits in this location due to the adjacent railroad tracks. A separate project (that MassDOT and Boston University have been looking at) could address this by adding ramps at Mountfort or Saint Marys St just west of this location, while also improving a terrible traffic inducing interchange at the BU Bridge.
However, MassDOTs decision that it is not possible to remove the Bowker overpass at this location is unacceptable. It has to be, but the scope of the project must be increased far beyond the simple overpass. A systematic program of increasing the utility of the Mass Pike and other redundant roadways, improving transit and bike usage, and downgrading Storrow Drive similar to New York City’s West Side Drive should be begun. As with the Beacon Park interchange in Allston, the solution here is to look at a much wider picture.