Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bring Down This Bridge!

There's a movement afoot across the country to take down obsolete 50's era highways that were bulldozed through urban centers, leaving them damaged and blighted.

Cities are having a moment, as people are willing to pay more and forgo McMansions in favor of living in places where they can walk, bike and live in connected mixed-use neighborhoods.
And advocates for healthy urban spaces are pushing to bring the leadership of giant high-way centered DOT's into this urban present, let alone the future.

The McCarthy Overpass,  part of Rt 28/ the McGrath Highway in East Somerville is a perfect example of bad car centered design from an outmoded era.  A healthy dense neighborhood was sacrificed on the altar or getting as many commuters in from the suburbs as fast as possible.  The resulting elevated highway created a barrier that is inhospitable to anyone not speeding by in a car; impossible to cross in many places, it cut the neighborhood in half.   No one wanted to live next to the highway or even look at it, so it blighted the adjacent areas, and new development turned away.  Ironically, thanks to improvements of I-93, which is a parallel corridor, the 6 lanes and disfiguring bridges of Mc Grath carry about the same number of cars a day as Mass Ave, a grounded 4 lane (or less) road.

And the McCarthy overpass (the part north of Union sq) is literally crumbling.  Like the Casey overpass in JP, they've had to close some lanes at some parts of it because of structural weakness.  The City of Somerville has been pushing to have the overpass taken down, and to replace it with a city street, with sidewalks, bike lanes, urban storefronts and a balance between transportation modes, not the mindless prioritization of the car.   Mass DOT even commissioned a study on the impacts of grounding Mc Grath.

However, while one hand of Mass DOT is exploring restoring the city streets to the neighborhood,  the other is still thinking only about throughput of car traffic,  and is planning on spending $16 million dollars to repair the bridge "for the short term".   Advocates fear that once these repairs are complete, DOT will say "well, we can't tear it down now, we just fixed it to last another 50 years!"

The shortsightedness of repairing a bridge which so many people want to come down is staggering.  Advocates have lobbied hard to even get the DOT to realize this and to listen to community opinion on this.   For a long time, we thought it was a done deal and that there was no way to stop this waste of funds.   However, we have succeeded in getting DOT to hold a meeting about the work,  Thursday (tomorrow) the 31st from 6pm to 8pm..   It's in a not a terribly bike-transit friendly location, at the Argenziano School, at 290 Washington Street.  However I hope if you're local you'll consider coming by and speaking up for a public space for people, not just for moving cars in from the suburbs.  If we get enough pushback, we still hope that there's time to call off this wasteful project, and keep up momentum to to take back the street for the city!

1 comment:

  1. Some other bridges, such as the 20th Ave NE bridge in Seattle, should be kept in their new role to provide ped/bike access after autos are banned. It was a bit too narrow for modern SUV travel. There are many different approaches to public space.