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Old 06-25-2012, 12:25 AM   #1
BostonUrbEx
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Removing the central artery, thru-traffic, etc...

I've been thinking about how it would be possible to remove the central artery -- as discussed in another thread lately -- so that it turns into a boulevard and continues to shed lanes right into the city. From both directions. The primary concern was thru-traffic, I believe. Many suggested 128 (clogged up already) and 495 (clogging is building), and that was quickly attacked. But, what about creating a 4-lane "express" expressway in the median of 128 from I-93 Quincy to I-93 Woburn. With 2 lanes each way, the ONLY place off or on between the end points would be I-95 junction, I-90 junction, and US-3 Burlington. This would include removing a lane in each direction from 128, due to the flux in demand and to minimize ROW widening.
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forget it ever happening, its too great an idea.
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Old 06-25-2012, 08:20 AM   #2
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Re: Removing the central artery, thru-traffic, etc...

When you say remove the central artery, what parts exactly do you mean? We just spent several billion expanding the central artery and putting it underground in the CBD.
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Old 06-25-2012, 09:20 AM   #3
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Re: Removing the central artery, thru-traffic, etc...

I have a feeling he meant Southeast Expressway.
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Old 06-25-2012, 09:51 AM   #4
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Re: Removing the central artery, thru-traffic, etc...

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When you say remove the central artery, what parts exactly do you mean? We just spent several billion expanding the central artery and putting it underground in the CBD.
At a cool $22 billion estimated final price tag, that tunnel had better stick around long enough for us to be able to reroute 93 around on top of the sea wall that gets built in the future, or something.

The crux of the problem is that the central artery actually IS an artery of a certain definition - you can't simply eliminate it, or even move/contract/elevate/bury it without effecting every other part of the system.

Axing the CA/T has disastrous consequences for the Pike and ruins an awful lot of days up and down MA-3 and MA-24. The effects on 128 are either zero-sum or potentially ironically beneficial - the "double-expressway" is emphatically NOT going to be utilized by ex-CA/T traffic, which will simply drive your boulevard 8 or 9 times out of 10. So, the "XX-way" lanes speed 95-to-Pike, 95-to-3 and Pike-to-3 commuters along until it finds itself consumed for more general traffic lanes.
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Old 06-25-2012, 04:31 PM   #5
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Re: Removing the central artery, thru-traffic, etc...

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When you say remove the central artery, what parts exactly do you mean? We just spent several billion expanding the central artery and putting it underground in the CBD.
I'm thinking for theoretical/ultra-longterm. Let's assume CAT didn't happen for this thread.
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Old 06-25-2012, 05:10 PM   #6
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Re: Removing the central artery, thru-traffic, etc...

Gotcha.
Wouldn't that make it very tough to get to Logan from North or South? People would have to drive out to Newton and get on the Pike or take a boulevard through the city to get to one of the tunnels.
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Old 06-25-2012, 08:43 PM   #7
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Re: Removing the central artery, thru-traffic, etc...

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Let's assume CAT didn't happen for this thread.
Traffic bound to/from inside of 128 would continue to utilize the same route via the new boulevard while some North-South traffic would detour around 128. The Commuter Rail and Red Line would see significantly more passengers and the need for a North-South Link would be even more crucial.

Even with that, I think the resulting arterial road would easily have been 8-10 lanes instead of the current 6.
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Old 06-25-2012, 08:55 PM   #8
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Re: Removing the central artery, thru-traffic, etc...

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Traffic bound to/from inside of 128 would continue to utilize the same route via the new boulevard while some North-South traffic would detour around 128. The Commuter Rail and Red Line would see significantly more passengers and the need for a North-South Link would be even more crucial.

Even with that, I think the resulting arterial road would easily have been 8-10 lanes instead of the current 6.
There's no way the speed limit would be less than 40, either.

Building a surface road would have made the problem worse, not solved it.
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Old 06-25-2012, 08:57 PM   #9
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Re: Removing the central artery, thru-traffic, etc...

Yeah, I should have added that part about the speed limit and very long green lights - all at the expense of cross traffic and pedestrians.
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Old 06-25-2012, 09:12 PM   #10
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Re: Removing the central artery, thru-traffic, etc...

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Building a surface road would have made the problem worse, not solved it.
They did build a surface road, though!

All this talk about how "impossible" it would be to have a surface boulevard is suffering from a lack of imagination I think.

Take another look at San Francisco. If you're going from Marin county to San Mateo, then you must pass through the city (over the GG bridge). There are two roads you can use: 19th Avenue or Van Ness. Both of them are surface city streets. They're most definitely arterials, but they manage to get by with them.

It's a trade-off. If you don't consider the cost/benefit proposition, then it's easy to end up with the Central Artery/Tunnel option. But then you spend $22 billion and wonder what that money could have gone to instead.
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Old 06-25-2012, 09:50 PM   #11
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Re: Removing the central artery, thru-traffic, etc...

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They did build a surface road, though!

All this talk about how "impossible" it would be to have a surface boulevard is suffering from a lack of imagination I think.

Take another look at San Francisco. If you're going from Marin county to San Mateo, then you must pass through the city (over the GG bridge). There are two roads you can use: 19th Avenue or Van Ness. Both of them are surface city streets. They're most definitely arterials, but they manage to get by with them.

It's a trade-off. If you don't consider the cost/benefit proposition, then it's easy to end up with the Central Artery/Tunnel option. But then you spend $22 billion and wonder what that money could have gone to instead.
Oh, no, make no mistake - I believe the surface road we've got there is still part of the problem and needs to be knocked down to a more reasonable 4 lanes. It serves frontage needs only, which it can do at 4 instead of 6.

The problem is, San Francisco and our fair city don't actually have a whole hell of a lot in common, with regards to road/vehicle traffic. San Francisco benefits from a city-wide grid that we don't have, and is - despite some progress - still a very car-heavy city.

Would it be impossible to say 'sure, let's just go with surface arteries everywhere!' and reorganize our streets that way? No, but I maintain that the impact of more roads like the Greenway is going to be as bad or worse than the elevated expressways are and were. Certainly, it's a trade-off, and I think everyone loses if we trade down to surface arteries.

As for better uses of the $22 billion? I have no idea what the final price tag on a North-South Rail Link would have been, but I'm imagining that it would have likely run us $10~$12. Throw on another $6 and change to do something like build a sea wall and route the Central Artery through traffic on top of that and we've still got at least $4 billion left to play with for badly needed subway improvements and maybe punching up the Framingham/Worcester Line.

Now, whether any of those alternative big ticket spending items are things we SHOULD have spent the money on instead is another matter entirely.
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Old 06-25-2012, 10:11 PM   #12
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Re: Removing the central artery, thru-traffic, etc...

They have a grid but it's not useful for dispersing that kind of through traffic. There's too many blockages, both artificial and natural. 19th Avenue is the only road that cuts through everything when traveling between north and south of the city on the west side. Local traffic can disperse on the side roads of the grid however. It isn't necessary for the kind of use that would have displaced the Central Artery, especially if the Ted Williams tunnel does get built.
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Old 06-28-2012, 05:40 PM   #13
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Re: Removing the central artery, thru-traffic, etc...

I like the idea of an express highway in the median of 128.

Also, adding one to 495 wouldn't be a bad idea either. I've been back in the city for something and commuting to one of my company's offices in Haverhill every day and I can't believe how congested that road is.
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Old 07-01-2012, 01:00 PM   #14
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Re: Removing the central artery, thru-traffic, etc...

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Originally Posted by BostonUrbEx View Post
I've been thinking about how it would be possible to remove the central artery -- as discussed in another thread lately -- so that it turns into a boulevard and continues to shed lanes right into the city. From both directions. The primary concern was thru-traffic, I believe. Many suggested 128 (clogged up already) and 495 (clogging is building), and that was quickly attacked. But, what about creating a 4-lane "express" expressway in the median of 128 from I-93 Quincy to I-93 Woburn. With 2 lanes each way, the ONLY place off or on between the end points would be I-95 junction, I-90 junction, and US-3 Burlington. This would include removing a lane in each direction from 128, due to the flux in demand and to minimize ROW widening.
SERIOUSLY!
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Old 08-07-2012, 11:18 PM   #15
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Re: Removing the central artery, thru-traffic, etc...

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I like the idea of an express highway in the median of 128.

Also, adding one to 495 wouldn't be a bad idea either. I've been back in the city for something and commuting to one of my company's offices in Haverhill every day and I can't believe how congested that road is.
Route 128 doesn't have a median. The few areas that still appear to have one are under construction or will be in the very near future due to the Route 128 Add-a-Lane project. The right of way is insufficient in most areas to expand beyond eight lanes in each direction.

Route 495 definitely could use another lane.
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Old 08-08-2012, 05:55 PM   #16
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Re: Removing the central artery, thru-traffic, etc...

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Route 128 doesn't have a median. The few areas that still appear to have one are under construction or will be in the very near future due to the Route 128 Add-a-Lane project. The right of way is insufficient in most areas to expand beyond eight lanes in each direction.

Route 495 definitely could use another lane.
The right of way is wide enough to add at least one additional lane, if not two in each direction. All it would take is another 24 feet-- with the exception of maybe five houses, this is easily doable. Most (if not all) overpasses and interchanges would need to be rebuilt, but they are all of late 1950s era vintage anyways.

The Capital Beltway is very similar in terms of ROW width in some places in VA and there is currently a rather large project going on to add express lanes.
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Old 08-08-2012, 10:09 PM   #17
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Re: Removing the central artery, thru-traffic, etc...

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The right of way is wide enough to add at least one additional lane, if not two in each direction. All it would take is another 24 feet-- with the exception of maybe five houses, this is easily doable. Most (if not all) overpasses and interchanges would need to be rebuilt, but they are all of late 1950s era vintage anyways.

The Capital Beltway is very similar in terms of ROW width in some places in VA and there is currently a rather large project going on to add express lanes.
Many, probably a majority, of the original 50's-era bridges and interchanges have been replaced over the last ten years, are under construction, or are fully funded and designed and awaiting construction. I believe this applies to all of the bridges from Route 9 in Needham to Route 24, and it also applies to lots of others (Trapelo Road in Waltham comes to mind, that was a big project).

The ROW might be able to accommodate the lanes themselves, but my bet is it would have sufficiently detrimental effects on sight lines and exit/interchange geometry that FHWA would object to it.

I think we'd get much more bang for the buck in terms of both throughput and safety by redesigning existing exits and interchanges a la your 128/3 proposal, eliminating cloverleafs and trumpets, adding C/Ds, setting proper speed limits, etc.

Oh, and eliminate the Pike toll plazas at Route 128 and you'd be able to make that interchange far more efficient (and eliminate a huge chunk of Route 16 traffic, I would bet - lots of people take it to avoid that toll plaza)
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