Bowker Overpass Meeting Scheduled

Paul Nelson, Manager of Corridor Planning at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation sent this notice:

I am writing to inform you that the next meeting for the I-90 Back Bay Ramps Transportation Study is being held Wednesday, January 15, 2014 from 6:00 to 8:00 PM in Johnsons Conference Rooms 2/3 at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square.  The primary purpose of this meeting will be to review additional analysis of the  existing usage of the Bowker Overpass and the potential impacts if the existing Bowker Overpass were closed to traffic (similar to the Bowker Overpass Alternative 1 under consideration in the study).  Both of these issues were major topics of discussion at the December 4th public meeting. 

This meeting continues an important conversation about whether  it is feasible and responsible from a traffic standpoint to eliminate the Bowker overpass without replacing it with other ramps.   Removing the Bowker would expose the Muddy River and enhance Emerald Necklace connectivity.  On the other hand, it may not be practical, given that the Bowker carries over 50,000 cars a day.    That’s the question for consideration in the meeting.

The meeting is part of a much longer-run conversation about how to accommodate the traffic to Longwood and Backbay, perhaps by adding new turnpike ramps.  Any new ramps take many years to design, permit and construct.

Bowker Overpass

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

7 replies on “Bowker Overpass Meeting Scheduled”

  1. Paul,

    Thank you for the more timely notification of the Jan. 15 meeting re: the Bowker Removal Issue.

    I am not sure if you received this information already (or if DOT has already investigated the idea) but engineers very familiar with the Bowker Alternatives suggested to us a possible modification that might make Alternative #1 (removal of the Bowker & widening Charlesgate E. & W. respectively to accommodate traffic from the lost overpass) somewhat more palatable to the DOT group. Alternative #1 could be tweaked to allow traffic to move much more smoothly on Cgate E & W. by closing Beacon St. between Cgate E. & W. Traffic on Beacon St. between Cgate E & Mass. Ave. would be reversed for that one block to a west to east flow (much as the City did with the same parallel block of Marlboro St. a few years back) so that Beacon St. traffic would not be forced to flow onto Cgate E. This idea holds substantial merit for several reasons:

    1) it would eliminate the need for traffic lights on Beacon St. where it intersects Cgate W & E. thus leaving only the lights at Commonwealth thus helping expedite traffic flow (i.e. not two lights to pass through only one) down those two streets

    2) this plan would actually be a vast improvement to what currently exists since you are now dealing with backup at the Storrow exits onto Charlesgate W. Now all the traffic off of Storrow trying to go west on Beacon or Bay State (from a purely visual observation, about 50% of the total traffic) would no longer have to contend with a traffic light at Beacon; vehicles would simply move from Storrow onto Beacon/Kenmore Sq. without delays or backup, a vast improvement to what is happening now. The same applies to Charlesgate E traffic: the removal of the Beacon lights would permit traffic to flow smoothly onto Storrow E. & W.

    3) This reversal of traffic on Beacon St. between Cgate E & W. would be a major plus for residents on Beacon St. between

    Charles St. (Beacon Hill) and Mass. Ave. since it might in all likelihood reduce the heavy truck & bus traffic that now uses Beacon as a “mini-expressway” to Kenmore & west (since they are banned from Storrow due to heighth/weight requirements and from Comm. Ave for Back Bay traffic control reasons). These westbound vehicles, if they chose to still use Beacon, would now have to turn one way or the other on Mass. Ave. We would think many of these drivers, many trying to avoid turnpike fees, would eventually seek other, more time effective, routes.

    4) This would allow the historic “Beacon Entrance” bridge to be narrowed and turned into a pedestrian/bicycle path E/W

    much like has been done in the Fens. This obviously would further reclaim valuable park area; it would give light to a large section of the stagnating Muddy River just before it enters the Charles as well as make the restored park more attractive & user-friendly.

    5) Pedestrian walk signals on Beacon St. would still be maintained but at a wider interval.

    Just some “food for thought” at this late date. Have a pleasant holiday.

    Hef Fisher

    Friends of the Charlesgate

  2. To further facilitate traffic if the Bowker is removed I would suggest consideration for changing the flow around the northern Fens to one way. Traffic would flow counter clockwise only, from the bowker down to agassiz rd and up the fenway back to the bowker. This would allow the removal of traffic lights at up to 6 intersections where cars must now stop to allow for the flow of 2 way traffic. Stop time at these intersections would be greatly reduced as traffic would be merging rather than crossing oncoming traffic. For example, heading down boylston from longwood traffic would no longer deal with lights at park/boylston and at the bowker start. Instead traffic flows right off boylston, down a widened agassiz and up the fenway to the intersection at comm ave. With no bowker there is 1 new traffic light stop for this traffic (at comm ave) but our proposal eliminates 2 current sets of lights for this traffic meaning a net reduction in traffic signals to wait at! For fens residents 4 lanes in places can be reduced to 3 or 2 lanes if traffic is oneway tho 1 lane areas would expand to 2. This would be a net reduction in traffic lanes around the fens and less cars idleing at traffic lights. Access to the fens for walkers from the area is improved by one way traffic also. So, in conjunction with Hefs Beacon change cited above both of these changes combined allow better area traffic flow even with the removal of the Bowker.

  3. In support of the Bowker removal, traffic flow can be further improved by a redesign of intersections, aided by an additional lane on the Charlesgates. Consider the Somerset corner of comm ave and C’gate east. Currently traffic is either green for Cgate traffic or downramp traffic, never both at the same time. If the downramp was widened to have a right only lane for comm av inbound and cgate had a right only lane and a straight only lane both cgate and the downramp could share a green light. Cgate right bound traffic would be directed to flow onto the somerset side of comm ave while at the same time the downramp’s orientation and markings could flow that right-only traffic onto the mall side lane of comm ave. In the same way both could share a green for straight only traffic down a now 3 lane Cgate, perhaps with cgate at Somerset traffic getting a bit of a jump to allow access to comm ave outbound. Additionally a bit of redesign could allow Comm ave inbound traffic to take a left at Cgate East at the same time downramp/C’gate East traffic has a green for right only traffic. The net of changes like this is less red light wait time and improved flow at comm ave and the Somerset downramp.

    Similar considerations could be given to other intersections in the area. Consider the traffic light at Boylston and Ipswich near the gas stations and CVS. If 1 or 2 new right only lanes expanded out toward Park drive just beyond the sunoco, a current lane could be dedicated to receiving traffic from Ipswich toward the Fens. In this way Boylston eastbound traffic might never have to stop at a light here for Ipswich street traffic, as it does now.

    Finally, in the discussion of a one way loop in the north Fens consider removing just one, not two, of the lanes currently supporting clockwise traffic. This 3rd lane can be a dedicated merge lane for traffic joining the now one-way counter-clockwise new Fenway traffic flow.

    Multiple small traffic flow enhancements like these could make a significant difference / improvement in a Chalesgate without a Bowker by removing/reducing red lights or red light wait times that currently exist. The cost of changes like this must certainly be significantly cheaper than rebuilding the Bowker.

  4. Thanks Senator! A tweek to my last comment …

    Optionally, access to Comm Av west from Newbury might best be accomplished by a new access path from Newbury at the Somerset corner, under the Bowker downramp, meeting Comm Av at the West edge of the downramp. On green this traffic would have its own left only lane in the Comm Ave mall space for a turn onto Comm Ave west. This would eliminate the need to give Cgate E traffic at the Somerset the “jump” (in a straight on green situation) that is described above.

  5. Please do not close access to Boston’s largest medical area, to the Fenway and to Back Bay.
    The Bowker Overpass is vital to Boston’s economy & healthcare needs.

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