Regarding the Bowker overpass, I know the state is concerned about handling the traffic if the Bowker is removed (especially to/from the Longwood area), while most area residents would like to see the Bowker gone. The following suggestions would make using the Pike to get to Longwood easier, thus reducing the need to use Storrow to get to Longwood, and thus reducing the need for the Bowker. Perhaps some of these ideas could be considered by the state, the city, and area residents?
The suggestions below are drawn out on 2 maps that can be seen at this link:
Scroll the page to the thread from KenmoreResident to see the Google-style maps. I think it is easier to comprehend than by reading the text below, though additional detail is in this text…
In the interest of compromise, with everyone giving up a little…
* The state replaces the Bowker with surface level streets, with the exception of a new Bowker providing elevated access over the Pike/Ipswich street/railroad tracks only.
* The city and area residents agree to new/relocated Pike access on Newbury Street near Kenmore, and optionally considers making Brookline Ave between Kenmore and the Landmark Center one-way outbound, allowing for easy access to the Longwood area from a new westbound Mass Pike exit feeding onto a reconnected Newbury Street (on-ramp placed east of the Bowker and connecting Pike traffic to Newbury westbound with no break in Newbury where the Bowker now breaks it). Alternatively, leaving Brookline Ave a two-way would still work, though a traffic light would be required at Newbury/Brookline Ave. If timed appropriately to favor Longwood bound traffic during peak times, this could be workable. Current Brookline Ave traffic could self-divert to other roads (Boylston, Beacon, rebuilt Bowker) to avoid waiting at the Longwood-favored light on Brookline Ave at Newbury. A ‘smart’ traffic light could perhaps change to green for MBTA buses/ambulances/police cars on Brookline Ave.
* The state replaces Newbury resident parking spaces lost due to Pike ramps by agreeing to build street level, but off-street, Kenmore resident parking, placed either over the existing sunken parking lot a bit east of Kenmore Street, and/or above the partially sunken large lot that exists behind Hotel Commonwealth. Any extra spaces, beyond resident-only-Newbury-replacement-spaces added to this parking deck could be gifted for the use of the property owner (very valuable during Red Sox games) in lieu of compensation for the air space taken by the parking deck. Local residents should be able to access these lots via Kenmore Street, in addition to Newbury Street, thus avoiding having to deal with any traffic on Newbury Street.
* The furthest west block of Newbury that is awkwardly two way now (between Brookline Av and Kenmore Street) would be made one way, in the same direction as the rest of Newbury Street.
Additionally, I would also propose considering the following…
* Close the westbound Pike ON-ramp at Mass Av and Newbury (a replacement is described below). This makes it easier to add the westbound Pike OFF-ramp described above to this area.
* Further down Newbury, somewhere behind the Commonwealth Hotel or before, add an ON-ramp to the Mass Pike westbound (I know space is tight here – enough room for a merge lane via the removal of on street parking? Newbury here is about 3 lanes wide if you consider on-street parking, so there is space on Newbury that could be repurposed as a Pike merge lane, though the neighborhood would hate to give up that parking (which is why I suggest the state could build a street level deck above either of the two submerged existing lots that exist on this section of Newbury).
* As part of the replacement Bowker over the Pike, include an exit from the northbound Bowker down to Newbury street, allowing straight-forward access to the relocated Pike westbound on-ramp (and from there to the Pike u-turn, about 1 mile away, to get to the Pike inbound for those heading east).
* Make the loop around the northern Fens ONE WAY in a counter-clockwise direction. Thus, the small portion of Boylston/Park Drive that sits between the Bowker to the north and Boylston Street to the south is one way southbound. Traffic coming off of Boylston FROM Longwood must then turn right at Park Drive and head south to Agassiz Rd, then north on Fenway and then up to Boylston, where they can optionally connect to the new Bowker ramp leading down to Newbury street (and from there they can get onto the westbound Pike). Traffic coming off the Bowker southbound and wanting to head to Boylston inbound would have to head south on Park Drive, cross over at Agassiz Rd, and then head North on Fenway to Boylston eastbound. The short section of Boylston between the Bowker and the Fenway would be one way westbound.
What all this does…
Moving the current Mass Ave/Newbury Pike on-ramp toward Kenmore allows easier on-ramp access to the Pike westbound for traffic from the Longwood area, via the rebuilt Bowker. This traffic would no longer have to go thru the busy Boylston/Mass Ave and Mass Ave/Newbury intersections (and across oncoming traffic in both places) to get to a Pike on-ramp. Traffic coming inbound on Comm Av from the West could now take a right onto Charlesgate West to get to the Pike westbound on-ramp. Traffic from the Back Bay, that uses this onramp in its current location, could still use it but would have to travel down Newbury just a short bit further to access the onramp. This reduces congestion on Mass Ave, Boylston St, and Comm Ave by taking away cars that are now bound for the current Pike on-ramp location (and in most cases gets this Pike bound traffic off of city streets, and onto the Pike, more quickly). Instead of access from one direction (Mass Ave at Newbury) the relocated Pike onramp can be accessed from 3 directions: from the south (the Fens) via the Bowker, from the north and west via Comm Ave to Charlesgate West, and from the east (Back Bay) via Newbury Street.
Making the loop around the northern Fens ONE WAY in a counter-clockwise direction allows for a shortened light cycle at the intersection of Boylston and Fenway, allowing more traffic from Longwood to get to the Pike more quickly. Also traffic eastbound from Boylston now has a ‘right on red’ situation and there is no longer a need (or possibility) to go northbound here, again reducing traffic waits at the Boylston/Park Drive intersection. The Fenway at Westland traffic light could be eliminated I would think. Boylston Street, from where it meets Fenway and around the west end of the loop down to Park Drive could be narrowed from four to two lanes. Pedestrian/bike access to/from the Fens is thus improved, as people only have to deal with traffic from one direction, not two, and cross only two lanes instead of four.
This does put more traffic onto Agassiz Rd but consider this: transforming Agassiz into the bottom of a one way loop around the northern Fens allows you to remove a couple of lanes from Boylston at the north and west side of the loop. I think it is a good trade-off even if you might have to add a 2nd lane to Agassiz Road… total paved lanes would be decreased and both traffic flow and pedestrian access would be improved. The loop does add a small amount of distance in driving thru the area in some cases, but there would likely be a reduction in time and gas used due to less idle time waiting at red lines that are currently handling travel in both directions. Quite apart from the Bowker issue, i think this configuration has the potential for some advantages over the current two way flow.
Please also consider the possibility of an on-ramp from the Pike inbound onto the outbound Brookline Av. This ramp could be built somewhere in the vicinity of the empty parking lots and Yawkey station in that area; or perhaps incorporated into the design of the new building and parking being built here. Railroad tracks may have to be shifted but there is some room here to maybe do so, perhaps allowing for a new Pike off-ramp from the eastbound Pike to Longwood via Brookline Av.
If (optionally) Brookline Ave were one way between Kenmore and the Landmark Center there would be no need for a new traffic light at the Brookline Av/Newbury street intersection, as traffic coming off Newbury from the Pike could now have its own Longwood bound merge lane onto Brookline Ave. A one-way Brookline Ave to Landmark would also reduce wait cycles at both the busy Kenmore intersection and Landmark Center intersection due to Brookline Ave traffic only going one way now, not two. The solution described here, however, does not require a one-way Brookline Ave.
Removal of the bulk of the Bowker should pay dividends in reduced rebuilding costs as well as future maintenance costs to the state for this elevated structure.
What is missing from the above: easy access to the Mass Pike inbound from the Longwood area. Perhaps though, the additions of new access (in both directions) FROM the Mass Pike to Longwood, and improved westbound access from Longwood is enough to allow for the removal of most of the current elevated Bowker. Inbound Pike traffic could travel the Pike westbound to the Pike U-turn ramp about 1 mile away to access the Pike inbound
These comments are appreciated and duly noted and I look forward to making sure that they get a fair hearing in the long-term planning conversation.
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