I’ve heard from many constituents asking questions about the plans for the Storrow Drive Tunnel — the long underpass after the Arlington Street Exit from Storrow eastbound.
It is well known that the tunnel is near the end of its useful life. About ten years ago, repairs were made that extend its life, but it is expected that soon the tunnel will begin to require heavy maintenance and ultimately, replacement.
Representative Livingstone, Senator Boncore, Senator DiDomenico and I recently convened a meeting to check on the status of plans for the tunnel. Commissioner Roy of the Department of Conservation and Recreation and Administrator Gulliver, Highway Administrator for MassDOT participated. The meeting included representatives of the South End, the Beacon Hill Civic Association, the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay and the Esplanade Association.
Here are some of the takeaways from the meeting:
- The tunnel is safe — it is subject to regular inspection by engineers who are deeply familiar with its structural characteristics.
- The tunnel is approaching the point where increased maintenance is likely to required, but it is not as far along in deterioration as some other major highway structures.
- DCR and MassDOT are beginning to discuss the tunnel’s future and to develop options for replacing it.
- It is expected that those options will be sufficiently articulated to start a public discussion about them in approximately one year.
- All are concerned to manage the impact of traffic diversion during construction. This concern is heightened due to the volume of major projects in the area.
- MassDOT, in particular, recognizes the need to coordinate the construction with the major I-90 project in Allston.
- DCR and MassDOT recognize the enormous sensitivity of this project adjacent to both dense residential neighborhoods and iconic parkland. When options are ready to put on the table, they will engage in a very robust public process around the major decisions.
- It is unlikely that construction could begin on this project before 2024.
DCR owns the Storrow Drive and the Tunnel, but for a highway project of this complexity is likely to seek the leadership of MassDOT in construction. Fortunately, MassDOT’s Highway Administrator led the previous process of reconstruction of the tunnel as a DCR engineer (before transferring to MassDOT). The two agencies collaborate well and both will remain involved throughout the process.
Please, as our very enlightened and diligent senator, please, please don’t repeat that DCR “owns” anything. The department administers properties owned by the Commonwealth, which means all of us.
One of your most ardent supporters.
‘Owns’ in the sense that they own responsibility for it.
The closing permanently or temporarily the Storrow underpass at Arlington Street for the needed long term improvement would be made much more difficult, perhaps impossible, if the existence of the bike lane currently under study on Beacon Street from Berkeley to Mass Ave. is made permanent. This “temporary” bike lane seems to have an extremely low usage by bikers. Originally done to quiet speeding on Beacon Street, which has been achieved by a 25 mile per hour light coordination with the traffic lights the length of the street. However, the bike lane pushes cars out into the street creating its own safety hazards given the ever-present cranes and moving vans that make the street an auto obstacle course and dangerous to enter from the side streets coming from Back Street.
It is critical any plan to reroute traffic around the Storrow Drive underpass when it is repaired or replaced that the need for the “temporary” bike lane on Beacon Street be carefully assessed as part of the overall short and long term traffic analysis for this complex transportation nexus that impacts the entire Back Bay at Beacon and Beekeley Streets. It could end up being the biggest unnecessary loose end adding uncurable problems to an already unacceptable condition created when the direction of Charles Street was reversed by Mayor White.
Thanks for these detailed updates. We really appreciate the transparency!!
Thanks for the information! I’m hoping that plans are underway to put much of Storrow Drive underground. The Esplanade & the Hatch Shell are our city’ treasures & I think this will bring the land back to its original purpose. Hopefully, they are considering this when they are planning on replacing the current tunnel. Thank you!
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