Monday, April 30, 2012

Streets in the Air

Not a particularly good reproduction of the drawing that went with the article. If you squint, you can see two elevated highway structures running down a wide, imaginary street. They seem to have seen this proposed elevated highway as simply a stacked up downtown street that would relieve traffic, rather than a through highway connecting the North and South Shores. The artist who drew the image above not only invented a very wide street with buildings on either side, he also managed to ignore the necessary on and off ramps. In any case, the planned roadway in the sky did get built, and it became the Central Artery. 

Daily Boston Globe December 21, 1930

Streets In The Air Only Solution To Boston's Traffic Problems

So Says the Planning Board That Asks for Two-Level Road Across City, Costing $28,000000, as First Item in a Big Scheme

Boston's plans for a system of overhead express motor highways withing the city for general relief of traffic congestion as still only on paper; New York city last week opened to public travel the first $6,500,000 "leg" of such an elevated thoroughfare, which is eventually to stretch along the Hudson River shore from the Battery clear through the Bronx.

The Boston scheme for about $50,000,000 worth of such overhead, unintersected highways, handsomely set forth in a Boston City Planning Board report of the thoroughfare plan for Boston, based on a three-year study of local problems by consultant Robert Whitten, who had to do with the New York project, is still being explained to and debated by local civic and professional organizations.

This is imperative, prior to Mayor Curley's effort to get Legislative sanction for it, wholly or in part.

Losing $24,000,000 a Year

Sorely as Boston apparently needs the relief that some such plan would give, nothing more is likely to be done about it for at least a year or two. Yet all who like to visualize the Boston of a half-century hence will secure and study a copy of this fascinating document, for some such means of public travel will inevitably be a part of the future Bostonian scene.

Arguments for abolition of street-traffic grade-crossings would be superfluous to motorists and truck-men driving through the present-day Boston. They know all the arguments, daily halting as them must, from two to eight minutes, at the city's multiple existing traffic-jammed crossroads.

Men whose word is authoritative calculate that delays in traffic movement in Boston impose a daily loss of $81,000 upon the collective Bostonian pocketbook. This conservatively-estimated $24,000,000 annually is computed as losses to ultimate consumers of foodstuffs and other merchandise caused by delays in trucking these across the congested city, and to time-losses to passengers in congestion-stalled automobiles.

Only a Beginning

The City Planning Board's overhead express highway system embodied in the report is based upon the authorized construction of the $16,000,000 East Boston vehicular tunnel. This tunnel will not be completed for four years, but unless the major part of the board's plans are in operation a few years after the tunnel is opened, downtown Boston traffic movement will come pretty near to complete paralysis by reason of heavier burned of tunnel traffic imposed upon an already strained situation, these authorities are convinced.

Anticipating that the next two or three decades may see in this corner of the country a doubling of the number of vehicles now upon the highways, and, convinced of the inadequacy of city-proper channels to handle with expedition even the loads that are now upon them, these authorities predict that the East Boston vehicular tunnel must necessarily have two two-way lanes, as has New York's Holland Tube, properly to accommodate the volume of traffic between Boston and the North that will eventually use the local under-harbor tunnel.

They are urging amendment of the enabling tunnel to act so as to provide this double tunnel act so as to provide this double tunnel, at perhaps a 70 percent increase in cost over the prescribed $16,000,000 for one double-lane tunnel.

Air the Only Room Left

The main feature of the relief plan sponsored by the Planning Board is a broad two-level highway, stretching from teh vicinity of the North Station through the heart of the city's business district, through Forest Hill sq and to the junction of Kneeland and Albany streets.

The upper-level structure, of reenforced concrete or of steel and granite, would be carried from the North Station to the junction named and then extended out over Albany st to a point beyond Dover st.

The cost of such a highway is reckoned at $28,000,000, since for many stretches it would require demolition of existing buildings and purchase of right of way. The argument for it is that it would for a century to come furnish adequate facilities for the rapid movement of north-south bound traffic that now stagnantly flows through the city proper.

The most potent argument against such a highway is the argument against all overhead structures within a city - the argument that eventually will bring the Boston Elevated superstructures in Charlestown and Roxbury underground.

Proponents of this 100-foot wide general overhead express motor highway scheme can answer, however, that inasmuch as Boston's present transportation-subway layout forbids some such tunnel underpass for traffic through the heart of the city, the natural alternative is to put such a highway on stilts rather than underground.

Picturing Future Conditions

A system of periodical ramps by which this upper-level surface could be mounted or demounted by through traffic would put this semi-loop in easy touch with local traffic centers, like the East Boston tunnel, the Northern artery, and all water-bridges linking Boston with northern and westerly points, its proponents claim.

To postpone adoption of some such general plan for relief of vehicle-crowded downtown highways would be about as disastrous to Boston's future as postponement a generation ago for the digging of the Park-st subway would have been, Planning Board spokesmen say.

They picture conditions as they might have been today had not the community the foresight to provide means of eventually taking all the trolly cars out of the downtown section by putting them underground.

In contrast to characteristic local inertia in tackling in a big way the solution of city-wide traffic congestion, they point to relief measures already adopted by New York and New Jersey, which has now in partial operation an elevated express highway for motor vehicles extending from the Jersey end of the Holland tunnel through Newark, Elizabeth and toward Philadelphia; they point to Detroit, Chicago and to California metropolises which have adopted the two-level express highway principle.

Items 1 and 2

They reckon that this proposed Boston two-level express highway for north-south traffic would reduce by 40 percent, at least, the existing congestion on surface highways in the downtown district - mainly, Washington and Tremont sts.

The Chamber of Commerce Retail Trade Board has approved all of the suggestions in principle.

The entire plan is, or course, tentative, and its execution would be staggered over 10 or 15 years. Thus there would be ample time to make amendments or modifications of the plan, as warranted.

The twin two-lane East Boston vehicular tunnel scheme and the Central Artery for express traffic between the North Station terrain and Dover st are simply Items 1 and 2 of this Boston City Planning Board scheme of wide scope. They are the immediately pressing ones, it is urged.

But, in order that maximum benefit may be derived, they must eventually be tied in with other mainn-stem through traffic routes; a two level Roxbury, crosstown double-decked highway and the North Shore radial, extending between Lynn and Boston between the lines of the present B & M R.R. and Narrow Gage Railroad rights of way, would be built by State appropriation, it is hoped.

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