Freshgate Tunnel

City Tour questions:

Is that a big hill on top of the Mass Pike interchanges and railroad yards?

Yes it is. In fact there are two hills shown - a big one just south of the River Street Bridge, above the Mass Pike and railroad yards, and a smaller hill just north of River Street. In the drawing, each of the contour lines is ten feet higher than its outboard neighboring contour line. The smaller hill might be solid. The larger hill would be at least partly hollow - on top of a strong concrete ceiling built above the railroad yards and Mass Pike interchanges, so that all the existing transportation systems would remain where they are. The hills as drawn are not very steep - their northeastern slopes are shallow enough that a person in a wheelchair could go straight up the hill. The hill design could of course be far more interesting. The hills are proposed for the following reasons:

  • Digging this tunnel would create millions of cubic yards of dirt. This is where the dirt goes.
  • The hills would mean that the new Harvard campuses upon them would be visually connected with Harvard Square. A pedestrian at the new campus would be able to see over the Business School to Harvard Yard, and perhaps feel more like part of the whole.
  • Similarly, the larger hill would mean that the new Harvard campus at its summit would be visually connected with Beacon Hill and the State House - the "University atop a Hill."
  • It can be expected that Harvard will be asked to either build or make available some of their Allston land for additional neighborhood housing. Hillside housing is particularly pleasant housing, since it can have views and breezes (examples: Beacon Hill, Bunker Hill, Corey Hill).

Some of the ideas in the City Tour are sketchy, especially in the park designs. Why?

The landscape designs are deliberately diagrammatic. For instance, much of the new parkland should probably leave plenty of the existing road surfaces just as they are for play, but this drawing shows little winding paths in place of all removed auto roads. The idea was to make the basic intent clearer, since it might be harder for viewers of this website to imagine all the new parkland as auto-free if the drawing still showed existing roads where the new parks are.
Consequently the landscape designs shouldn't really be considered "designs", but as visual symbols for parkland. They are diagrammatic. (Same for the tunnel design. See "Is such a tunnel technically feasible?" below. )

Does this plan interfere with the vehicular access of any retail businesses?

This scheme will interfere with access to no retail business except Mahoney's Garden Center at the corner of Memorial Drive and Western Ave in Cambridge. The Mahoney's site is owned by Harvard, and will be shut down soon to make room for new Harvard facilities. In an agreement with the community (called Riverside), this is planned for development with non-retail uses including
parkland and housing.
If this scheme interferes with access to any retail business, it was an oversight. The only retail use that is even near a tunnel ramp is the first gas station on the north side of Fresh Pond Parkway, west of Larch Road. The drawing depicts non-interference, but western entrance to the tunnel would need to be carefully designed to retain all exiting vehicular access for this gas station.

Does this plan cut off any existing entrances/exits to the existing Storrow or Memorial Drives?

Yes, as follows:

  • In Allston, a pair of existing surface parking lot entrances/exits would be removed from the west side of Soldiers Field Road just north of the Herter Center.
  • Two are removed from the eastbound side of Storrow Drive in Brighton - one exit to and one entrance from Boston University, just to the east of the B.U. Bridge, at University Road.
  • Access for eight streets is removed to and from Memorial Drive in Cambridge

six between Western Avenue and John F. Kennedy Street:

  • Hingham Street
  • Akron Street
  • Flagg Street
  • Copperwaithe Street
  • De Wolfe Street
  • Plympton Street

and two between Kennedy and Mount Auburn Streets:

  • Ash Street
  • Hawthorne Street

(The drawing does show a narrow roadway remaining between and a little to the east of Ash Street and Hawthorne Street, to maintain the equivalent of the existing on-street parking at this location.) Some of the eight streets shown blocked to Memorial Drive could instead be given long entry ramps to the tunnel, if this were deemed preferable.

Return to top