Freshgate Tunnel

Financial questions:

Who would pay for the parks?

Given that Harvard University would likely have more control of the design of certain parklands if it financed them, Harvard might be eager to pay for some of them - notably the new parkland that is essentially the front lawn of the new Harvard campuses in Allston. At other locations maybe there would be no immediate need for new park construction, so nobody would have to pay initially. Perhaps other institutions or groups would want to pay for certain parts. For instance:

  • Perhaps the former Memorial Drive would simply become a year-round Riverbend Park, and there would be no need to change anything about the existing roadway construction.
  • Perhaps Boston University would pay for whatever happened on the land right before their main campus where Storrow Drive is now(from east of the B. U. Bridge, past Marsh Chapel, to Charlesgate)
  • Perhaps MIT would pay for the entrance ramps shown at Vassar Street.
  • Perhaps the abutters of the new parkland on Fresh Pond Parkway and Lowell Park in Cambridge would want to play a role in financing those parts of the parkland improvements.
  • Perhaps The Cambridge Homes, Mount Auburn Hospital, Buckingham Brown & Nichols, the Shady Hill School, Mount Auburn Cemetery or residents of Coolidge Hill would want to help finance the expansion of parkland at the eastern end of Fresh Pond Parkway, and to the west of the Eliot Bridge.

Who would pay for construction of the tunnel?

In this vision, Harvard would be the sole financier of this tunnel. In the short-run, the "Big Dig" has exhausted local, state, and national resources for tunnel building in greater Boston. Harvard could marshal the resources to finance such a venture.
The suggestion that Harvard be the financier might be considered presumptuous or inappropriate, but no offense to Harvard is intended. It is important to emphasize here that this is only one of any number of tunnel finance schemes that could be proposed.
The suggestion that Harvard finance the tunnel may not be welcome in some quarters, but it is made in good faith.

Why would Harvard pay for it?

Grand institutions do grand deeds. Also, Harvard would be the primary beneficiary of such a tunnel:

  • The public parkland would make the new Harvard campuses more unified with Harvard Yard. (Also the Medical School would be more connected to the whole by way of the Emerald Necklace or by the vaguely suggested "Emerald Choker").
  • The edges of the property that Harvard now owns have over 16,000 linear feet (over 3 miles) abutting the Charles River banks. In this drawing, every linear foot of their abutting property would gain direct access to the Charles River banks.

How would Harvard pay for it?

Harvard's most recent capital campaign ended in 1999, yielding $2. 6 billion. Their new vice president for alumni affairs and development recently said that she expects to begin a much larger capital campaign in the middle of this decade - largely to finance the Allston Initiative. Harvard could set an even higher goal for this capital campaign to include financing of this tunnel.

Why is there any chance that Harvard would pay for it?

Harvard has a history of proposing and financing bridge and tunnel construction to make their campus work well for people who are not in automobiles. The Weeks Footbridge was built over the Charles River in the first half of the 20th century, entirely at Harvard's expense. In the last half-century Harvard has endeavored three times to build bridges or tunnels in and around their Harvard Square campus:

  • Once with success in the late 1960's - the Broadway & Cambridge Street automobile underpass, which
    made the wide pedestrian mall between Harvard Yard and the Science Center possible.
  • Twice with failure more recently - a pedestrian bridge over Broadway between the Fogg and Sackler Museums, and a tunnel beneath Cambridge Street between the two proposed Center for Government and International Studies (CGIS) buildings.

In the two instances where Harvard failed, community opposition to the construction prevailed. In both instances the proposed bridge or tunnel was for the private use of Harvard. (In this website's proposal the tunnel and the land made auto-free would all be for public use - just like the pedestrian mall, the Cambridge Street underpass, and the Weeks Footbridge.)

Harvard paid all construction costs for the 1966 Cambridge Street underpass, and upon completion deeded it to the City of Cambridge. The work cost $19.3 million in today's dollars ($3. 4 million in 1966 dollars), but Harvard owns neither the underpass, the land, nor the mall. All are publicly owned and intended for public use. Harvard University was the sole source of all financing.

In proposing this construction to the City of Cambridge in 1965, Harvard's representative, L. Gard Wiggins, noted that the mutual benefits for the city and for Harvard "are clearly evident." With the city's consent, Harvard deeded 23,660 square feet of land to the city, hired the contractor, oversaw the construction, and to this day performs all maintenance on the pedestrian mall. (The city maintains the automobile underpass. )
Similarly, the mutual benefits of this vision of the Charles River's future, both for the public and for Harvard University, are clearly evident.

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