The fight for and against tunnels has gone federal.
On March 13, the Rutherford Corridor Improvement Coalition (RCIC) submitted a letter to the Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) – the organization that decides upon federal transportation funding requests – requesting that the designated money for Rutherford Avenue and Sullivan Square be delayed for one year.
The money from the MPO, City officials have said, is hard-fought and has been reserved for the Rutherford project – a project whereby the design was determined last year to include a hybrid plan of surface streets and underpasses.
The RCIC has fought for years to get rid of the underpasses and only include surface streets – most recently taking their fight to the City Council and delaying grant money for about a month so as to review the City’s plan.
“We are submitting this letter to respectfully request that the above referenced project, the reconstruction of Rutherford Avenue from City Square to Sullivan Square, be deferred one year within the TIP (Transportation Improvement Program) plan to allow a more comprehensive examination of possible alternatives to take place,” read the letter.
The RCIC had testified before the MPO last November against the City’s plan for the corridor. They submitted nearly 500 signatures from residents of Charlestown and nearby communities in support of the deferral of funds.
The request came due to the new plan for a Surface Option that was prepared recently by Northeastern professor Peter Furth – a plan that was the subject of a meeting of stakeholders, the City and City Councilors late last month.
“The RCIC believes it is inappropriate to proceed with an unduly expensive and perhaps flawed dual underpass design when a potentially less costly alternative, that provides safer walking and bicycling and comparable traffic operations may be feasible,” read the letter. “Please note that Professor Furth is also preparing an improved underpass design for Sullivan Square that also warrants review and consideration.”
The latest attempt by the RCIC to delay the process, a to upend the City’s decision on a design that includes underpasses, irked State Rep. Dan Ryan. He said it was perplexing and done without all the information.
“This last attempt to derail the funding and re-construction of Rutherford Avenue is perplexing,” he said. “It was done, I hope, with just a complete lack of understanding of how much work it takes to get these projects scheduled. However, I fear it is not ignorance but rather disdain and a lack of respect for public service, government process and those who have to represent entire neighborhoods.”
Ryan also said this latest effort isn’t even about the road. He said many have tried to find common ground, but the voters that elected him want a transportation system that allows them to move in and out of Charlestown.
“I truly believe it isn’t even about the road,” he said. “This last intellectual exercise has become a serious threat to any work moving forward in Sullivan Square. Maybe life would be easier if I just represented a handful of astute academics that have time to draw up their own plans, rather than an army of ordinary folks who got me elected to represent their concerns when they can’t go to mid-day meetings around Greater Boston. We have bent over backwards to find middle ground. Perfection has become the enemy of progress…This work needs to be done…big, fat, period.”