Ryan Calls for Rutherford Process to Be a Priority

With the Rutherford Avenue Infrastructure Project seemingly taking a backseat all of the sudden to other road projects around Boston, State Rep. Dan Ryan this week submitted a comprehensive letter to the Boston Transportation Department (BTD) demanding that momentum isn’t lost on the massive regional road reconfiguration.

Ryan said there have been decades if deferred maintenance on the corridor, and that led to the emergency demolition in 2003 of the overpass. Since that time, he said, much progress has been made to plan and being to execute a generational fix. However, with funding from the Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) pushed back recently for other projects in Boston, he said he is very concerned the fix on Rutherford Avenue and Sullivan Square could stall out.

“Nearly a century of neglect rendered this transportation corridor not only unmanageable, but also a hindrance to the future economic prosperity of Boston and its environs,” he wrote. “Further delay will be crippling to the regional economy. Development in the region has not slowed during the past year at the same rate as our infrastructure planning targets. We also cannot let the recent diminished commuting volumes cast from our memories the snarling traffic and public safety issues that plagued this corridor pre-pandemic.

“Since then, we have been living with ramps to nowhere and a promise of correction,” he continued. “Through the focused efforts by BTD and other stakeholders in the past seven years much progress has been made toward a permanent solution to our infrastructure embarrassment. We do not want to lose that momentum.”

Ryan asked BTD for a “reinvigorated community process” with a clear timetable and goals for the Rutherford Avenue Corridor, as well as the mitigation plans for Sullivan Square and the areas beyond the MBTA Station like Parker, Brighton, Caldwell Streets and other.

He said the major development plans in the area, such as the One Mystic project and others to come, must be aligned with this process. He said nothing should go forward without having a firm idea of where and when the infrastructure plan will be executed.

“These transportation plans and construction timetables will be critically important to have in place before moving forward with major development and new enterprises in this area,” he wrote. “The BPDA has also engaged the community in a comprehensive PLAN: Charlestown process, which will envision and encompass much of this area. The status of current traffic mitigation plans for this area, as well as future infrastructure needs, must be part of the BPDA conversation.”

The biggest issue, however, is development on the edges of Charlestown, and just beyond its borders in places like North Point, Assembly Row and Kendall Square. Those are issues he said he has been bringing up for many years as part of the process, and he hopes that will be fundamental to taking quicker action on this regional project. He said addressing those issues would be providing access to those in Charlestown who are often shut out, and in the current traffic configuration, blocked for accessing.

“We need a transportation system that will simultaneously make this neighborhood a desirable place to live, but also a realistic place to access economic opportunity for those often shut out,” he wrote. “One without the other is just a perpetuation of the same systemic problems that have been brought to the fore this past year.”

The BTD had not yet responded to the letter this week by press time.

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