"Vehicular traffic is increasingly expected to be the Achilles heel of the Public Realm Plan - even considering the MBTA and Masspike systems being planned."

SAND op-ed, Banker and Tradesman, August 1999
To read SAND's recent Fan Pier comment letter click here.

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 7/19/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

Obstacle cited in harbor project
Fan Pier report sees traffic nightmares

By Steven Wilmsen, Globe Staff, 7/19/2000

The plan to create a glittering new neighborhood on South Boston's mostly desolate waterfront faces a potentially huge obstacle: traffic.

State Environmental Affairs Secretary Robert Durand said yesterday that city planners have failed to come up with a way to move cars in and out of the single largest commercial development in Boston's history.

Raising nightmarish visions of increased respiratory diseases and streets so clogged trucks can't get in and out of the area, Durand said that even a new MBTA Silver Line proposed for the area would not solve the problem.

''Without adequate transit and alternatives to cars, development will have serious environmental impacts,'' Durand wrote in a 14-page document that gave preliminary approval to the massive commercial and residential project on Fan Pier.

Durand said he will lead a ''transportation summit'' some time in the next 45 days that would include community representatives, waterfront developers, and city and state transportation officials.

Durand said the problem must be addressed before construction of the 17 million square feet of new residential, office, and retail space on the waterfront gets under way in earnest.

''This new development is comparable to a small city,'' he said. ''When one takes into account the potential for additional development [in the area], the sense of urgency is even greater.''

While Durand did not saddle the Fan Pier developers, Chicago's Pritzker family, with full responsibility for solving the traffic problem, he said they must come up with specific plans to ease congestion at their site.

City and state officials working on plans for the waterfront have long known that traffic would be a problem on the 1,000-acre stretch of former industrial land. Access to the area from downtown and neighboring, densely populated South Boston has always been difficult. City studies in the past have predicted trouble when an estimated 30,000 new office workers and residents commute to and from the neighborhood after it is complete.

Transportation and planning officials hoped that many traffic woes could be solved with improvements such as a truck road being built as part of the Central Artery Project, and the Silver Line, an underground bus that is scheduled to begin carting passengers between South Station downtown and the World Trade Center in 2003.

But in yesterday's document, Durand said the city's estimates that 62 percent of waterfront commuters will use the Silver Line are hopelessly optimistic. And even if the Silver Line is filled to capacity, it ''will not be enough,'' Durand said.

City officials don't dispute Durand's scathing assessment of traffic on the waterfront but said there is plenty of time to deal with the problem. And they stressed that development of the area is planned over a 25-year period, which would allow time for more problem-solving steps.

''But by the time this is all complete, we think we'll have a plan and have it implemented,'' said Boston Redevelopment Authority Director Mark Maloney.

Several groups, including the Conservation Law Foundation, which has criticized the dense development on the water's edge partly because of its potential impact on traffic, hailed Durand's move.

''We've been saying over and over again that there's a very real transportation crisis in the making here,'' said Seth Kaplan, an attorney for the group. ''Now at last somebody is recognizing that.''

While Durand focused on traffic problems in yesterday's document, he also cleared the way for the Pritzker family to take the next step in its plan to build a complex of 3.1 million square feet on Fan Pier. Durand has in the past been critical of the project's lack of open space.

''This is a great step forward,'' said Kyle Warwick of Spaulding Colliers & Slye, the Pritzker family's Boston representatives.

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 7/19/2000.

© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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