I was planning to write this up last night, honest! But I didn’t get to it, and the Herald beat me to the punch. No matter, it’s still a good story.
See, one thing everyone has been wondering – especially after the #MBTAfail of recent days – is how all those Olympic athletes, spectators, media, etc. are going to get around Boston in a timely fashion. After all, Boston traffic does have a nasty habit of locking up at the most inopportune moments.
Well, Boston 2024 has a fix (p. 13) for that: “Olympic Lanes.”
Olympic Lanes will connect venues and provide reliable, safe transport for the Olympic Fleet and spectator shuttles on a network of more than 55 km of dedicated roadway lanes.
55 km translates to about 33 miles, for the curious. So where are those 33 miles of “dedicated roadway lanes” going to come from? See page 56:
Two main highways comprising about half of the Olympic Network —I-90 and I-93 — will connect Boston-Logan International Airport to the Athletes’ Village, downtown hotels and the waterfront while providing the spine of the ORN for Boston 2024. A series of downtown arterials will provide permitted vehicles with dedicated connections between competition venues when active, the IBC/MPC and hotels.
Ohhhhkaaayyy. So we’re talking at least one lane in both directions on I-93, the same on the Turnpike, and a bunch of dedicated lanes on downtown roads well. What could go wrong?
Not to worry, though, Boston 2024 says we’re used to this kind of thing.
The city and the region have become accustomed to changes in roadway capacities as result of the significant investment in public works over the past two decades. As an example, in 2011, the accelerated replacement of 14 bridges along I-93 north of Boston severely restricted capacity along the corridor for every weekend of the summer. During that project, traffic reductions/diversions of about 50 percent of typical summer demands were achieved through a comprehensive transportation demand management and regional traffic management plan. A similar plan would be put in place to mitigate the impacts of the Olympic Lanes associated with the I-93 corridor during the Games.
In other words, we’re used to traffic so awful that you’d rather gnaw off an arm than deal with it. And this’ll be just more of the same.
Maybe not, though. The problem with the Boston 2024 “analysis” is that as far as I can recall, there has rarely if ever been a situation in which capacity on the highways and secondary and downtown roads was severely restricted simultaneously. To the contrary, as just one example (also cited in the Boston 2024 document), when the Callahan Tunnel was shut down recently, other roads (such as the South Boston bypass) were opened in order to ensure that traffic diverted from the Callahan had somewhere else to go. But what Boston 2024 is proposing is basically to give the Olympic Lanes priority access to everything, and the rest of Boston can just lump it.
There’s no explanation in the Boston 2024 document as to how it would be possible to mitigate the impact of the Olympic Lanes. Nor does it seem like the Mayor’s office has given it much thought. From the Herald story:
Boston 2024’s public relations team declined to comment on the shuttle plan, street closures or parking bans outlined in their own proposal, deferring comment to Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh.
A Walsh spokeswoman said she could not estimate how many on-street and metered parking spaces could be eliminated for the Olympics or which streets may be closed.
“We are still nine years away from the 2024 Summer Games, and it is too early to determine how athletes will be transported or street closings and parking spaces,” said Walsh spokeswoman Laura Oggeri. “Many of those decisions will be driven by the location of the venues, which will be finalized over the coming years after a thorough community process.”
Keep reading those bid documents, folks. There’s lots in there yet to be fully vetted.