Artery Renovation Still Under Debate

A spokesman for Gov. Edward J. King and Secretary of Transportation Barry Locke denied on Monday reports that the King administration will scrap plans to renovate Boston's Central Artery in favor of constructing a third Boston Harbor tunnel crossing.

Susan Myers, director of public affairs for the Executive Office of Transportation and Construction, said King "has reached absolutely no decision" on whether to approve renovation plans for the highway. "Some thought is being given to go ahead with plans for a third harbor crossing," she added.

Not Scrapped

Francis R. Sholock, budget director for the Central Artery project, said Monday that plans for improving the Central Artery "most definitely have not been scrapped. We have an Environmental Impact Statement, describing plans for improving the northern section of the artery, awaiting monentary approval in Washington."

Sholock added that the state has filed Corridor Planning Statements discussing problems and possible solutions to reconstructing the central and southern parts of the artery, but said, "We can't do much more until Gov. King approves."

Norman J. Van Ness, division administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), said Monday he thought King's approval of improving the artery depended on "whether or not there is a third harbor crossing."

The third harbor crossing is "not a good project," Van Ness said, adding that the project is economically feasible, but has a long history of "unacceptance by the involved impact communities."

Begins and Ends

The Central Artery begins at the Somerville-Boston border and extends about three miles to the Mass. Ave. Interchange in South Boston.

Sholock called the highway "inadequate in capacity and one of the most accident-prone in the state."

The administration of former Gov. Michael Dukakis initiated the present plan to depress the entire artery underground, increasing it from six to eight lanes.

Robert K. Sloane, chief planner for the Central Transportation Planning Staff, said Monday that while depressing the northern part of the highway will receive federal approval quickly because it presents few problems, the central and southern sections are more controversial.

"We've done studies to show that there is no place to reroute the central part and still make all the traffic connections the artery presently makes. We'd have to reconstruct right under the existing highway," Sloane said.

Hard Sell

Van Ness said, "Irrespective of King's approval or disapproval, it will be hard to sell us (the FHA) the idea of depressing the central section of the artery. We have not been shown sufficient transportational benefits to warrant the construction."

The state has held a number of meetings with the Central Artery Working Committee (CAWC), a group of concerned citizens.

From Charlestown

Van Ness said that while there has been opposition to the central and southern sections of the highway at CAWC meetings, "response from the north (Charlestown) has been good."

Melba Hamilton, CAWC member from South Boston, said her community has not yet considered the impact of reconstructing the Central Artery, but is "dead set against a third harbor crossing."