New Traffic Plan Draws Fire From City Officials

State Reveals Alternative to Scheme Z

State officials yesterday revealed their plan for the Charles River crossing of the massive Central Artery/Tunnel Project. But the design immediately drew harsh criticism from Cambridge officials.

Construction on the traffic project isn't scheduled to begin until 1996 at the earliest. But the complicated nature of moving more than a dozen lanes of traffic from Boston to Cambridge has been hotly debated for several years.

The most recent plan is a pareddown version of the ill-fated Scheme Z design, which city officials and local activists finally succeeded in killing.

State Transportation Secretary James J. Kerasiotes yesterday said the new plan calls for two bridges across the Charles into Cambridge and Charlestown but no tunnel under the river, as previous plans had proposed.

State officials say the plan--referred to as the Non-River Tunnel (NRT) design--will be the most aesthetic, cost-efficient and environmentally sound solution to Boston's traffic snarl.

"We are finally driving the last nail into the coffin of Scheme Z," said Kerasiotes.

Still, city leaders said yesterday that the NRT is totally unacceptable.

"We are extremely disappointed," said City Manager Robert W. Healy."

"[The plan is] terrible," said City Councillor Alice K. Wolf. "Not only the City of Cambridge, but the whole review committee, which was made of up of many different people, wanted an alternative that included a tunnel."

In an interview last night, City Councillor Francis H. Duehay '55 said the city would consider legal action against the Transportation Department if proceeds with the plan.

The NRT design is one of three plans devised as alternatives to Scheme Z, which called for three massive river bridges carrying 16 lanes oftraffic and six loop ramps rising 105 feet abovethe north bank of the Charles. Some key trafficroutes would have required double crossings of theriver under Scheme Z.

The new plan will involve 2-1/2 elevated loopramps rising no more than 40 feet, with 14 lanesacross the river. Double river crossings are alsoeliminated.

The plan favored by city councillors butrejected by state officials had one 10-lane bridgeand a three-lane tunnel under the river. It wouldhave cost $150 million more than the oneeventually chosen by Kerasiotes.

Despite the lower cost, Cambridge officialssaid yesterday the state plan is bad for the city.

City Councillor Sheila T. Russell called it"environmentally unsound" because of the increasedexhaust the many lanes of trafficwill cause. Still, planners defend the proposal asmore environmentally sound than the city'spreference--a tunnel under the Charles River.

"When you have to tunnel underneath and disruptthe river, you disrupt the watershed," said TomMalcolm, public information supervisor for theCentral Artery/Tunnel project.

Malcolm admitted that the plan would cause moreexhaust, but said this is inevitable. "A tunnel[with] a ventilation system doesn't make the airpollution go away," he said.

The estimated cost of the new river crossing is$1.3 billion. State and federal approval of thenew river crossing is expected in the spring of1994. Barring delay, construction will begin in1996 and conclude in 2004.

Duehay said yesterday that if the officialsCrimson Staff GraphicCharles River Plan The Non-River tunnelplan includes 2 bridges with a total of 14 lanes.Source: Massachusetts Highway Department