With construction virtually complete on Boston's $14.6-billion Central Artery/Tunnel project, officials now are eyeing final finishes on a $100-million surface restoration program that will reunite the center city with its historic waterfront. Three separate projects now are under construction along the 1.5-mile long strip that runs through the heart of the city.

Finishing Touches. Greenway themes for the North End (top), Wharf and Chinatown sections will reunite Boston's center core. (Rendering courtesy of MTA)

Boston's urban center was torn asunder in 1959 with the opening of a six-lane viaduct, the Fitzgerald Expressway, which bulldozed large sections of the historic North End and Chinatown and severed them from the core city. The purpose of CA/T was to replace the viaduct with tunnels and a cable-stayed bridge.

The viaduct was demolished in 2004 at a cost of over $130 million. That left about 30 acres of prime real estate situated over the tunnels. “The idling traffic of the elevated artery is being replaced by open space and parks, which are knitting together downtown Boston with its waterfront after the two were separated by the rusting steel of the elevated highway some 50 years ago," says Matthew J. Amorello, chairman of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which manages CA/T.

The work consists of reuniting surface streets and linking a series of parks and open spaces. Design packages, one each for adjacent Chinatown, Wharf and North End sections, have been awarded to three teams. Carol R. Johnson Associates, Boston, leads the Chinatown portion; CSS, Boston, the North End piece; and Alexandria, Va.-based EDAW Inc the Wharf section.

“There are two overarching themes to the wharf design—one to recognize the prior existence of the five wharves as they coursed through the site and to recapitulate their alignment," says Dennis B. Carmichael, EDAW vice president. “The five wharves: City, Long, Central, India and Rose were originally built from the waterfront out and the land was up to 1,000 ft back and incrementally over time, the land was filled in." EDAW and its prime subcontractor, Boston-based Copley Wolff Design Group, are using the landmaking and the importance of fishing and immigration as subordinate themes in granite.

EDAW's project encompasses four blocks totaling about 4.5 acres and is about 135 ft wide on average. Design fees run about $2 million, and a $13-million construction package has been awarded to Jay Cashman Inc., Quincy, for a 2007 completion. The work includes planting trees and constructing an interactive fountain, walkways, open lawn areas and a promenade.

"We're building over existing tunnel roof, which varies in height, and slurry walls that crop up at odd angles so the sub-base varies greatly," says Brendan Campbell, Cashman project manager.

McCourt Construction, Quincy, is working on the $14-million North End project and W.T. Rich, Allston, won the $3.8-million Chinatown contract. Both sections are scheduled to be substantially completed late this year.

The Chinatown project plays on the cultural angle, creating a promenade and forecourt that lead to a ceremonial gate. The North End section features a “porches" environment—a granite promenade accented by a pergola reflecting the Italian-American neighborhood's street life.