Bridginess More of the Civil Engineering Life

 Bridginess More of the Civil Engineering Life

Bridginess More of the  Civil Engineering Life

The best outdoor palm trees around Boston, and maybe the only out-door palm trees around Boston, can be found at Marina Bay in Quincy. Marina Bay is a recently constructed planned development on Boston Harbor just south of the city. The development features condominiums, offices, support facilities for the boats in the marina, and a waterfront boardwalk lined with restaurants and shops. Adjacent to the boardwalk is an outdoor music nightclub, where the palm trees are planted at the entrance gate. The palm trees are guests only for the warm season. They pack up and migrate south soon after the arrival of the first fall nip.

On a warm summer night, Marina Bay is the place to be around Boston. Calypso music and “Dirty Water” play at the nightclub. The sound echoes off the buildings and the bay, all the way to Spectacle Island. A party is going on at the docks. Boat owners pass around cheese platters and sip white wine while lounging on their aft decks. The board-walk is busy with strollers of all ages who come to see the scene and feel the cool breeze off the harbor. Once it’s warm enough, the restaurants open their outdoor seating areas on the boardwalk, and the places are packed. Strollers, boaters, and diners gawk at the boats, the bay, and each other.
One of the bars has large TV screens facing the boardwalk deck, where everyone participates in the essential Boston summer ritual of watching the Red Sox. Members of Red Sox Nation congregate around the screen during the late innings. It’s still in the hopeful phase of the season when all things are possible. Even after the two recent World Series victories, Red Sox fan expect once again to live through the tragic arc of their fandom: hope in spring, glory in summer, utter heartbreak and despair in fall.
But heartbreak is far from the bay tonight. By the eighth inning, the Sox still have the lead. Everyone feels good and when “Sweet Caroline” plays at Fenway Pahk, everyone joins in to sing (“Sweet Caroline, wah wah wah, good times never felt so good!”). Diners who have completed the main course at the restaurants are ready for some ice cream.

The coffee shop at the end of the walk doubles as a good creamery and serves cold, extra-thick frappes.Marina Bay is a nice place, but it wasn’t always so. That anyone would visit the bay at all is a testament to several recent civil engineering successes. The darkened twin knolls of mysterious Spectacle Island poke dimly above the waterline in the backdrop. Today, the knolls are part of a beautifully landscaped park. But they are actually two mounds of garbage. The mounds contain residue of the island’s days as host to a horse rendering plant and garbage dump. Thanks to the placement of three million cubic yards of excavation from the Central Artery/Tunnel project, the dump was capped, and now the island is pristine.The harbor water itself was at one time a garbage dump. Raw sewage used to be pumped directly into the bay. Boston Harbor’s nadir came back in the late 20th century, when the first President Bush took a boat ride on the grimy bay during election season to embarrass the Democratic candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. Pictures of Bush in a boat and Dukakis in a tank are the two enduring images from that campaign.

Today, thanks to the Boston Harbor cleanup project, the water quality has been greatly improved. Up and down the harbor waterfront, people swim at beaches that previously were shunned. You can look down into the water at Marina Bay and see live jellyfish. That interesting fragrance in the air comes from sizzling food in the restaurants, not decaying items floating in the water.Marina Bay’s development includes some nice applications of Smart Growth and new urbanism. Many of the new street grids have townhomes built close to the boulevards, with front porches and nicely detailed streetscapes.

Traffic is calmed by strategically placed rotaries and speed bumps. The traffic control details work well enough, although it helps that the site is out on a peninsula, not really on the way to anything. So it’s comparatively easy to calm the traffic because there’s not much of it and it’s not really going anywhere.


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