History of Fort Hill, Part 2 (2008). Mural by: Loray McDuffie, Taylor Saintable, Edwin Perez-Clancy, Christine O'Connell, Julia Andreasson, Jorge Benitez, Divah Payne, Lucy Saintcyr, Laua Dedonato, Gregg Bernstein.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Urban Amenities: The DPW Yard & Salt Shed

Again, this is not precisely what one would immediately consider an urban amenity, but we shouldn't forget the benefits Fort Hill gains by having the Boston Department of Public Works (DPW) yard and salt shed on its southern flank.

Having this mountain of salt nearby, with the resulting stream of snowplow trucks entering and leaving the yard, means that Centre, Dudley, Roxbury, Marcella, and Ritchie streets are the first to be plowed and salted and are kept clear of snow and ice throughout every winter storm. I can't speak for the other arteries in the neighborhood (Highland, Cedar, Thornton, Guild, and Milmont streets), but Centre Street and Marcella and Ritchie streets are kept pretty clean of snow even at the height of a storm.

One can argue about the environmental impact of spewing salt all over city streets so that Boston drivers can continue driving ... well, like Boston drivers ... even as the first flakes fall. One might also consider if the DPW takes sufficient environmental caution with its huge cache of salt. One might ask if creating a hard-pack snow surface would be better than insisting on plowing right down to the blacktop. (Google Seattle salt sand snow for a variety of views on Seattle's recent experience on the subject.)

But, as long as Boston maintains its current snow removal policy, we should be glad the DPW houses this operation in our neighborhood.

However, in a 29 March 2010 letter to the BRA Board of Directors, Councillor Turner addresses the development plans for Jackson Square. In this letter he states that the presence of the DPW yard and salt shed limits the potential for economic development on the Roxbury side of Jackson Square. He relates that DPW officials have been unwilling to even discuss the long-term prospects of moving the operations of the yard and salt shed to another location.

Councillor Turner would rather the DPW relocate its Highland Street yard and salt shed somewhere else so that the real estate could be devoted to economic development in Roxbury.

See this 14 August 2009 article, "Urban Edge proposes new first-phase plans," in the Jamaica Plain Gazette Online for details on the problems siting housing next to the salt shed. The article claims that salt for half the city comes from this shed. Universal Hub has this 2010 photograph of operations at the West Roxbury salt shed [maps.google satellite view] at Millennium Park.

I don't have strong opinions on the matter, but, for as long as they last, I'm happy to enjoy transportation side effects of our neighborhood hosting this DPW operation.

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