Although many of us travel over roads every day that are shored up with reinforced concrete, we probably don’t give a lot of thought to how it’s made — and how the two components, steel & concrete, become far stronger and longer lasting when used together.
Parts of Franklin Street travel a ridge, below which are located the east-west rail lines that make their way from downtown Worcester to points east. At some moment many years ago, the steep slope leading down to the tracks was shored up by a reinforced concrete retaining wall. Here’s a remnant of it today:
I don’t know how old that is, but it looks pretty good. Concrete alone wouldn’t hold up very long, because it tends to crumble over time when exposed to vibration/movement. The steel bars (re-bar) embedded inside give the concrete the sort of strength it takes to withstand these stresses. And the concrete in turn protects the embedded steel bars from rust by keeping them away from water & air. It’s a proven technology.
When CSX undermined Franklin St. last year due to its rail-yard excavations, the road began to collapse; traffic was quickly limited to one-lane, with a temporary traffic signal installed to allow passage in alternating directions. CSX said they’d fix the damage they caused.
Their idea of “fixing” this problem didn’t include reinforced concrete. They’re using extruded sheet steel pilings, which are left exposed to the elements, and these have already begun to rust after less than a year:
Sheet steel pilings are very strong when first installed, but if left untreated like this, rust will weaken the joints where the pilings connect . . . and then one day years from now, part of Franklin St. ends up down on the tracks, probably with some unlucky motorists as well.
The pilings went in fairly quickly, and now Franklin St. has two travel lanes again . . . but gone is a big chunk of its sidewalk, and it’s unclear upon close inspection how much space has been left to reinstall a new one:
Meanwhile down the hill, the elevation of the grade of Franklin St. near the David Clark Co. has begun:
I can’t imagine this is good for business at David Clark.
So let’s sum things up thus far. Worcester allows a bunch of eminent domain takings of tax-paying business; the crippling of still other tax-paying businesses along the lower end of Franklin St.; the undermining of a big portion of upper Franklin St.; the street’s reinforcement/repair with untreated sheet-steel pilings that have already begun to rust; and the loss of sidewalk on upper Franklin St. (go pound sand, handicapped folks). Have I missed anything? Oh, yeah, the steep little lane that used to be here, now consigned forever to the history books:
And what benefits have we gotten — more T service? No. Street improvements? No. Spray parks in random areas unaffected by the rail yard? No (not that it’s even really relevant). Tax revenues that make up for those lost by the eminent domain takings? Probably not.
So what exactly do we have, then? We have a great big rail-yard taking up a huge chunk of our city center, which is seemingly someone’s brilliant idea of economic development. We have a shoddily repaired Franklin St. that is still not fully repaired a year later, and another section of that street which is undergoing a transmogrification to better facilitate tractor trailer rigs getting on & off I-290 from Grafton St. and across Franklin St. to the railyard.
Worcester has been played, and most of the City Council rubber-stamped this whole mess. The few who squawked were placated with empty promises. And now we have a done deal, which looks more & more like a raw deal.