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Should Boston Become A City Of Canals?

Illustration for article titled Should Boston Become A City Of Canals?

Boston, like a number of coastal cities, is facing a tricky problem in the coming years: Sea levels are rising, and rising quickly, leaving cities more and more at risk for intense flooding. Could building a canal system help keep Boston high and dry?


A report from the Urban Land Institute takes on the question of what to do about the encroaching sea, currently pushing up on land at a rate of about 0.11/inches per year. In addition to some more conventional methods of stemming the tide, including improved seawalls and elevated construction, they have another suggestion: Turn Boston's Back Bay into a canal system.

Noting that the Boston Harbor has risen about a foot in the last century — and could go up anywhere between one and six feet in the next one — the report suggests a system in which alternating streets are transformed into canals ("much in the way Venice and Amsterdam have for centuries"), while some streets are left preserved.


Of course, even without a deliberately-constructed canal system, Boston will still very likely have to find some way to cope with increasingly high waters, as this 500-year floodplain projection of Cambridge's Alewife Quadrangle shows:

Illustration for article titled Should Boston Become A City Of Canals?

You can check out the whole report right here.

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The only thing that scares me more than our impending flooded doom is the idea of Boston boat drivers and a poor waterway infrastructure.