Longfellow Bridge Construction: Progress, But Questions Remain

longfellowMassDOT recently held a public meeting with the firm selected to perform the reconstruction of the Longfellow Bridge, scheduled to start in earnest later this year and continue until 2016. Click here to see the April 9th meeting presentation.

Originally, MassDOT intended to detour all Cambridge-bound motor vehicle and bicycle traffic for the duration of the project, but MassBike and other advocates made a strong case to maintain two-way bicycle travel. For people riding just a few miles under their own power, a detour of a mile or more would discourage people from bicycling, at a time when we should be doing everything possible to shift people from driving to other biking, walking, or transit.

Thankfully, MassDOT listened, and the plan now is to maintain two-way bicycle travel, throughout construction – even though car traffic to Cambridge will be detoured the entire time! Construction will occur in several phases to permit work on different parts of the bridge, and during each phase the lane configuration will shift positions. Most of the time, bicyclists will enjoy dedicated bike lanes, though sometimes will share sidewalk space with pedestrians. We understand the very tight space constraints during construction, and we thank MassDOT for doing the best they can for bicyclists.

We are concerned, however, with the connections to local roadways and the Charles River paths on both sides of the river, both during and after construction. No plans have been shown for how those connections will work, especially as the lane configuration on the bridge shifts from side to side. These connections, especially in Charles Circle on the Boston side, and to the paths on the Cambridge side, are already challenging without the added complexity of construction. The project engineers do not seem to have a plan for involving advocates in these all-important designs, which could compromise bicyclist and pedestrian (and motorist) safety. Click here to see MassBike’s formal comment letter to MassDOT.

We hope (and have requested) that MassDOT will continue the collaborative effort that led to the current design for the bridge as the designs for these critical connections move forward.

Though it was not the focus of this hearing, it should be noted that bicycle and pedestrian advocates, including MassBike, continue to encourage MassDOT to rethink the Boston-bound side of the bridge to better provide for future bicyclist and pedestrian needs.

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