Longfellow Bridge Construction Begins Amid Traffic Concerns

longfellowThis week, MassDOT held the second public information meeting focused on the construction and traffic management plans for the Longfellow Bridge rehabilitation project. If you frequent the area, you may have noticed some of the preparatory work already in progress (in Charles Circle, in Kendall Square, and in front of the Museum of Science), and construction is scheduled to start in earnest later this month and run through September 2016.

The good news is that the current traffic management plan maintains two-way bicycle travel across the bridge throughout the project (with some weekend restrictions – see below). Motor vehicle traffic will be restricted to Boston-bound only; this will go into effect on July 20th. The project team also responded to our biggest concern from the first public meeting, revealing their plans for the bicycle connections between the bridge and local roads.

We are pleased to see the plans, and it is clear that the traffic engineers have put significant effort into them. But, while we have not yet fully evaluated the plans, several concerns were immediately apparent:

  • During 25 weekends (5 this year), the Red Line will be replaced by buses, and all traffic, including bicycles, will be diverted to detours (though cyclists will have the option to walk across the bridge on the sidewalk).
  • Charles River Dam Road (in front of the Museum of Science) is being reconfigured to carry detoured motor vehicle traffic and will have no bicycle facilities during construction. Bicyclists are expected to share the sidewalk in front of the museum with pedestrians, or brave riding in heavy traffic with no dedicated space.
  • Charles Circle will become even more confusing than it is now, and the plan does not fully address how bicyclists will safely navigate it to get on or off the bridge.
  • All traffic, including bicycles, will cross over to the “wrong” side of the road in Kendall Square to cross the bridge into Boston. The existing bike lane will split, with one branch continuing to Memorial Drive and the other going across the bridge. However, cars heading to Memorial Drive will have to turn right across the bike lane, creating a potentially dangerous conflict.
  • A number of representatives of the business and medical communities have expressed skepticism that the current plan, which restricts motor vehicle traffic to Boston-bound only, will work and are calling for two-way car traffic. At present, the project team is sticking with the one-way plan, but says it will monitor the situation and may make changes. Any move to retain two-way traffic may negatively impact bicyclist safety and access, and we will carefully scrutinize any such proposal.

We will be looking more carefully at all of these issues and providing comments to MassDOT. We would like to hear your concerns and thoughts – email them to advocacy@massbike.org.

You can also submit your own comments to MassDOT. Click here for the most recent project information. Comments are due 10 days after the meeting, which was held on July 10, 2013.

BY MAIL:
MassDOT Accelerated Bridge Program
Attn: Longfellow Bridge Rehabilitation Project No. 604361
10 Park Plaza, Suite 6500
Boston, MA 02116

BY WEB FORM: Click here

BY EMAIL: longfellowbridge@state.ma.us

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2 Responses to Longfellow Bridge Construction Begins Amid Traffic Concerns

  1. nick July 17, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    Hi David,

    This is a great update. Can you please fill us in on the final traffic plans? All I see on the DOT website for final plans shows no bike lanes on the boston bound side of the bridge in a photoshopped image (on last page of renderings). Is this correct? After all construction is complete, will boston and cambridge bound bicycle traffic be moved to the now cambridge-bound side of the tracks?

    • David July 17, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

      @nick Never fear, when the bridge is done there will be bike lanes on both sides of the bridge: a wide buffered bike lane headed to Cambridge (and only one car lane!), and a regular striped bike lane headed to Boston. You can see the cross-section at http://massbike.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Longfellow_pref_alt.jpg. Many advocates have been pushing for a better facility on the Boston-bound side, but this is the design as of now.