At the June 2017 North End Waterfront Residents’ Association meeting, Nathaniel Curtis spoke about the upcoming North Washington Street Bridge Replacement Project. The project, which could start construction later this year or in early 2018, is expected to last 4 years. As it stands, the current bridge is over a century old and will be replaced with a newer, more modern design set to match that of the Zakim Bridge aesthetically.
(02:30) – Project Goals:
- Replace Structurally Deficient Bridge
- Provide Multi-Modal Bridge as a Complete City Street Over Water
- Improve Deficient Bike and Pedestrian Accommodations
- Improve Intersection Safety and Functionality
- Improve Navigation Channel
- Provide Context Sensitive Bridge Design in an Important Waterfront and Historic Bridge Location
- Provide Visually Appealing Bridge Design Complementing the Zakim Bridge.
- Maintain Traffic, Residential, and Economical Needs During Construction
In addition to the two lanes of traffic on each side, the new bridge will consist of a walking path and bike path on each side, a bus/emergency vehicle lane on the side heading into the North End/West End, and greenery around the sidewalks.
During construction, Mass DOT will implement changeable message signs throughout the surrounding areas along Route 128 to divert non-local traffic away from the bridge. This allows the remaining space on the bridge to be occupied by local traffic and provides emergency vehicle access. Closer to the bridge will also be signage for local traffic information.
(16:03) Residents’ Association questions included in the presentation:
Will any part of the bridge remain open while construction is taking place? If so, will both vehicles and pedestrians be accommodated?
“Generally, there will always be crossings open in both directions, sometimes the lanes will be reduced.”
(16:25) So there are no plans to have the bridge completely shut down at any point in time?
“I wouldn’t say that right now,” said Curtis, the Public Involvement Specialist. “If conditions were to present themselves where the contractor came to us and said, ‘I can greatly cut down the amount of time that a given stage will take by completely shutting the bridge off for a weekend over the summer when volumes drop,’ that would be something that if it gave a significant enough reduction in time, the city and Mass DOT would have a conversation about that. If we can carve two months out of a stage by shutting down for a weekend, thats a trade that most people would want to make.” Curtis then went on to say that if the bridge were to be completely shut off, there would be a “heavy dose of public involvement.”
(17:30) If we had three lanes in each direction, before the middle lane was closed down, why aren’t we going to have three lanes again?
“We’ve chosen to add bicycle paths,” Curtis said. He went on to say that the direction the city is headed towards is one where people are not meeting all of their demands by vehicle trips. Regarding the bus lane, Curtis said, “We are trying to create a situation where that transit option gets a little speed boost, and it becomes more attractive so that we can try to pull some of these cars off the road.” Jump to (19:15) in the video for an explanation of the motor vehicle lanes.
(21:25) Where will any excess traffic be channeled?
“We are developing a Traffic Management Plan to divert regional and optional traffic so local / needed capacity remains.”
(21:35) During what hours of the day will construction take place?
“Typically standard hours (7 AM – 3 PM), but there will be times where the contractor uses double-shift or 24 hr operations to speed construction.”
(22:00) Are there any plans for noise mitigation?
“DOT standards include maximum noise and mitigations; Resident Engineer will be on-site throughout job to monitor and enforce.” Curtis said, “Will you love every minute of it? No. Will you be able to live here? Yes.”
A brief history of the North Washington Street bridge from the presentation:
- 1898: Existing Bridge Constructed
- 1956: Bridge is Reconstructed
- 1961: Swing Span Closed Permanently
- 1977: Elevated Street Railway Structure Removed
- 1992: Adjoining Warehouse Bridge Structure in Charlestown is Replaced
- 2003: Center Truss Bay Lanes Closed
- 2004-2015: Ongoing Maintenance and Repairs
Information on the new North Washington Street Bridge Project, set to be finished in 2021, can be found here. For full coverage, see the video above.