The reconstruction of North Washington Street Bridge, commonly known as the Charlestown Bridge, was presented to middling reviews by attendees at this week’s meeting of the North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA).
The new bridge has a modern “tuning fork” design that takes its cues from the nearby Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge. Some attendees at the meeting favored the existing look of the trellis-type steel girder structure. The cantilevered overhead beams of the new design were compared to the Greenway’s oft-criticized pergola.
The existing bridge was built in 1898 and the center span closed in 2003 for safety reasons. The new bridge has been characterized as “Zakim-lite” from a design standpoint. While the Zakim is an interstate bridge, the new N. Washington Street bridge would be more of a community connection between Charlestown and the North End / Downtown Boston.
Residents further questioned the new bridge’s traffic functionality that continues the pattern of merging three lanes from the adjacent Charlestown and downtown intersections down to two lanes on the bridge itself. During construction, the outbound direction will only have one lane open for vehicles with two lanes open inbound.
Boston Public Works Deputy Commissioner, Para Jayasinghe, said that traffic studies show a “seamless” flow of traffic for the new bridge. He also noted that the bridge’s vehicle capacity could be increased to 6 lanes (3 in each direction) if the bike lanes were removed.
With only four lanes of traffic (two in each direction), much of the new bridge span will be dedicated to bicycling and pedestrian access. The walking areas, including that along the Freedom Trail, will have added “bump out” viewing areas with seating, trees and horticulture.
Toward the end of the meeting, concerns were also raised regarding the major natural gas pipeline under the span that is currently leaking, especially in combination with hundreds of hazardous vehicle trucks using the bridge. Public Works plans to reconstruct the existing utilities and pipes under bridge.
Work is expected to commence in late 2016/early 2017 with a 3-4 year construction period.
View the video above to hear the complete presentation and discussion from the March 12, 2015 meeting. Presentation materials can also be found at the Public Works project website.