Two months into the construction for the replacement of the North Washington Street Bridge (i.e., the Charlestown Bridge), the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) held a community meeting on Tuesday night in the North End to highlight recent project changes.
Most notably, the decision to build a temporary bridge will allow three lanes of traffic to persist throughout the project and reduce construction time by up to six months. (The contractor receives a $7mm+ bonus should it complete six months early.) The temporary bridge will have two lanes inbound to Keany Square in the North End/Downtown and one outbound lane to City Square in Charlestown. The traffic flow plan is shown in the video at the top of this post.
There was also information presented about traffic, noise, dust and rodent control at the meeting. The general project schedule includes pilings and construction of the temporary bridge in 2019 with its use for roughly two years, allowing for the new bridge to open in late 2021 or early 2022.
The full meeting can be viewed in the video below, including the MassDot presentation with questions starting at the 35:15 mark.
A positive change in the plan is that the left lane from the bridge onto Commercial Street in the North End will be mostly open during construction, although the contractor is reserving the right to close it for short intervals. The turn lane will be reduced to four cars, about half its current length. City of Boston officials at the meeting said they intend to prioritize keeping the left lane open during construction.
The temporary bridge will include an 8′ wide pedestrian pathway, including the Freedom Trail. Bikes can either share the vehicle lanes or walk along the pedestrian walkway. At the tightest point near the Converse building, the walkway will be reduced to 6 feet wide.
The Harborwalk under the bridge will be closed in mid-December 2018 and throughout construction. A new Harborwalk connection from the North End to Lovejoy will be rebuilt when the bridge reopens in 2022.
Residents brought up the backup of the right turn lane onto the bridge from Commercial Street. Some cars are using the middle lane and then turning at the light. Officials indicated that a police duty could help enforcement along with moving traffic.
Noise late at night was also raised by residents. The worktime is 7am through 10pm, with noise limits intended to be loudest mid-day. Construction will be halted on some TD Garden event nights, at the discretion of the contractor, in order to allow traffic to leave the city. Traffic flow can also be adjusted to allow two lanes outbound, as needed.
Officials have an extensive communication plan to encourage traffic to use alternative routes. The temporary bridge will have a walkway, but pedestrians can also use the Charles River locks as an alternative. However, the locks walkway closes after rainfall requires the locks to be opened to reduce water levels of the Charles River. Separate from this project, a pilot ferry will commence from Lovejoy Wharf to the Seaport this winter, into next Spring.
The next set of meetings will be in the Fall of 2019 when the temporary bridge is set to go live. Learn more details about the project in the fact sheet below.
See more NorthEndWaterfront.com coverage of the bridge project by searching the tag N. Washington St. Bridge.