By Mayor Martin J. Walsh
The North Washington Street Bridge, also known as the Charlestown Bridge, has been an important connector between the North End and Charlestown for more than a century. I’m proud that now, it’s getting the upgrade it deserves. We recently began construction to replace the bridge with a new one that meets the needs of today’s residents and commuters. The new North Washington Street Bridge will encourage green transportation. It will be a beautiful new landmark where the Charles River meets the Inner Harbor, complimenting the iconic design of the nearby Zakim Bridge. It will be what we call a complete street: one that works well for pedestrians, cyclists, bus passengers, and drivers alike.
The new bridge will have two vehicle lanes going in each direction, a dedicated inbound bus lane, separate cycle tracks in each direction, sidewalks on both sides with scenic views, and lush landscaping. We believe this is a necessary project, and it’s also a great opportunity to make this bridge safer and more accessible for everyone who uses it.
It’s important to us that we minimize disruptions and ensure that the construction happens as efficiently as possible. While the new bridge is being built, there will be a temporary bridge next to the existing one. It will be in place for about two years. It will have two inbound lanes, one outbound lane, and one sidewalk. It will maintain access for all modes of travel during the heaviest periods of work.
Community engagement and stakeholder input is very important to the success of this project. Our state partners at MassDOT are managing the project and have already hosted three community meetings in the North End, the West End, and Charlestown. They have been helping us keep people informed and will continue to do so throughout the entire process. Their updates are posted regularly at mass.gov/north-washington- street-bridge-replacement.
Here’s what’s happening right now: MassDOT is preparing the site for construction and relocating utilities. On weekdays, inbound traffic is reduced to one lane approaching Keany Square from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and outbound traffic is reduced to one lane at Keany Square from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Beginning Monday, December 17, the Lovejoy Wharf stairs leading to North Washington Street near the Converse building and the adjacent section of the Harborwalk passing under the North Washington Street Bridge will be closed to all pedestrians. The eastern sidewalk over the bridge remains open and available for all pedestrians and cyclists, with crossings at both Keany and City Squares.
Traffic patterns will change from time to time throughout the project. Drivers should give themselves extra travel time, expect lower speeds, and take extra care when driving. I ask that everyone pay attention to all signage and police details and move carefully through the work zones. The maximum allowable noise level will vary by time of day, with the lowest levels allowed overnight. Additional requirements and provisions are in place to control dust, hazardous materials, water quality, rodents, and other potential impacts of construction.
While we know that several of our neighborhoods have been heavily impacted by the ongoing construction of roadways and bridges, it’s important to keep in mind that in the long run these are all valuable improvements that will benefit our community for years to come. We certainly understand that the disruptions can be frustrating, and that is why we’re doing our best to minimize impacts in the short-term, while working on long-term solutions for these bridges and roads.
We encourage residents to contact their neighborhood liaisons with questions or concerns. Maria Lanza is the liaison for the North End and the West End and can be reached at Maria.Lanza@boston.gov. Quinlan Locke is the liaison for Charlestown and can be reached at Quinlan.Locke@boston.gov. For any other concerns, residents can call 311, the City’s 24-hour constituent hotline.