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Northern Avenue Bridge: “People First” Design Presented to Wharf Council

City officials gave a design preview of the new Northern Avenue bridge to the Wharf District Council this week in a presentation entitled “Boston Bold: A People First Experience.”

Overview of new design for Northern Avenue Bridge

The old Northern Ave. bridge was deemed a navigation hazard by the USCG (United States Coast Guard) and closed in 2014. After preliminary meetings, officials said the bridge would be rebuilt with a “people-first approach”, limiting usage to pedestrians and cyclists. That decision has since been revised to include emergency vehicles and dedicated bus/shuttle service.

Appearing via Zoom, Chris Osgood, the City’s Chief of Streets and Joseph Fleury, Principal Bridge Engineer, described the project’s history and design principles. Acknowledging the current state of the bridge from a structural standpoint (referring to certain parts of it as swiss cheese), Osgood outlined rehabilitation efforts and drew comparisons to work done on the nearby Congress St Bridge.

The newly chosen design makes use of what are referred to as “ribbons” dividing bridge traffic in two. The harbor-facing side will be exclusively for pedestrian use, while the second side facing the Moakley bridge will serve a single bus/shuttle line as well as cyclists and emergency vehicles.

Choosing to place cyclists in the bus and emergency vehicle lane was a decision reached with pedestrian safety in mind, according to City Engineer Para Jayasinghe.

Referencing the debate revolving around the exclusion of single-use vehicles, Jayasinghe explained how ongoing civic engagement has shaped decision-making, along with the City’s evolving stance on shared transit.

With sentiment being gauged, residents polled and positions laid out by several organizations, the cost factor associated with accomodating full vehicular traffic attracted its fair share of controversy, with prior estimates for a 42ft one car-lane costing between $56-100 million, while a 56ft option with two available motor vehicle lanes costing upwards of $110 million.

Jayasinghe was challenged by the WDC on whether enough modeling had been done to fully account for potential impacts to everyday commutes especially in and around Atlantic Avenue. The need for clearer differentiation regarding the designated lanes was put forward, and it was asked if a dedicated bus lane on Atlantic Avenue would help to prevent potential gridlock.

WDC member Joanne Hayes-Rines asked whether a new traffic light would need to be installed on the Atlantic Avenue side. Jayasinghe replied that a signal warrant analysis had been performed, with current data indicating that a new light is unnecessary. Sublevel work is being performed in case the situation changes.

Possible directionality issues were highlighted, with many wondering whether there had been enough analysis performed to measure results in terms of emergency traffic.

Officials anticipate construction to begin in early 2021 with a ribbon-cutting slated for 2022.

More details will be discussed during a public online meeting scheduled for May 6th.

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8 Replies to “Northern Avenue Bridge: “People First” Design Presented to Wharf Council

    1. “Barely be used”? It’s a bridge. Its primary use is for transport,
      I don’t see anything that implies that people will stop walking to work in November.
      True, the whole City of Boston isn’t so good for lounging around outdoors from November to April.
      Joey, perhaps you can come up with a design for a glass bubble over the city to solve your problem.

      1. No Wes the city doesn’t need a glass bubble.

        Boston may have the worst weather in the country. Our winters are freezing and usually covered in snow. Our spring isn’t much better. We are lucky to have 5 months of enjoyable weather. Not really ideal for walking a few miles to work!

        Rather than build a glass bubble I have a really insane idea!! Why not try and build a bridge that allows for pedestrian and vehicle travel!!! What a crazy idea!!!!

        1. I’ll still be walking to work Nov – April. And the bridge does allow for pedestrian AND bus/emergency vehicle travel. There’s a local vehicle bridge RIGHT NEXT TO IT. And there’s TWO more next to that bridge!!! That makes 3 bridges for local vehicle traffic within about 400yds! How many do you want Joey?!

          1. Happy you are still walking to work. Good for you. It will be nice a quiet walk for you!

            Those 3 other bridges you speak of all have ample sidewalk space for pedestrians to walk.

            The seaport is the busiest area in Boston. This will do nothing to alleviate the constant traffic.

  1. While the presentation shows people lounging about on the bridge during assumedly pleasant weather, I think there would be significant year-round use. There are thousands of people who work downtown and live in the Seaport district, or vice versa, who would walk over this bridge everyday to/from work or home.

    I am very excited About the finished product and have no doubt I would use it often throughout the year. Sometimes the only thing stopping me from walking over to the Seaport from the North End is the idea of walking over the loud, traffic-filled, windy Moakley Bridge.

  2. Looks nice, and what about the ‘beloved’ homeless looks very nice for that purpose too , Traffic Backup?
    Just pointing out , not being negative … because the rendition is quite beautiful and I would be happy to use it.
    That bridge is my number 1 point of egress , anyway.

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