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Summer Tour: Longfellow Bridge Rehabilitation Project

August 1, 2014 02:52 PM
Representatives for the project, including Mike O'Dowd, Project Manager, MassDOT (left) and Erik Stoothoff, P.E., Chief Engineer, MBTA, presented on the rehabilitation project to WTS-Boston members on the Charles I riverboat.

On July 24th, WTS Boston members toured the Longfellow Bridge Rehabilitation Project, an extensive three and a half-year project affecting a significant transportation link between Boston and Cambridge over the Charles River. Representatives for the project from the Massachusetts DOT (MassDOT) and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) discussed what rehabilitation and upgrade work is being done on the bridge, how the MBTA is mitigating the effects on the Red Line’s service, and how MassDOT is working to maintain the historic details of the bridge.

Mike O'Dowd, MassDOT Project Manager, started off the tour by explaining the improvements MassDOT is making to the bridge. Inspections of the bridge performed in 2007 and 2008 confirmed significant deterioration and the need for a complete rehabilitation. MassDOT will be rehabilitating and upgrading the structural and seismic capacity of the bridge, building stormwater capture and treatment structures on both ends of the bridge, as well as widening sidewalks and bicycle lanes on the bridge itself. The project will also widen the traffic circles leading up to the bridge to better accommodate the approximately 30,000 vehicles that cross every day.

Erik Stoothoff, P.E., Chief Engineer of Design & Construction for the MBTA, spoke about the Agency's Red Line Rapid Transit that travels over the Longfellow Bridge. The MBTA has provided Red Line service over the Longfellow Bridge since 1912, and the line today carries 90,000 people back and forth between Cambridge and Boston daily. In order to keep Red Line service operating over the course of the project, the track will be temporarily realigned to replace the existing track. The MBTA will continue to provide service over the bridge using buses for 25 weekends.

Stacey Donahoe, Senior Historic Resource Specialist for MassDOT, provided further details about the historical features of the bridge. MassDOT and a number of organizations are collaborating to preserve the historical elements and replicate the construction techniques used in building  the original bridge in accordance with the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. The Longfellow Bridge, originally named the West Boston Bridge, was completed in 1907. At the time, it carried pedestrians and horse drawn carriages. In 1927, it was renamed the Longfellow by the Massachusetts General Court to honor Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who had written about the West Boston Bridge in his 1845 poem "The Bridge".

In order to maintain the historic aspects of the bridge, MassDOT will replicate the new street lights to match the originals, restore the original cast iron decorative railing, and replicate or restore the bronze window and door frames after evaluating their individual condition. Contractors will be using rivets, instead of modern day nuts and bolts, to hold the bridge together. Finding a suitable replacement for the specific Rockport granite was also a challenge, as the quarries that mined that granite have been closed since the 1930s. Fortunately, MassDOT and its team will be using granite stripped from another historic bridge during another reconstruction project.

The project team is using rapid construction and accelerated bridge techniques to finish the Longfellow Bridge project by its planned completion date of November 2016. With great effort, the "salt and pepper" bridge of Boston will be once again function safely and efficiently, and its historical architecture will continue to be a significant feature of the Boston skyline for many years to come.

To see an animation of the rehabilitation project, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQsyPClwVj8.



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