Longfellow Bridge Construction to Begin This Summer

An artist's rendering of the revitalized Longfellow Bridge. Image via MassDOT.

An artist’s rendering of the revitalized Longfellow Bridge. Image via MassDOT.

It’s one of the signature architectural elements connecting Cambridge and Boston—and it’s finally getting some much-needed TLC.

The Longfellow Bridge was built in 1906, and in its 107 years, it’s only been repaired twice. The bridge carries not only pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists, but also Red Line trains connecting North Cambridge to downtown Boston, Quincy, Mattapan, and more. It is a critical thread in the fabric of our larger community, and I’m absolutely thrilled to hear MassDOT’s announcement.

I see the final design as emblematic of what government and community leaders can do when they work together. The project will cost $255 million over the next three years, eighty percent of which will be paid for by the federal government, and the final agreement includes measures to hold construction companies responsible for keeping the project on track and on time.  The new bridge will be even more pedestrian-and-cyclist friendly and the Longfellow’s gorgeous views of the Charles River Basin will remain unchanged. The big change will be for motorists, as outbound traffic will be confined to one lane to make room for pedestrians and cyclists.

Needless to say, this will be a big, complex project: MassDOT will keep the Red Line running by laying temporary tracks during construction, but on 25 weekends over the next three years, shuttle buses will replace Red Line trains between Charles/MGH and Kendall Square (there are no scheduled weekday service disruptions). Some motorists will be diverted to the Craigie Bridge during the construction. But this is a small price to pay in order to safeguard both an important piece of infrastructure and a part of our cultural heritage.

Before the Longfellow Bridge, there was the West Boston Bridge, which inspired Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to write a poem. The final lines of that poem still ring true, 168 years after they were written:

Yet whenever I cross the river
   On its bridge with wooden piers,
Like the odor of brine from the ocean
   Comes the thought of other years.

And I think how many thousands
   Of care-encumbered men,
Each bearing his burden of sorrow,
   Have crossed the bridge since then.

I see the long procession
   Still passing to and fro,
The young heart hot and restless,
   And the old subdued and slow!

And forever and forever,
   As long as the river flows,
As long as the heart has passions,
   As long as life has woes;

The moon and its broken reflection
   And its shadows shall appear,
As the symbol of love in heaven,
   And its wavering image here.

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