Task Force unveils alternatives for reconfiguring Longfellow Bridge

October 15, 2010
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The Longfellow Bridge Task Force unveiled several alternatives for reconfiguring the structure to better accommodate all pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists Wednesday at a public meeting at the Shriners Hospital auditorium.

At that time, members of the Task Force, which was convened by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) in June, outlined three alternatives for the inbound approach towards Boston, including two variations on the first that features two travel lanes, a 5-foot bike lane plus a “crash barrier” and a 10-foot sidewalk; and second with a single traffic lane, a 12-foot bike lane and a 15-foot sidewalk.

The third inbound option – the so-called “hourglass” alternative – proposes a single traffic lane onto the bridge at Cambridge that widens to two lanes at the midpoint and three lanes at the entrance to Charles Circle. The sidewalk length varies from 10 to 15 feet (with 8 to 10 feet of clear width) while the bike lane ranges from 5 to 6 feet plus a crash barrier.

Outbound alternatives include one with a single traffic lane, a 6-foot bike lane plus a barrier and a 15-foot sidewalk; another with a single traffic lane, a 14-foot bidirectional bike lane and 13-foot wide bike lane; and lastly, two traffic lanes, a 5-foot bike lane plus barrier and a 10-foot-wide sidewalk.

In all of the inbound and outbound alternatives, the MBTA Red Line Reservation retained its current width of 27 feet.

Task Force members also outlined opportunities for improving bicycle and pedestrian connections from the bridge to parklands on both the Boston and Cambridge sides, as well as a proposal to build a new pedestrian bridge that would link Charles Circle to the Charles River Esplanade.

Many citizens in attendance at the meeting advocated for alternatives that favored pedestrian and bicycle uses.

“I think we really have to look to the future,” Beacon Hill resident Linda Cox said. “Less people are driving today for a number of reasons, and more people are walking and biking.”

In contrast, Beacon Hill resident Marvin Miller, who identified himself as a professional engineer, said that the final design shouldn’t discourage drivers from using the bridge.

“The vehicle isn’t the bad guy here,” Miller said. “We have to accommodate everyone.”

Meanwhile, Esplanade Association board member John Shields said, “We want to go on the record as saying we want one of the arches under the bridge dedicated as parkland.”

The Task Force is scheduled to meet again this week before making its final recommendations to MassDOT on the bridge design.

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