-By Dan Murphy
Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) officials updated the public on the status of the Longfellow Bridge rehabilitation project at the Shriners Hospital auditorium last week, but didn’t disclose the state’s preferred alternative for reconfiguring the 102-year-old bridge that connects Boston to Cambridge across the Charles River.
The bridge restoration is being undertaken as part of Gov. Deval Patrick’s eight-year, $3 billion Accelerated Bridge program to improve structurally deficient crossings throughout the Commonwealth and comes at a cost of around $260 million – 80 percent of which will be paid for by the Federal Highway Department, said MassDOT project manager Amy Getchell.
The early action phase of the project got underway last month and includes relocating utility cables, improving sidewalks and restoring the structure’s stained granite masonry to its original color with an eco-friendly airbrush. Next month, the arches beneath the bridge, which were last painted in the 1950s, are scheduled de be cleaned, de-leaded and repainted. The early action contract should be completed in December, according to MassDOT.
At the meeting, the design team unveiled several alternatives for reconfiguring the bridge, including proposals to eliminate or reduce the width of traffic lanes to better accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians.
“The preferred alternative will not be presented because the materials are still under analysis and review,” Getchell said, adding that it would likely be submitted to the Federal Highway Department in mid-May as part of the environmental assessment for the subsequent phases of the project and made available to the public at that time.
The environmental assessment will also include a proposal to build a new ADA-accessible pedestrian bridge that would link Charles Circle to the Charles River Esplanade across Storrow Drive.
“MassDOT is trying to secure funds for the pedestrian bridge and identify which phase of construction [it would be built in],” Getchell said.
Parkland improvements under consideration include eliminating eight or nine spaces in the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary parking area, as well as relocating the existing Storrow Drive off-ramp to the exiting Mugar Way at Charles Circle.
The next public meeting on the rehabilitation project is scheduled for July 11.