By Dan Murphy
Members of the design team unveiled preliminary plans for the Leverett Circle Pedestrian Bridge at the West End Museum last Tuesday
The concrete, curved footbridge conceived by Miguel Rosales, the Boston architect who designed the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge and the soon-to-be completed Appleton Pedestrian Bridge between Charles Circle and the Charles River Esplanade, will span 270 feet over O’Brien Highway/Interstate 93. Its 12-foot-wide walking path would extend from the mezzanine level of the MBTA Science Park/West End station to the parking lot adjacent to the state police barracks on the Charles River Esplanade. While construction is slated to take 12 to 18 months to complete, Tracy Osimboni, project manager for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), said there is no firm start date or estimated cost for the project, since its design is still in the early stages.
Roch Larochelle, senior project manager for the Boston engineering firm HDR, Inc., said construction would take place in four phases in an effort to minimize traffic impacts, and to allow the existing MBTA station to continue to operate during throughout the process.
“We need to look at the overall impact on the station and try to minimize closures,” Larochelle said. “We understand its impact on traffic, and we understand its impact on pedestrians.”
The project also includes plans for signal upgrades that allow for longer pedestrian crossing times, as well as the reconfiguration of roadways and widening of the median island, Larcochelle said.
While Larochelle said the project would maintain most of the existing crosswalks in the area, several citizens in attendance pointed to the need for an at-grade crossing from the MBTA station to Whittier Place. The station’s elevator lobby will also be removed and reconstructed as part of the plan.
Rosales said the new bridge would become a safer, attractive and vital link between the West End and the MBTA station, as well as the Esplanade and Charles River.
“The new bridge will act as gateway to the park and a fitting visual terminus to the end of Storrow Drive,” Rosales wrote in an e-mail.
John Shields, an architect and urban designer who served as project chair for Esplanade 2020 –a long-term vision for the park spearheaded by the Esplanade Association – urged the design team to consider the bridge’s impact on the connection between the Esplanade and the Nashua Street Park, as well as the project in the context of the surrounding parkland.
“In part, the whole project is being moved forward because of its elegance, not because of its utility or because it solves safety problems in the area,” Shields said.
Louise Thomas, a West End resident who said she has served on a committee dedicated to making the pedestrian crossing a reality since 2004, described it as a “wonderful bridge.”
“We’ve been waiting a very long time for this,” Thomas said.
The next public hearing on the project is scheduled for the fall, and the design should be finalized later this year or in 2017, Osimboni of MassDOT said.