Zakim Bridge Turns 15

A milestone for the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge was commemorated during a cocktail event at EF Education’s Cambridge facility on Friday, Sept 21, called “The Zakim Bridge: 15 Years Together.”

“This celebration of the completion of the Zakim Bridge was a great opportunity to commemorate the 2003 completion of one of the most-important contemporary symbols of Boston,” said Miguel Rosales, the lead architect for the project, as well as the president and founder of Boston-based bridge design firm Rosales + Partners. “It was a great honor to help sponsor the event at the EF Educational Center adjacent to the bridge.”

After earning a Master of Science in Architectural Studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Rosales was recruited to work on the area north of Causeway Street and the Charles River crossing as part of the Central Artery/Tunnel Project, otherwise known as the “Big Dig.”

By the early ‘90s, the Big Dig had come under public scrutiny in light of skyrocketing costs, scheduling delays and other setbacks, and in a bid to win back public support for the project, acting state Secretary of Transportation Frederick Salvucci opted to build an aesthetically pleasing, cable-supported bridge across the river.

Rosales was handpicked to work on a Big Dig project task force, which included, among others, renowned Swiss engineer Christian Menn, and soon shifted his attention to bridge design.  By 1992, Rosales was named lead architect for the bridge, and he continued to spearhead the project for several years.

Rosales began looking at the possibility of building a cable-supported bridge with tall towers – a decision that would eventually help transform the once gritty area around the sports arena then known as the Boston Garden into a vibrant city neighborhood.

“The Zakim Bridge has helped transformed the area over the last 15 years into a beautiful and livable neighborhood with parkland, new educational and residential facilities, and improved pedestrians/bicycles connections,” Rosales said. “The bridge continues to be a source of inspiration and innovation to Boston residents and I am very proud to have been involved in its original conception.”  The bridge is named for Leonard Zakim, who died in 1999 at age 46.  He was civil rights leader and the father of Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim.

“It’s hard to believe that 15 years have passed,” Josh said. “I want to thank Miguel Rosales and [the Massachusetts Department of Transportation] not only for a wonderful celebration, but also for their remarkable stewardship of this bridge. The entire Zakim family was honored to participate in this moving and fun commemoration.”

The anniversary event was co-hosted by Rosales + Partners; WalkBoston, the Charles River Conservancy, the Downtown North Association, the Lenny Zakim Fund and the Leonard P. Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies and Healthy Living at Dana-Farber. A bridge lighting demonstration took place during the event courtesy of MassDOT.

“With its unique cable-stays and notable architectural features, the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge is an iconic structure and in important connection into the heart of Boston,” said Patrick Marvin, MassDOT spokesman. “MassDOT is pleased to celebrate the 15th anniversary of this bridge and looks forward to it continuing to serve the public for many years to come.”

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