Bridge as seen from the Prudential Tower observatory
|Carries||Route 3, MBTA Red Line|
|Locale||Boston, Massachusetts to Cambridge, Massachusetts|
|Maintained by||Massachusetts Department of Transportation|
|Design||Steel rib arch bridge|
|Total length||1,767.5 feet (538.7 m)|
|Width||105 feet (32 m)|
|Longest span||188.5 feet (57.5 m)|
|Construction start||July 1900|
|Opened||August 3, 1906|
|Daily traffic||28,600 cars and 90,000 mass-transit passengers|
The Longfellow Bridge is a steel rib arch bridge spanning the Charles River to connect Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood with the Kendall Square area of Cambridge, Massachusetts. The bridge carries Massachusetts Route 3, the MBTA Red Line, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic. The structure was originally known as the Cambridge Bridge, and a predecessor structure was known as the West Boston Bridge; Boston also continued to use "West Boston Bridge" officially for the new bridge. The bridge is also known to locals as the "Salt-and-Pepper Bridge" due to the shape of its central towers.
The bridge falls under the jurisdiction and oversight of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT). The bridge carries approximately 28,600 cars and 90,000 mass-transit passengers every weekday. A portion of the elevated Charles/Massachusetts General Hospital rapid transit station lies at the eastern end of the bridge, which connects to Charles Circle.
Longfellow Bridge is a combination railway and highway bridge. It is 105 feet (32 m) wide, 1,767 feet 6 inches (538.73 m) long between abutments, and nearly one-half mile in length, including abutments and approaches. It consists of eleven steel arch spans supported on ten masonry piers and two massive abutments. The arches vary in length from 101 feet 6 inches (30.94 m) at the abutments to 188 feet 6 inches (57.45 m) at the center, and in rise from 8 feet 6 inches (2.59 m) to 26 feet 6 inches (8.08 m). Headroom under the central arch is 26 feet (7.9 m) at mean high water.
The two large central piers, 188 feet (57 m) long and 53 feet 6 inches (16.31 m) wide, feature four carved, ornamental stone towers that provide stairway access to pedestrian passageways beneath the bridge. Its sidewalks were originally both 10 feet (3.0 m) wide, but as of 2013[update], for unknown reasons, the upstream sidewalks were narrower than the downstream ones.
The first river crossing at this site was a ferry, first run in the 1630s. The West Boston Bridge (a toll bridge) was constructed in 1793 by a group of private investors with a charter from the Commonwealth. At the time, there were only a handful of buildings in East Cambridge. The opening of the bridge caused a building boom along Main Street in Cambridge, which connected the bridge to Old Cambridge. In East Cambridge, new streets were laid out and land was reclaimed from the swamps along the Charles River. The Cambridge and Concord Turnpike (now Broadway) was connected to the bridge's western approach around 1812. The bridge became toll-free on January 30, 1858.
In 1898, the Cambridge Bridge Commission was created to construct "a new bridge across Charles River, to be known as Cambridge Bridge, at, upon, or near the site of the so-called West Boston Bridge... suitable for all the purposes of ordinary travel between said cities, and for the use of the elevated and surface cars of the Boston Elevated Railway Company." At its first meeting on June 16, 1898, Willam Jackson was appointed Chief Engineer; shortly afterward Edmund M. Wheelwright was appointed Consulting Architect. Both then traveled to Europe, where they made a thorough inspection of notable bridges in France, Germany, Austria and Russia. Upon their return, they prepared studies of various types of bridges, including bridges of stone and steel arch spans.
Although both state and national regulations at the time required a draw bridge, it became evident that a bridge without a draw would be cheaper, better-looking, and avoid disruption to traffic. The state altered its regulations accordingly, and after the War Department declined to follow suit, the United States Congress drew up an act permitting the bridge, which President William McKinley signed on March 29, 1900. Construction began in July 1900; the bridge opened to traffic in August 1906, and was formally dedicated on July 31, 1907.
Wheelwright had been inspired by the 1893 Columbian Exposition and was attempting to emulate the great bridges of Europe. Four large piers of the bridge are ornamented with the prows of Viking ships, carved in granite. They refer to a purported voyage by Leif Eriksson up the Charles River circa 1000 AD, as promoted by Harvard professor Eben Horsford. The piers are also decorated with the city seals of Boston and Cambridge.
The Cambridge Bridge was renamed as the Longfellow Bridge in 1927, by the Massachusetts General Court to honor Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who had written about the predecessor West Boston Bridge in his 1845 poem "The Bridge".
There are pedestrian stairs on both sides of the bridge at both ends adorned with stone towers. Originally, these led to the Charles River shoreline, and on the Cambridge side they still do. On the Boston side, the construction of Storrow Drive in 1950-51 moved the shoreline, so that the stairs now lead to isolated parcels of land cut off from the river by Storrow Drive. There is no way to exit the upstream parcel, due to an off-ramp; the downstream one includes a crosswalk past another off-ramp. To reach the Charles River Esplanade, pedestrians must now proceed along the sidewalk to the end of the bridge, and use the Frances Appleton Bridge, a wheelchair-accessible pedestrian bridge, at Charles Circle slightly south of the Longfellow Bridge.
Until 1952, the central road traffic lanes of the bridge also contained tracks which connected what is now known as the Blue Line, running from crossovers at the Cambridge end from the Red Line tracks, across the bridge and into Boston to the North Russell Street Incline of the Blue Line subway. Before the Blue Line's Orient Heights yard was built, major repairs to that line's trains were performed at the former Eliot Square carbarns in Cambridge. For more details on this historic Red/Blue Line connection, see Blue Line (MBTA)#History.
Neglect and rehabilitation
The Longfellow Bridge, like many bridges in the Commonwealth, deteriorated into a state of disrepair. Between 1907 and 2011, the only major maintenance conducted on the bridge had been a small 1959 rehabilitation project and some lesser repairs done in 2002.
On May 1, 2007, a fire broke out under the bridge, ignited by an unextinguished cigarette. The fire caused the bridge to be shut down to vehicle and train traffic, and also severed Internet2 connectivity to Boston, causing problems with the Chicago-New York OC-192 route, according to the Internet2 blog.
In the summer of 2008, two state employees stole 2,347 feet (715 m) of decorative iron trim that had been removed from the bridge for refurbishment, and sold it for scrap. The men, one of whom was a Department of Conservation and Recreation district manager, were charged with receiving $12,147 for the historic original parapet coping. The estimated cost to remake the pieces, scheduled for replication by 2012, was over $500,000. The men were later convicted in September 2009.
Also that summer, the western sidewalk and inner traffic lane were both closed, the Red Line subway was limited to 10 miles per hour (16 km/h), and Fourth-of-July fireworks-watchers were banned from the bridge, all because of concerns that the bridge might collapse under the weight and vibration of heavy use. The speed restriction was lifted in August 2008, and the lane and sidewalk were reopened later on.
On August 4, 2008 Governor Deval Patrick signed into law a $3 billion Massachusetts bridge repair funding package he had sponsored. Bond funds were to be used to pay for the rehabilitation of the Longfellow, with a preliminary cost estimate of $267.5 million. If bridge maintenance had instead been performed regularly, the total estimated historical cost would have been about $81 million. Design began in Spring 2005; construction was expected to begin in Spring 2012 and end in Spring 2016.
Ownership and management of the overhaul was transferred from the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to the new Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) on November 1, 2009, along with other DCR bridges.
The condition of the bridge was determined to be so bad that the state could not wait for development of a full restoration plan. A $17 million contract was signed with SPS New England Inc for interim repairs. Crews began work in August 2010 that involved improving sidewalks on the approaches to bring them up to ADA compliance. In March 2011, crews began structural inspections for Phase II and cleaning of the stone masonry piers. MassDOT announced in May 2011 that work would begin on stripping and cleaning rust from steel arch ribbons that had not been painted since 1953. Crews were to apply paint primer to the arch ribbons and evaluate them for future major rehabilitation. All work was expected to be completed by December 2011.
Major reconstruction project
A $255 million project started construction in the summer of 2013 to replace structural elements of the bridge, and restore its historic character. The project was expected to require at least 25 weekend shutdowns of MBTA Red Line subway service to accommodate construction, including multiple temporary relocations of the rapid transit tracks. Outbound road traffic (from Boston to Cambridge) was to be detoured from the bridge for all three years of expected construction. A single lane of inbound traffic was expected to be available for the duration of the project, potentially restricted to buses-only at certain hours. A computer animation movie released by MassDOT showed the complex six-stage rehabilitation process in great detail, including temporary installation of a "shoo-fly track" (bypass track) to allow the permanent railbed at the midline of the span to be rebuilt.
The design/build phase of the bridge was assigned to the joint venture team of contractors White-Skanska-Conslgli under supervision by MassDOT. Bridge Architect Miguel Rosales of Boston-based transportation architects Rosales + Partners provided the conceptual design, bridge architecture, and aesthetic lighting design. Preliminary design engineering was performed by Jacobs Engineering. STV, Inc. is the final design engineer and engineer of record. The design provides for widened sidewalks and bike lanes, with two motor vehicle lanes inbound (towards Boston), but only a single lane outbound (towards Cambridge).
The Longfellow Bridge Restoration and Rehabilitation project was scheduled for completion in 2016, but the completion date was extended to December 2018, due in part to historic restoration requiring obsolete construction techniques such as riveting. In August 2016, the outbound side of the bridge was completely closed to all traffic, including pedestrians and cyclists, in order to complete work sooner. This measure was undertaken to allow the bridge to be fully reopened by June 2018. After years of delays, the bridge was fully reopened on May 31, 2018, but portions of the project, such as replacing the pedestrian footbridge over Storrow Drive, will be completed by the fall of 2018. According to Jonathan L. Gulliver, MassDOT Highway Administrator, the total cost of the rebuilding project was $306.6 million.
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The bridge presently carries 28,000 motor vehicles, 90,000 transit users, and significant numbers of pedestrians and bicyclists each day.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Longfellow Bridge.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Longfellow Bridge Rehabilitation.|
- Longfellow Bridge at Structurae
- "The Bridge", poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
- Longfellow Bridge, Spanning Charles River at Main Street, Boston, Suffolk County, MA
- Daniel, Mac (January 22, 2006). "Longfellow Bridge lane to close". The Boston Globe.
- "Defects lead to closure of a Longfellow Bridge sidewalk". The Boston Globe. June 6, 2008. Archived from the original on June 11, 2008.
- Ebbert, Stephanie (June 7, 2008). "Longfellow Bridge is off-limits July 4th". The Boston Globe.
- Ebbert, Stephanie (June 26, 2008). "Two lanes closed on Longfellow Bridge". The Boston Globe.