BOSTON, MA – The Longfellow Bridge reopened to traffic last week, after five years of reconstruction. The bridge, which connects Cambridge and Boston, has two lanes for inbound motor vehicle traffic, broadening to three at Charles Circle, and one lane for outbound. The bridge’s design incorporates changes which improve safety for bicyclists, pedestrians, and vehicular traffic, such as widened sidewalks with barriers beside them, bollards along the bike lane, a 25mph speed limit, and clearer signage.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) made these changes in response to sustained advocacy by commuters, including those who bicycle and walk; advocates; and members of the legislature, including Somerville Representatives Mike Connolly (D- Cambridge) and Denise Provost (D-Somerville), and Senator Pat Jehlen. Because of input by community groups, bridge users, and their legislators, MassDOT modified its design, including widening the bike lanes by a foot. MassDOT has also agreed to a data collection and monitoring plan that will inform future improvements, to the benefit all users.
Representative Provost said, “It was a revelation to MassDOT to learn just how many bridge users travel on foot or by bicycle, and from what distances. I give MassDOT tremendous credit for proactively making design changes that reduce conflicts and promote safety. I’m encouraged by their openness to making further modifications, and for extending this kind of interactive process to other public infrastructure projects.”
Representative Connolly added, “At long last, the Longfellow Bridge rehabilitation is completed, restoring a vital connection between our community and the City of Boston. While we did not get all of the bike safety improvements we were calling for, we are very pleased to report that as a result of our collective advocacy, MassDOT has agreed to several bike safety enhancements including: a wider bike lane, flexible posts to create a barrier between automobile drivers and the bike lanes, and speed monitoring equipment to alert automobile drivers of the newly-reduced speed limit. I look forward to continuing to work with residents, advocates, and state and local stakeholders and colleagues to advocate for continued improvements and safety enhancements for the Longfellow bridge and the region.”
Beyond the successful negotiations of the Longfellow Bridge design, MassDOT officials stated at a May 31, 2018 meeting with legislators and community members that the advocacy for design changes on the Longfellow will impact MassDOT’s approach to future bridge projects. For example, MassDOT recently released a capital budget plan which for the first time earmarks money for the purchase of mechanical “counters,” used to measure pedestrian, cyclist, and vehicle use. This data will be used to identify and prioritize improvements to benefit all users, bringing Massachusetts closer to the ideal of “complete streets.”
“I am pleased to see MassDOT rework the Longfellow Bridge design to include several of the measures proposed by cycling and walking advocates, making traveling on the bridge safer for all users,” said Senator Jehlen.
Minor work that does not require roadway closure will wrap up this summer, including painting the bicycle lane and bike box at intersections green to increase visibility.