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This blog is a place for dialogue on issues and actions relating to Boston's unique built environment and the preservation and continuing evolution of historic resources within it. My goal, as the Executive Director of the Boston Preservation Alliance, is to post timely, relevant and thought-provoking intelligence, ideas, and insights that will engage conversations, inform our actions, and broaden perspectives on preservation.

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Greg Galer, Executive Director, Boston Preservation Alliance

Executive Director

AllianceViews Blog

A (Better) Walk in the Park

March 15th, 2012  |  Posted by: Boston Preservation Alliance

Current condition of Storrow Drive passing under the Longfellow Bridge/ Photo credit: Goody Clancy

The rehabilitation of the Longfellow Bridge is quite possibly one of the most important preservation projects moving forward in Massachusetts at this time. Designed by Edmund Wheelright in 1908, the bridge is a marvel of engineering, an architectural gem, and an iconic fixture spanning the Charles River and connecting Boston to its sister city of Cambridge.

Over the past several decades, lack of ongoing maintenance of the bridge has caused it to deteriorate to a dangerous state of disrepair. Its timely restoration is absolutely essential in order to ensure that it is returned to a safe condition.

The rehab of the bridge is also an opportunity to improve its connections to the Charles River Esplanade. Right now, getting to and from the park near the bridge is not a positive experience. Going under it as a pedestrian walking along the park is even worse. Walkers must pass through an uninviting, dark, narrow pathway that was squished to one side of a single archway of the bridge when the park was reconfigured in the 1950s to make way for Storrow Drive.

Possible future condition of the Esplanade near the Longfellow Bridge/ Image credit: Frank Costantino

The experience could be much improved by pushing both directions of Storrow Drive under a single archway so that the entirety of the river-side archway could be reallocated to the Esplanade. (The Esplanade Association’s recent publication Esplanade 2020: A Vision for the Future explains this on pages 54-57.)

The Alliance recently submitted comments on the Longfellow Bridge Rehabilitation Environmental Assessment and asked the Federal Highway Administration and MassDOT to seriously explore reclaiming this parkland in conjunction with the bridge work. MassDOT is going to have to reroute traffic on Storrow Drive temporarily and create a staging area for the rehabilitation anyway. Clearly, this is the ideal time to fix what was damaged sixty years ago.


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One Response

  1. Smssoum says:

    While I’m tempted to point out that ciaptal accumulation has had myriad positive externalities that raise the quality of living & thus accomplish more humane ends than any philanthrophy or do-gooderism I’ll agree with you that one way to encourage people not to drive is to invest less in roads. The main reason I bike to work or take the train is because it’s a complete nightmare to drive from the southern suburbs into downtown. Off-peak I can get to drive to work in 25 minutes, and that’s what I would do if I didn’t have to go in rush hour (when it’s more like 75 minutes). I’ll add that I never, ever would have considered biking 13 miles each way if it were not for cycling infrastructure: wide streets in Dedham, bike lanes in Roslindale, and the separated paths along the Jamaicaway as well as the Southwest Corridor. Downtown is still a semi-nightmare along Mass Ave, but I’m optimistic that we’ll see progress there thanks to the good work of folks like yourself. Increasing the appeal of biking to work is an interesting one. In my mind there are two steps:1) convincing people it can be done at all2) convincing people that it is safeunder #1, friends and colleagues are routinely stunned to learn that I bike to work. I’m not particularly fit or outdoorsy or green’ or anything like that. and they are shocked to see me on the bike in the rain and cold. but (#2) they still think I am nuts, that it is way too dangerous especially in the city. one of my colleagues bikes from Lexington to Alewife on the separated path and then takes the T to work because he refuses to ride in Cambridge. There is not much I can do to convince them otherwise, and honestly it doesn’t seem very safe to me sometimes.

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