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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

Considering Solutions for the Northern Avenue Bridge

February 3rd, 2015  |  Posted by: Greg Galer

The Northern Avenue Bridge under snowfall earlier this year. Photo by Dan McNichol (2015).

Since its closure this past December, Bostonians have been eager for information about the city’s plans for the Northern Avenue Bridge. The bridge was built in 1908 to span the Fort Point Channel and provide multi-modal transport even back then: road, rail and pedestrian traffic above, and when swung open, a channel for boat traffic in what was once a bustling commercial area. Since 1997, when it was closed to road traffic, the bridge has been an important throughway for pedestrians and cyclists – commuting workers, tourists, and those heading to the restaurants, the ICA, and other attractions at the now-thriving and growing Seaport and Innovation Districts. With the boom we have experienced in these parts of the city, it’s no wonder that residents, workers, tourists and preservationists alike have come to regard the bridge as an essential character-defining feature of Boston’s downtown.

We are pleased to report that the Alliance – along with numerous other organizations and advocacy groups – are collaborating with Mayor Walsh and his staff to develop an expedient and viable reconstruction plan for the Northern Avenue Bridge, with an eye toward preservation. While public safety is of the utmost importance, we are working hard to develop a solution that will deliver a secure, functional bridge that preserves as much of the historic character of the bridge as possible and returns this wonderful, unique asset to the city functioning better than any of us can remember. We hope we can turn what has long been a well-loved but physically challenged part of the city into a well-cared-for treasure.

At the Alliance, we believe that the preservation of the past and enhancement of Boston’s future are integrally linked and can successfully coexist to add value to our city’s distinctiveness. In considering the options for the future of the Northern Avenue Bridge, we believe that it’s not only possible to strike balance between a practical solution and one that preserves the landscape of the Seaport District, it’s essential to maintaining Boston’s historic fabric.

To this end, we are in support of a prompt, thorough evaluation of the bridge that will enable the city of Boston to make an informed decision regarding the most appropriate solution to ensure that the Northern Avenue Bridge remains a functional, iconic part of the city for many more years to come.

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3 Responses

  1. Noah Moore Bohack says:

    Kudos Boston Preservation Alliance!… And good luck moving forward.

    The South Boston Innovation District is coming to resemble any other American city. Its new tower blocks, with their glassy facades, and LED lighting resemble Dallas and Atlanta more than urban New England. Icons like the Old Northern Avenue Bridge (ONAB) retain the look and feel of Boston’s storied, wharf-dotted waterfront.

    As many well know, this landmark remains vulnerable. The Moakley Bridge replaced ONAB’s utility two decades ago. The City’s recent announcement to replace the similar vintage Charlestown Bridge (ONAB’s “Bookend”) further suggests an urgent due diligence analysis to determine if and how the unique ONABridge can be refurbished.

    Saving the bridge as a movable functional crossing, and park-like connection between the Rose Kennedy Greenway and Federal Courthouse Park, can give Boston a landmark calling card similar to New York’s High Line, or Poughkeepise’s Walkway over the Hudson (see and respectively)….

    Without the adequate time and initiative necessary; without the engineering analysis and expert consultants -the various abutters and would be developer-sponsors at the table- we may never know what good can be achieved with this remarkable historic bridge.

  2. […] Alliance has been engaged in efforts to preserve the Northern Avenue Bridge for decades (literally) and in conversations with the City since it was closed to pedestrians in […]

  3. J.F. Bennett says:

    While the word iconic is severely overused in Boston these days; the Northern Ave. Bridge truly is iconic. It is a real link to Boston’s industrial and maritime past as well as (util the city closed it) a practical asset to the new South Boston Waterfront.

    Boston replaces is historic assets at it’s peril.

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