City looks to re-open Northern Avenue Bridge to cars

Northern Avenue Bridge in 1930

The bridge in 1930. See it larger.

The Globe reports the city is looking to ramp up the waterfront from the North End to Fort Point Channel with better pedestrian paths, restaurants, art, new docks and more water taxi stops - and a repaired Northern Avenue Bridge re-opened to cars.

The article also mentions the possibility of a restaurant or two on Long Wharf - which sounds like the BRA isn't giving up its long fight with North End residents.

Photo from the BPL Leslie Jones collection. Used under this Creative Commons license.



    Free tagging: 


    Why reopen it to cars?

    It really doesn't serve anyplace not easy to get to off of Seaport Ave.

    It would only be another place to store cars at rush hour that are trying to get over the channel and onto I-93, and it would also create serious problems when cars going the other direction needed to get on Seaport.

    I'm guessing that somebody either wants a special Courthouse loop or they simply don't spend any time in the are and aren't using their thinking caps properly.

    Using that money to add more transit options in the area would be a vastly better call. Or, maybe, reopening the bridge only to transit, with buses that run from the Seaport to Haymarket and/or North Station (these are the highest volume trips in the Hubway system, btw ... and also the trips with the largest savings for cycling versus current transit options).


    Agree, no cars!

    That bridge is perfectly placed as a pedestrian and cycle route. I don't object to the idea of structural rehab and additional use, but the best option would be a small stalls open air market on the inner side, leaving the outer side for human passage. The scale is completely wrong for car traffic and the other bridges handle that purpose quite well.


    Why would you get on northern ave to go to 93 at rush hour?

    By on

    That's going to drop you in Atlantic and you would have to take the surface street all the way past Hanover to get to 93, right? That's crazy.

    I could see northern ave as a good option for folks looking to avoid the traffic trying to get on 93. Also, there's a ton of development going up (and planned) for right next to and across the street from the courthouse. The area would be fit from improved transit options (public/bike/car). I don't see why transit has to be a zero sum game.


    To get to 93 further down

    Also, as someone who sometimes drives over Seaport to get to 93, I actually see very few cars use that right turn lane to get to Atlantic Ave, relative to the traffic headed onto 93 or into downtown.

    I think that car traffic is both a poor and unnecessary use of that bridge.


    It's a strange old bridge.

    By on

    I include it in my ongoing content project on Harborwalk.

    It seems to have had a rail aspect at one time. The strange little shack in the channel mouth is one of my favorite visuals.

    I'll walk it soon with camcorder and hoist the results. I want to cover more the section between Lewis Wharf and the Charlestown Bridge tomorrow morning when it is quiet.

    Freight tracks

    By on

    You can see some of the freight cars in this 1926 photo, which also shows the freight tracks fanning out on the neighboring pier that got named Fan Pier because of, well, the way the tracks fanned out.


    There's that spur

    By on the post photo as well. One thing I discovered in my rail tracing is the trolley element.

    These had a shorter shelf life as a Right of Way and left fewer traces.

    It was a busy port zone. This is great background.

    I was at Blinstrubs in 1962 or so with my mother to see the Kingston Trio and I never knew I was in South Boston until like last year, in part because of this kind of web content.


    By opening this bridge back

    By on

    By opening this bridge back up to vehicular traffic you will actually alleviate some congestion. The Seaport Bridge as already stated, is south of the on ramp to the 93 north tunnel entrance. The old Northern Ave bridge is north of that tunnel entrance so by opening it back up, people who are using surface roads can avoid the traffic frequently on Seaport Blvd which is caused by traffic in the tunnel.


    It won't alleviate congestion

    All it will do is create another couple of intersections where the congestion will be worsened, because intersections are what cause congestion in the downtown area, not a lack of places for cars to go.

    Go look at that right turn lane onto Atlantic from Seaport at rush hour. Just go. Just count. You will notice that very few cars in that area are interested in making that right turn relative to the cars in the other two lanes getting onto the freeway onramp or heading toward downtown from the left most lane. Drivers headed to Atlantic Ave may have to wait a little bit more because of the other traffic, but the lack of those cars on that stretch will not help the congestion one least little bit.

    Meanwhile, the addition of traffic on that bridge will require a more complicated intersection further down, with yet another light cycle and need to halt all traffic for pedestrian traffic (the dominant form of traffic in the area).

    This bridge was saved only because people wanted it as a car-free pedestrian route into the seaport. It was supposed to be ENTIRELY replaced by the new bridge. Putting cars on that will not solve any congestion problems in the area in any meaningful way and may actually make it worse due to complicating intersections at the Seaport and Northern avenue ends. All putting cars on that bridge will do is make everything less pleasant for the bulk of traffic in the downtown area and the predominant users of that roadway (that traffic being foot traffic). This plan is a slap in the face to those who advocated preservation of that bridge in the quest for livable ways.


    How Times Have Changed

    Fifteen years ago, or so, the city wanted to tear down the Northern Avenue Bridge. Part of the effort to save it included Seaport residents and workers who strongly advocated for it as a pedestrian route into the neighborhood.


    Is it just me?

    By on

    Or does the bridge kerfuffle and the abominable silver line instead of rail point to a lack of foresight and vision w/r/t development in the seaport? It's as if the T and the city never really believed the area would be fully developed.



    By on

    I worked on the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center project in the late 90s until the very early 2000s. At that time, it was something close to the exact opposite of what you allege - the City, Massport and other public entities seemed like the only ones who actually believed that the area would be fully developed. If you go back and look at contemporary news articles (written by the private sector), etc., you will see things that describe the convention center as a "boondoggle" and all other manner of pejoratives, people saying that no one will "ever go down to that windswept 1000 acres of old industrial land" that is not in downtown, and is "good only for parking lots" (I have paraphrased the language that I put in quotes, but if you look, I have no doubt that you will find actual quotes very close to what I have provided because I remember people saying them to me, even though I was a peon then). Again, while this sentiment was sometimes offered by politicians (typically from jurisdictions far removed from the area), it was typically from either private entities or watchdog-type organizations.

    I think that traffic down there is a testament to how wrong and lacking in vision all of those people were. If there is any criticism to be offered it is, as you suggested, that the people who foresaw the explosion of commerce down there were not able to convince the appropriators that an underground bus (with an at-grade crossing at D St. for heaven's sake!!!) was not going to get it done. Every one of the visionaries knew damn well that the Silver Line should have been light rail - there was just no stomach for the price tag (particularly because the goal was a "one-seat" ride from South Station to Logan).

    The construction of the BCEC (City/MCCA), The Seaport Office/Hotel Complex (Massport) and the Ted/I-90 extension to Logan remain, so far as I am concerned, one of the best examples of "government" successfully priming the pump for explosive economic development (ironically enough since undertaken by some of the very naysayers from 10-15 years ago). It is also worth noting that this growth has occurred notwithstanding a historically long period of macroeconomic difficulty. (Lastly, I put government in quotes to acknowledge the fact that Massport and MCCA are quasi-public entities. If they had not been, I believe that there is a serious question as to whether they would have been able to undertake those projects (especially on that timeframe) and whether we would still be looking at 1000 acres testifying to Boston's illustrious past as an industrial port.)


    let the BRA know how you feel about the issue.

    By on

    Let the Boston Redevelopment Authority know how you feel about the issue. Often there so many voices that applaud or oppose an idea but our opinions don't always reach the necessary channels.

    (617) 722-4300

    Learn about the Downtown Waterfront Planning Initiative through Municipal Harbor Plannig Advisory Committee meetings


    That would be great if

    By on

    all the city websites weren't down today...

    The day I specifically set time aside to do work that relies heavily on the BRA website and assessors files.


    Car traffic is increasing

    Meanwhile, demand and vehicle miles traveled both increased last year according to the Federal Government. The Energy Information Administration reports 1.1% increase in demand, the largest annual increase since 2006, while the Federal Highway Administration reports a similar increase for the number of miles traveled of an estimated 18.1 billion miles.

    Of what people claim to do to reduce fuel use, had public transit low on the list and bicycling probably lumped in as "other" along with skateboarding and telecommuting.


    Is this nationally, or in

    By on

    Is this nationally, or in Boston? Because increased driving in Phoenix because of ridiculous sprawl has little or nothing to do with transportation in an Eastern city.

    Excellent try, though, to marginalize bikes and pedestrians in Boston!


    "Its the economy, stupid"

    An old saying on the prime issue in politics, but also the primary influence on traffic volume. So, if the economy is recovering in Boston with more jobs to go to, then, yes, traffic is up in Boston. Note also that MassDOT figures only 0.3% to 0.5% annual traffic growth when projecting 10 and 20 year traffic volumes when sizing new projects. 1.1% growth will make them all inadequate.

    I believe the 1.1% growth figure came from the federal government, so isn't specific to Boston. MassDOT probably doesn't want to volunteer a local number as it would show the fallacy in their travel lane removal projects.

    The stupid... it makes my eyes water

    None of this makes sense. The reason the Moakley Bridge was built was because it could structurally handle the increased traffic from Fort Point, and dump that traffic onto a more practical spot on Atlantic Avenue than the Northern Avenue Bridge did. From the Moakley Bridge, a driver can either enter the tunnel, turn left or right on Atlantic Ave, or go straight onto Oliver Street. From the Northern Ave spot, the only option would be to turn right on Atlantic Ave.

    Also, this would mean the parking/loading ramp for the Williams Building (between 408 Atlantic Ave & Hook Seafood) would have to be converted to a connector road. Add a headache: 408 Atlantic is federal property, so who owns that little strip that would need to be the connector road?

    My memory is foggy here, but was the Northern Ave bridge was last open to vehicles before Hook burned? The layout of that property has changed a lot since then.

    The Northern Ave Bridge certainly can't handle the Cisco trucks coming from the docks. And it runs from one federal property to another. I suspect that the judges at the courthouse and the Coast Guard brass want to get in and out of their parking spots more easily, so they would like the Bridge reopened to vehicles. The Coast Guard brass already feel entitled to illegally drive the wrong way on Atlantic so they can get to the tunnel. Let's think twice before we add more people to the corner clusterf**k.

    The Northern Avenue Bridge gets enough pedestrian traffic to justify its continued existence. Also, its a necessary part of the Harbor Walk, especially if the powers that be want the waterfront to be a "destination" between Harborside and the Moakley Courthouse. Most people don't want to take the Silver Line for dinner out, but they will walk along the water if the weather is nice.


    Closed to traffic for years before the Hook fire

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    "My memory is foggy here, but was the Northern Ave bridge was last open to vehicles before Hook burned? "

    Actually, the bridge was closed to traffic for many years before the Hook fire. I used to walk across it every day on my way to work when I had a job in that area. It never seemed all that structurally sound to me. Reopening it to traffic is a disastrous idea. I thought the whole idea of the Moakley Bridge was so there wouldn't have to be cars on the Northern Ave. Bridge. Opening it to traffic again seems like a step backwards.

    For a year or two in the mid 2000s there was a farmers market on the Northern Ave. Bridge in the summer, which was a nice touch.


    Greenway Extension

    I had always hoped this bridge would be used to extend the Greenway from downtown through the seaport on the huge Northern Avenue. This could be a beautiful non-motorized gateway into the seaport sq/innovation district