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And just like that, a Boston landmark will be removed

Northern Avenue Bridge over Fort Point Channel in 1919

The bridge and downtown Boston in 1919. Photo by Leslie Jones. See larger.

The Globe reports Boston officials have decided to tear down the old Northern Avenue Bridge starting in March - although a spokeswoman for the mayor said today that "there will still be an opportunity to preserve the bridge, but it cannot stay where it is because of its current condition."

Then, of course, the city will spend tens of millions to build a new bridge and never mind the Moakley Bridge a block away was built specifically as a wider, more modern alternatives to the Northern Avenue span, built in 1908, when the area around Fort Point and along the South Boston waterfront was a bustling industrial port dominated by train tracks.

Although the Globe reports replacing the bridge was one of the promises the city made to get General Electric to move here, mayoral spokeswoman Bonnie McGilpin says: "The Mayor committed to rebuilding the Northern Ave Bridge to support vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle traffic last spring, it is not being built for GE."

According to the Library of Congress, the bridge is a "swing" bridge, named for the way it opened to ships: "The rim bearing swing span is carried by a 40 foot diameter drum, in turn supported by 56 steel wheels running on a track along the rim of the granite island pier."

The bridge led to Fan Pier, named because of the way the train tracks fanned out on it. Today, the spot below is where the federal courthouse and Vertex are (photo by Leslie Jones):

Fort Point Channel in 1931 (from the Library of Congress):

Fort Point Channel in 1931

When you could still drive across the bridge, in the late 1980s (the Library of Congress):

Northern Avenue Bridge

Some of the gears that swung the center part of the bridge (from the Library of Congress):

Northern Avenue Bridge gears

The locked and unusable bridge today:

Leslie Jones photos from the BPL online collections. Posted under this Creative Commons license.

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Comments

No word if it will for cars or pedestrian/bikes only. of course, it's probably for both because, you know, the bridge 300 feet away isn't sufficient enough. (at least from what the article says)

The Irony.. money is always avaliable for something to support vehicular traffic, no money to fix the T. (or even repair the Long Island bridge)

But but but but but but GEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Which seems to be an excuse to do something right away these days, rather than what the public really wants and needs (and who is gonna pay for a new bridge in the end, not GE), which is to fix transit in the Seaport instead.

*eye roll*

I guess car is king in Boston, while the rest of us who ride the T can go take a very long walk off a short pier because GE takes priority over the people who actually will be paying for it.

Sometimes I really question why I stay here in Mass....

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You'd have to leave the country, not just Mass, to find a place that doesn't waste money on cars while screwing over transit/ped/bikes.

I honestly can't think of a worse way to spend $100 million. This bridge won't help anyone. Just use one of the various other bridges. We shouldn't be encouraging car traffic in downtown anyway. The best way to reduce traffic is to improve public transportation.

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I don't think rebuilding the Northern Ave bridge for cars makes sense from an automobile transportation point of view, although it may for pedestrians and cyclists.

In today's Globe, the best case the reporter (Leung) was willing to make is that a new bridge "could help ease traffic congestion.."

I think that means they haven't studied the proposition and determined if it does or does not have sufficient transportation value to justify the cost of about $100,000,000.

In my opinion, the Walsh admin presumed rather than tested the idea that a new Northern Ave bridge for cars would ease traffic congestion. With a $100 million price tag, we should definitely get transportation folks to make the assessment. In the meantime, someone ask Walsh if Barros consulted with engineers in the transportation division.

I think auto congestion came up in discussion with GE and everyone decided GE was a good reason to build a new bridge where the old one is now.

I asked a guy who knows a guys who works in transportation for the state and his assessment is that it would hurt rather than help auto congestion.

IMAGE(http://i279.photobucket.com/albums/kk143/nfsagan/Northern-Ave-Bridge2_zpstq2iocwj.jpg~original)

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.......especially if the $100 million isn't YOUR money. If you're a politician/legislator/government official, etc etc????...Spend it any flippin way you wanna spend it. Who cares, right?....As long as YOUR check clears, to hell with anything else! Cuz it's all about the money - as long as it isn't YOUR money!

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as development continues in Boston, and public transit becomes increasingly inadequate, more people are going to ask that same question.

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It's rather a shameful article. Warren's objection to GE is not their existence, but the success of their strategy to avoid paying federal and state tax on billions of profit annually and the complicity of her fellow elected officials.

In other words, MA state government and Boston city government works great for GE and their shareholders bottom line but GE, on the other hand, legally shirks most corporate responsibility for funding the country that provides defense, for funding the state GE resides in and paying real estate tax to the city that's host them, because the Mayor said GE keep you first $25,000,000 of real estate tax. Now, GE said they're not coming because of the welfare but Baker and Walsh gave them the welfare anyway and who would turn it down?

The value of all the free stuff Baker and Walsh offered GE is relatively small compared to GE's annual profit but it is significant to MA and Boston taxpayers who watch services cut from the failing MBTA and fare increases, as well as $190,000,000 cut from Boston Schools during Walsh's mayor ship including $50 million this year alone.

And Walsh gave GE 20 years of tax abatement worth $25,000,000 to a company that makes $5 billion dollars a year. It's insane that GE, which is one of the most profitable companies the world, is given a $25 million tax abatement while the same Mayor make deep cuts to Boston Schools. Most people would call this mismanagement by Walsh or having the wrong priorities.

Walsh also agreed to help make down payments for GE employees buying homes in Boston. He promised to spend an estimated $100 million re-building the Northern Ave bridge, which is one block from the brand new Evelyn Moakley bridge. Parents of Boston school students want to know how Boston has money got bridges and tax abatement but not schools.

GE also wants a heli-pad and taxpayers through their representative Baker and Walsh agreed to provide it. Walsh can't give away enough of Boston's resources to GE, GE cannot less to give back in return.

As this goes down. Walsh wont even meet with parents of Boston School students to discuss his budget cuts.

But there are 800 new jobs, right? No, Barros, Walsh's economic development guy, says he doesn't know how many of the 800 employees will be relocating but "hopefully not all."

Peter Lucas got this all wrong. This is not the story of butt hurt Warren. This is how Baker and Walsh showed that austerity is for us, the people, not the swanky corporation. There's plenty of money to meet GE's demands.

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If they are going to have cars on this new bridge, then I sincerely doubt that it will add any meaningful additional capacity to anything. It will, however, add two more intersections to an already messed up car sewer area, which will gum up the works even more.

I'm trying to figure out what city Mahty thinks that he lives in, and what decade. I'm betting its 1990 and Houston.

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It’s already a traffic nightmare, if anything there’s insufficient arteries into South Boston. More might alleviage congestion to the point cars aren’t stuck idling and polluting. A bridge only for bikes or pedestrians would make no sense compared to one for all forms of transit.

This peanut gallery is so obsessed with making cars the villian, when the villain is gridlock regardless of what transit form it takes. Anything getting more people moving where they need to go faster is better, and building a bridge doesn’t instantly mean taking away from public transit capacity.

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and building a bridge doesn’t instantly mean taking away from public transit capacity.

But when we have trains that break down every day, and we're told we're going to have to pay more to use such crappy service, you have to wonder where the priorities at the state are.

Maybe if we had a world class (a real one) transit system that actually got you to your destination on time without failure, everyday, we wouldn't need such a bridge. Imagine if the Silver Line was built as Light Rail.. would we need a bridge? Probably not.

That area doesn't need a bridge for more cars. It needs a transit improvement. And besides, the Moakley Bridge was built to REPLACE the Northern Ave bridge, not to be used side by side. (and yes I'm aware that the Big Dig dictated moving the bridge some because of the onramp to the expressway)

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Cars are always the priority and will always get money over Transit....

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Atleast the tunnel part, all over the meeting minutes for that project.

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If you spent any time trying to get through that area, on foot, on a bike, or in a car, you would know that more intersections will make everything worse.

I'm also a traffic engineer's daughter. There are basic planning principles that never change. Adding another bridge will not increase capacity - the controlling factor is currently and will remain the backups on I-93 that gum up the surface roads, and the capacity of Atlantic Ave, Seaport, Congress, and Summer. The capacity of those routes, when traffic onto and off of I-93 is not backing up the area, is determined by the number of stoplights.

Go down there and look for yourself at where the cars are trying to get from and to. This will only create two more intersections in a congested area. It will not help anything.

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So can you explain whether this is going to be a one way bridge? There wouldn't seem to be any reason to make it two ways, right? It's just going to allow people to exit the seaport and make a right onto Atlantic Ave. The only people who would use it to travel from downtown to the seaport would have to drive right by the Moakley Bridge to take a right onto Northern Ave. Seems silly to make it two ways unless there's some major reworking of Atlantic Ave.

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I think he wants it to look like this:

IMAGE( http://i.imgur.com/iZFM2FR.jpg )

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At least I'll have my pictures and my memories. I love that bridge, loved walking over it, loved taking photos of it (especially at night).

Bastids.

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I remember the first time I saw it swinging around. I thought I'd gone crazy. 'Why's that bridge rotating around??'

RIP, you rusty ol bastard

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As more and more cities are trying to encourage people to walk, take transit, Boston is doing the opposite, it let this bridge that had been used by pedestrians and bicyclists go into disrepair, even after years of warning from the Coast Guard, and now will replace it with ANOTHER car bridge. So, more cars into the Seaport, that will help traffic? Why not just replace it with the helipad Baker is giving them?

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So they will spend all that money to rebuild a bridge which has limited access/use but the Casey Overpass was not rebuilt. Instead they put in an at grade solution to funnel 30k+ cars per day through Forest Hills rather than over it, create long backups on the Jamaica Way and south on Center Street by the Faulkner.

I say let them put in a Tunnel since they can't do it AT GRADE.... At least that solution would make as little sense.

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Your lot whines more than the Tea Party!

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Just because they are making a mistake here doesn't mean they should have made a mistake and spent tons of money to build a bridge in JP many people in the community didn't want.

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Ding, Dong, Casey Overpass is Dead!

(Also a JP resident. Let it go already!)

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Casey overpass was the central artery of Jp - created a huge dead space and fissure between two JP neighborhoods. And it sucked sucked sucked to drive over. Good riddance the area already looks 100x better and it's not even near being finished.

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Overpass did not increase traffic on Centre. Traffic was backing up at Faulkner at least two years before the closing. It may have increased traffic on Allandale where people then get in the left lane of Centre for Walter St., but it isn't worse on Centre. The Jamaicaway and Arborway are parkways not highways. Life will go on with the at-grade design.

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Main points: The bridge structure might be saved and put somewhere else. And despite what the Globe wrote, this has been in the works since well before GE announced its move here.

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What was the line in that Joni Mitchell song?

"They took all the bridges, put 'em in a bridge museum
And they charge the people a dollar and a half* just to see 'em"

*figure not adjusted for inflation

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And despite what the Globe wrote, this has been in the works since well before GE announced its move here.

But Adam, it seems like they are fast tracking it because of GE. The bridge has been in disrepair for well over a decade, and hasn't been used for vehicular traffic in almost 2 decades, and hasn't even been used for pedestrians in a year or so.

It just seems like all these little projects.. except for fixing the T.. are rapidly becoming fast tracked because of GE. If it really mattered, and was independent of GE coming, it would have been done a while ago.. a long while ago.

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worked with the (in the opinion of many people) much more "historically significant" rolling lift bridges near South Station, which were supposed to be preserved at another location as part of the Big Dig but were ultimately scrapped.

Most old things are just that - old things. And it should be up to the people who believe the Northern Avenue Bridge is significant enough to be preserved to PROVE THEIR CASE, not to require the City to automatically preserve it because it happens to be over 50 years old, even if it is no longer functional and has to be removed to a "bridge museum."

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The Globe article told the story of the bridge's disrepair -- first closing it to cars, and then closing it to pedestrians-- and the Coast Guard's communications to the city raising safety issues and wanting the city to act. The city did not act.

Then the city met with GE and promised them all the things they asked for, including a potential solution to an auto congestion problem or so we're told. We actually do not know if GE was concerned about a congestion problem but it seems more probable than not.

At the beginning of today, the mayor's office via the Globe was saying: 'We must build a new Northern Ave bridge, we promised GE.' Also, it's documented in the agreement with GE.

At the end of today the mayor's office is saying: 'This new Northern Ave bridge has been in the works for a long time.' which is to say we're not doing it just for GE despite the fact the agreement says we are.

One thing is clear, Walsh wanted everyone to think we were doing it for GE and at the end of the day, he changed his mind.

Why is he re-writing the story that is the justification for spending $100,000,000 on a new bridge that is one black away from a new bridge?

I think Walsh is full of shit, and I think he has no respect for the people who must bankroll the new bridge.

There is no way we'd be talking about spending $100,000,000 on the Northern Ave bridge with the Moakley one block away unless it was part of a the GE agreement.

What if GE never asked for the bridge but Walsh asked to put it in the agreement and now he's decided it looks worse than if he didn't?

Time for FOIA.

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Replace the bridge with a Boston version of the Ponte Vecchio!

The span is about the same. The created real estate would be very valuable. Pedestrians, cyclists, and tourists would love it too!

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....but the only chance of anything like that happening around here would be if it were a replica of a bridge in Ireland.

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See that's the problem right there. Saving old, decaying industrial architecture and infrastructure is nice but we live in a city not a museum. Not everything needs to be a freaking brownstone, but it would be nice to see old things that look crafted by someone who gives a fuck (or at least knows how to build things that last) to be replaced by something other than the cheapest crap we could find at Ye Olde AutoCadd template and Home Depot knock-off supply shoppe. The bridge we will get will be for cars and look like shit (go ahead and prove me wrong, I beseech thee!)

Maybe it'll only be for GE executive limos?

What's Mahty got against bridges anyways?? He's worse than Jack Hawkins ferchrissakes....

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Let's be real. We all know the bridge will be torn down and nothing will replace it.
The city is playing lip service to their new BFF General Electric and the historians who want to save the ugly hunk of scrap metal for some reason.

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How else would they have addressed all the traffic to the helipad?

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Excellent! Mayor Walsh is taking on problems and actually DOING something to move Boston forward. I'm sure the new bridge will be something special that we will all be proud of and reconnects the waterfront. Thank You Mayor Walsh.

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sarcasm....?
IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/5VBkn.jpg)

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Make the bridge the center piece of the Boston version of the High Line Park

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Someone at the Barking Crab had a great idea - permanently fix the beige in the "open" mode so boats can pass but leave the bridge glass it in and make it a restaurant or other useable public space. That would be great. Boston needs needs needs some kind of open space that is useable all year long but glassed in like the winter garden in NYC

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how would you actually get to the bridge from land?

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Build a bridge to it.

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Simple workaround: rename "Seaport Blvd" to "Northern Ave" and rename "Northern Ave" to "Seaport Blvd". That way GE gets a Northern Ave bridge at no cost.

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then they made me get electricity and indoor plumbing. Now they want to get rid of a pretty but useless bridge. Bastards.

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Does stone not work all of a sudden?

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was a bitch.

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Ugh. When I see her name at the top of the article I immediately get suspicious.

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Seriously, as soon as I clicked on that story and saw her name I thought... oh here we go, our Glob Cheerleader for big business, the rich, and connected.

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She's not the cheerleader for big business, she's a one woman chamber of commerce. She, she shills for the topic she writes for, but what of her columns where she browbeats the local big businesses to pick up the slack for the festivities on the Fourth of July. And to beat some of you to your comments, yes, there is some civic pride in the concert and fireworks.

I think penning a column on the impending demise of the Northern Avenue Bridge is good journalism, especially since the same paper, a few days earlier, noted that the state was ready to rehab it for GE.

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For half a year Leung advocated for Boston 2024 without once talking about a study done at Oxford University that demonstrated how the Olympic bid process, over about 100 years, produced bids that systematically have almost 300% in cost overruns.

One basic premise of evaluating any proposal is to inform the public of the risks, and this is a well known risk.

Beyond budget risk, their is construction cost overrun risk which, in this deal, taxpayers where also assigned. What is the financial risk on a $4 billion dollar 10 year construction project? Once again, never addressed by Leung.

This Northern Ave bridge story was perfect for Leung. She told it precisely as city hall wanted her to and she never asked if city hall has done any research that substantiates their premise, re-building the Northern Ave bridge will reduce auto congestion.

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with new media columnists like Shirley are irrelevant. You see a fine example of the same with the National Review meltdown over Trump. Joe citizen doesn't give a rats behind what elites think.

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Get with the program people, the South Boston Waterfront isn't even halfway built out and the roads are already jammed. It doesn't matter if we're talking cars, public transit, bikes or walking; we need more access. Farnsworth, Pittsburgh & Stillings Sts. are all cut-off from Seaport Blvd, so if the Moakley Bridge is ever closed for any reason much of the SBWaterfront will be practically cut off from downtown. Imagine an emergency at the Federal Courthouse without the Moakley Bridge! The Moakley Bridge is, according to some reports, sinking; there is rumored to be a report from city engineers stating that the Moakley Bridge is deteriorating at a much faster rate than expected. We need the extra capacity of a restored Northern Ave Bridge. Local traffic not headed for 93 could be routed to Northern Ave. and as a level drawbridge the Northern Ave. Bridge has been the preferred route for pedestrians, bicyclists and the handicapped.

Additionally, there is nothing awkward about the Northern Ave. Bridge's location with regard the James Hook's plans-the Moakley Bridge is right next to the property as well. That's a pitiful canard of an argument.

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