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Longfellow Bridge

Longfellow Bridge

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The Longfellow Bridge, also known to locals as the "Salt-and-Pepper Bridge" or the "Salt-and-Pepper-Shaker Bridge" due to the shape of its central towers, carries Route 3 and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, often referred to as the MBTA or simply The T, is the public operator of most bus, subway, commuter rail and ferry systems in the greater Boston, Massachusetts, area. Officially a "body politic and corporate, and a political subdivision" of the...

's Red Line
Red Line (MBTA)
The Red Line is a rapid transit line operated by the MBTA running roughly north-south through Boston, Massachusetts into neighboring communities. The line begins west of Boston, in Cambridge, Massachusetts at Alewife station, near the intersection of Alewife Brook Parkway and Route 2...

 across the Charles River
Charles River
The Charles River is an long river that flows in an overall northeasterly direction in eastern Massachusetts, USA. From its source in Hopkinton, the river travels through 22 cities and towns until reaching the Atlantic Ocean at Boston...

 to connect Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

's Beacon Hill
Beacon Hill, Boston, Massachusetts
Beacon Hill is a historic neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, that along with the neighboring Back Bay is home to about 26,000 people. It is a neighborhood of Federal-style rowhouses and is known for its narrow, gas-lit streets and brick sidewalks...

 neighborhood with the Kendall Square
Kendall Square
Kendall Square is a neighborhood in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with the "square" itself at the intersection of Main Street, Broadway, Wadsworth Street, and Third Street...

 area of Cambridge
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, in the Greater Boston area. It was named in honor of the University of Cambridge in England, an important center of the Puritan theology embraced by the town's founders. Cambridge is home to two of the world's most prominent...

, Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...


Longfellow Bridge is a combination railway and highway bridge. It is 105 feet (32 m) feet wide, 1767 in 6 in (538.73 m) long between abutments, and nearly one-half mile in length, including abutments and approaches. It consists of eleven steel arch spans supported on ten masonry piers and two massive abutments. The arches vary in length from 101 in 6 in (30.94 m) feet at the abutments to 188 in 6 in (57.45 m) at the center, and in rise from 8 in 6 in (2.59 m) to 26 in 6 in (8.08 m). Headroom under the central arch is 26 feet (7.9 m) at mean high water. Its two large central piers, 188 feet (57.3 m) long and 53 in 6 in (16.31 m) wide, feature carved, ornamental stone towers that provide stairway access to pedestrian passageways beneath the bridge. Its sidewalks were originally both 10 feet (3 m) wide, but now, for unknown reasons, the upstream sidewalks are narrower than the downstream ones.

The bridge falls under the jurisdiction and oversight of Massachusetts Department of Transportation. The bridge carries approximately 28,600 cars and 90,000 mass-transit passengers every weekday. A portion of the elevated Charles/Massachusetts General Hospital
Charles/MGH (MBTA station)
Charles/MGH Station also known as Charles or Charles Street, is located at the intersection of Cambridge Street and Charles Street, in Boston, Massachusetts. The rapid transit station is on the MBTA Red Line and is elevated, being located at the Boston side of the Longfellow Bridge, which carries...

 train station lies at the eastern end of the bridge.


The first river crossing at this site was a ferry, first run in the 1630s. The West Boston Bridge (a toll bridge) was constructed in 1793 by a group of private investors with a charter from the Commonwealth. At the time, there were only a handful of buildings in East Cambridge. The opening of the bridge caused a building boom along Main Street, which connected the bridge to Old Cambridge. New streets were laid out, and land reclaimed from the swamps along the Charles River. The Cambridge and Concord Turnpike
Cambridge and Concord Turnpike
The Cambridge and Concord Turnpike was an early turnpike between Cambridge and Concord, Massachusetts. Portions have been incorporated into today's Massachusetts Route 2; the remainder forms other major local roads....

 (now Broadway) was connected to the bridge's western approach around 1812. The bridge became toll-free on January 30, 1858.

In 1898 the Cambridge Bridge Commission was created to construct "a new bridge across Charles River, to be known as Cambridge Bridge, at, upon, or near the site of the so-called West Boston Bridge... suitable for all the purposes of ordinary travel between said cities, and for the use of the elevated and surface cars of the Boston Elevated Railway Company." At its first meeting on June 16, 1898, Willam Jackson
William Jackson (engineer)
William Jackson was the Boston, Massachusetts city engineer from 1885 to 1910. He was responsible for a number of the major bridges in the city, including Harvard Bridge, Longfellow Bridge, and Charlestown Bridge....

 was appointed Chief Engineer; shortly afterward Edmund M. Wheelwright
Edmund M. Wheelwright
Edmund March Wheelwright was one of New England's most important architects in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and served as city architect for Boston, Massachusetts from 1891-1895....

 was appointed Consulting Architect. Both then traveled to Europe, where they made a thorough inspection of notable bridges in France, Germany, Austria and Russia. Upon their return, they prepared studies of various types of bridges, including bridges of stone and steel arch spans. Although both state and national regulations required a draw bridge, it became evident that a bridge without a draw would be cheaper and better-looking. The state altered its regulations accordingly, and after the War Department declined to follow suit, the United States Congress drew up an act permitting the bridge, which President William McKinley
William McKinley
William McKinley, Jr. was the 25th President of the United States . He is best known for winning fiercely fought elections, while supporting the gold standard and high tariffs; he succeeded in forging a Republican coalition that for the most part dominated national politics until the 1930s...

 signed on March 29, 1900. Construction began in July 1900; the bridge opened on August 3, 1906, and was formally dedicated on July 31, 1907.

The Cambridge Bridge was renamed as the Longfellow Bridge in 1927 by the Massachusetts General Court for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American poet and educator whose works include "Paul Revere's Ride", The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline...

, who wrote about the West Boston Bridge in the poem "The Bridge", in 1845.

Wheelwright was inspired by the 1893 Columbian Exposition
World's Columbian Exposition
The World's Columbian Exposition was a World's Fair held in Chicago in 1893 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the New World in 1492. Chicago bested New York City; Washington, D.C.; and St...

 and was attempting to emulate the great bridges of Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

. Its four large piers are ornamented with the prows of Viking ships, carved in granite, which refer to a hypothetical voyage by Leif Eriksson up the Charles River circa 1000 AD, as promoted by Harvard professor Eben Horsford. It is also decorated with the city seals of Boston and Cambridge.

Until 1952, the center traffic lanes of the bridge also contained tracks which connected what is now known as the Blue Line
Blue Line (MBTA)
The Blue Line is one of four subway lines of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority serving Downtown, East Boston and the North Shore. It runs from northeast to southwest, extending from Wonderland station in Revere, Massachusetts to Bowdoin station near Beacon Hill in Boston...

, running from crossovers at the Cambridge end to the subway tracks, across the bridge and into Boston to the North Russell Street Incline of the Blue Line subway. Before the Orient Heights Blue Line yards were built, major repairs to that line's trains were performed at the Eliot Square carbarns in Cambridge.

On May 1, 2007, a fire broke out under the bridge. Ignited by a cigarette left by vagrants who sometimes stay in the covered crawlspace under the bridge deck, the fire caused the bridge to be shut down to vehicle and train traffic. This fire also severed Internet2
Internet2 is an advanced not-for-profit US networking consortium led by members from the research and education communities, industry, and government....

 connectivity to Boston, causing problems with the Chicago-New York OC-192 route, according to the Internet2 blog.

Past neglect and future rehabilitation

The Longfellow Bridge, like many bridges in the Commonwealth, is in a state of disrepair. "Since 1907, the only major maintenance conducted on the bridge has been a small 1959 rehabilitiation project and some lesser repairs done in 2002."

In the summer of 2008, the western sidewalk and inner traffic lane were closed, the Red Line was limited to 10 mph, and Fourth-of-July fireworks-watchers were banned from the bridge, all because of concerns that the bridge might collapse under the weight and vibration. The speed restriction was lifted in August 2008, and the lane and sidewalk were opened later on.

On August 4, 2008 Governor Deval Patrick
Deval Patrick
Deval Laurdine Patrick is the 71st and current Governor of Massachusetts. A member of the Democratic Party, Patrick served as an Assistant United States Attorney General under President Bill Clinton...

 signed into law a $3 billion Massachusetts bridge repair funding package he had sponsored. Bond funds will be used to pay for the rehabilitation of the Longfellow, with a preliminary cost estimate of $267.5 million. If maintenance had been performed regularly, the total historical cost is estimated to have been about $81 million. Design began in spring 2005; construction is expected to begin in spring 2012 and end in Spring 2016.

Ownership and management of the overhaul was transferred from the Department of Conservation and Recreation
Department of Conservation and Recreation (Massachusetts)
The Department of Conservation and Recreation is a state agency of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, situated in the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. It is best known for its parks and parkways. As of May 24, 2011 the Commissioner of the DCR is Edward M. Lambert, Jr...

 (DCR) to the new Massachusetts Department of Transportation on November 1, 2009, along with other DCR bridges.

Phase I Early Action

The condition of the bridge has been determined to be so bad that the state could not wait until 2012 to begin work and signed a $17 Million contract with SPS New England Inc in 2010. Crews began work in August 2010 and involved improving sidewalks on the approaches to bring them up to ADA compliance. In March 2011 crews began structural inspections for Phase II and cleaning of the stone masonry piers. The state DOT has announced in May 2011 that work will begin on striping & cleaning rust from the steel arch ribbons that have not been painted since 1953. Crews will apply primer to the ribbons and evaluate the arches for the future major rehabilitation. All work is expected to be completed in December 2011.

Ironwork theft

In the summer of 2008, two state employees stole 2347 feet (715.4 m) (linear) of decorative iron trim that had been removed from the bridge for refurbishment and sold it for scrap. The men, one a Department of Conservation and Recreation district manager, were charged with receiving $12,147 for the historic original parapet coping. The estimated cost to remake the pieces, scheduled for replication by 2012, was over $500,000. The men were convicted in September 2009.

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