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Bridge between Harvard Square and Allston could be reduced to three lanes

Posted by Brock Parker  July 23, 2010 12:10 PM

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Transportation officials are considering a plan to reduce the number of traffic lanes on the Anderson Memorial Bridge between Harvard Square and Allston as part of a $16 million renovation.

The state Department of Transportation is also considering adding two bicycle lanes to the 95-year-old bridge, which is the primary connection between two Harvard University campuses.

To make room for the bicycle lanes, the state would eliminate one of the bridge’s southbound lanes from Harvard Square toward Allston. The bridge, also known as the Larz Anderson Bridge, currently has two lanes in each direction.

Doug Prentiss, a traffic engineer from Fay, Spofford & Thorndike, Inc., said the current plan would eliminate a southbound lane because a study revealed that at peak commuting hours in the morning and in the afternoon about 60 percent of the traffic on the bridge is heading north toward JFK Street and Harvard Square.

The bridge is one of several key Charles River crossings being rehabilitated or restored under the state’s $3 billion Accelerated Bridge Program. Major work has already been done to the BU and Craigie bridges, work is beginning on the Longfellow Bridge and planning is also underway for the rehabilitation of the Western Avenue and River Street bridges between Cambridge and Boston.

About 40 people attended a public meeting on the Anderson Memorial Bridge project at the Dr. Mart Luther King Jr. School in Cambridge Thursday night.

Charlie Denison, a member of nonprofit group Livable Streets Alliance, said he’s concerned about how the current proposal to narrow the sidewalks on each side of the bridge would affect pedestrians.

Steve McLaughlin, project manager for the Department of Transportation’s highway division, said the sidewalks are presently 10 feet wide on each side, and will be narrowed by about 9 inches, each. The reduction will help make room for bicycle lanes that will be five feet wide in each direction. Vehicle lanes will be 10 and a half feet wide.

McLaughlin said that while the sidewalks would be slightly narrowed, adding the bicycle lanes would keep some of the traffic off of the sidewalks.

Tracy Osimboni, the project manager for the Anderson Memorial Bridge rehabilitation, said she’s hoping the final rehabilitation plan for the project will be completed by next spring or early summer.

When the work would begin has not been determined because transportation officials are still discussing whether to rehabilitate the Anderson Memorial Bridge before or after work is done to the Western Avenue and River Street bridges. Osimboni said the state does not want work underway on all three bridges at once.

--brock.globe@gmail.com

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