Here’s a look at Boston’s bold, car-less design for the new Northern Avenue Bridge

The concept includes a water-level pavilion in the middle.

BOSTON, MA - 11/09/2017:   Boston view  Northern Avenue Bridge in the foreground with Congress and Summer Street brdiges at the Fort Point Channel.    aerial  (David L Ryan/Globe Staff ) SECTION:  TOPIC
An aerial view of the currently closed Northern Avenue Bridge (in the foreground). –David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe

Boston city officials showed off four different concepts last spring for how they could replace the Northern Avenue Bridge.

The direction they picked is somewhat strikingly different.

The city is moving forward with a “people-first” design comprised of two narrow spans connected to a waterfront pavilion with green space and benches in the middle of Fort Point Channel, according to renderings first presented during a meeting Tuesday. The differing images, which can be viewed on the project’s website, all depict a stark change from the rusty, deteriorating swing bridge that has been closed since 2014.

A conceptual image of a new Northern Avenue Bridge, from street level, with two elevated spans and a pavilion beneath them at water level. —Boston Public Works

And perhaps most significantly, the new Northern Avenue Bridge would be closed to single-occupancy cars. According to The Boston Globe, the two spans would be designated for pedestrians and cyclists on one side and buses, shuttles, and emergency vehicles on the other. The decision was celebrated Tuesday by advocates, who had been pressing for a pedestrian-oriented bridge for years and attended a meeting in June with “People First” signs.


Their efforts apparently worked.

According to the city’s presentation, officials found “overwhelming support” for the bridge being for pedestrians, cyclists, and emergency vehicles, in addition to “limited current utility” for opening it to general traffic, like the busy, nearby Moakley Bridge. While the city’s presentation noted that the bridge’s use could “evolve over time,” the Globe reported that officials have no plans to allow regular car traffic.

The pavilion below the bridge — with stairs on the Seaport side and a ramp leading toward Atlantic Avenue — would provide a space for people to gather and look out on the harbor.

However, there are other details that the city will have to work out. The city’s chief of streets, Chris Osgood, told the Globe they still have to decide on the financing options for the roughly $100 million. And there are other technical design decisions, like how to safely merge the separate vehicle and pedestrian spans at each end of the bridge. StreetsBlog reported Tuesday that they also have to decide if it would be a more flashy suspension bridge with cables and one or two arches (as shown in the second photo above) or a simpler girder design (as depicted in the last image below).


There’s even a sail-like suspension bridge design included in the city’s “bold concepts.”

The “sail” concept for the new Northern Avenue Bridge. —City of Boston

According to the presentation Tuesday, the city hopes to have those questions 100 percent figured out by 2021. According to the Globe, the bridge could open at some point around 2025.

In the meantime, here’s a look at more of the preliminary renderings unveiled this week:


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