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Comments on Longfellow Bridge Project file No. 604361

Comments on Longfellow Bridge Project file No. 604361

March 21, 2012

Pamela S. Stephenson, Division Administrator (Att: Damaris Santiago)
Federal Highway Administration, 55 Broadway, 10th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02142

RE: Longfellow Bridge, Project File No. 604361

Dear Pamela Stephenson,

We would like to take this opportunity to provide comments on the Longfellow bridge design (Project No. 604361) as presented in the Environmental Assessment and the MassDOT presentation at the March 1 public meeting.

We appreciate MassDOT’s steps forward on Longfellow Bridge Reconstruction. The Environmental Assessment includes many significant improvements:

  • Thinking about how people use the bridge, and not just focusing on the structure
  • Adding improved pedestrian connections to both sides of the river, including a new bridge to the Esplanade
  • Acknowledging the reduced width of the bridge at the Boston pinch points
  • Involving the public in the process to date; the creation of the Longfellow Task Force
  • Making significant changes on the outbound side toward Cambridge; especially the one travel lane, wide sidewalk and buffered bicycle lane

We are particularly pleased with the “Purpose and Need” as described in the Longfellow Bridge Restoration’s Environmental Assessment (p.11) which includes these goals:

  • “Provide a flexible layout of user space over the bridge deck to best accommodate future changes in volume and user types”
  • “Provide adequate space for pedestrians to pass each other on the walkways”
  • “Provide bicycle facilities that address the needs of experienced and less experienced cyclists”

We ask that you try to include the following changes to the plan:
THE INBOUND DESIGN
MassDOT’s proposed location and dimensions of the sidewalk and bike lane, particularly at the pinch points, do not meet the project goals. Below are the dimensions of the MassDOT proposed cross section on the upstream side (inbound to Boston).

MassDOT “Preferred Alternative” Cross-Sections

The narrow sidewalk and the bike lane adjacent to fast-moving traffic do not significantly improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists, and lack the flexibility to meet existing and potential foot and bicycle traffic on the bridge. This cross-section element does not adequately meet the stated ‘Purpose and Need.”

We are united in our belief that there is a different solution that can provide a proper sidewalk and bike lane in both the short- and long-range. It requires a different location for the crash-barrier.

The long-term solution we have often stated provides for a single vehicle lane and a buffered bicycle lane that can also be used as a breakdown/emergency vehicle lane, a crash-barrier, and a pedestrian promenade (with benches!). This vision—supported by most participants in the Task Force—is illustrated in a rendering developed by WalkBoston:

A SHORT-TERM STRATEGY THAT WILL ACHIEVE THIS LONG-TERM VISION:
To achieve this long-term vision for the future, the MassDOT preferred alternative should be changed with a short-term plan that would make this world-class future possible.

The crash barrier should be located ADJACENT to the 2 travel lanes. The current MassDOT Preferred Alternative places the crash-barrier between the bike lane and the sidewalk. Our short-term plan puts the crash-barrier between the cars and the bicycles. The resulting bicycle track will be safer for all, especially less experienced cyclists, and yields a more generous sidewalk for the considerable pedestrian traffic. Bikes and pedestrians can be separated by a buffer—striping or flexible bollards.

The short-term plan we suggest has the following cross-section:

The long-term vision has the following cross section (as shown in the rendering):

The single most important suggested change is the placement of the crash-barrier. This results in a protected space which would accommodate both bicyclists and pedestrians in the short term, and for the future it retains the potential to become the generous promenade envisioned in the above rendering. This can all be accomplished within the existing time frame for project approvals and construction. The purpose and need would be at that point be satisfied.

Thank you for considering our suggestions. If you have any further questions/comments, please contact Jackie Douglas of LivableStreets Alliance who will serve as our point of contact. Jackie can be reached at 617.621.1746 and jackie@livablestreets.info.

Thank You,
Jacqueline Douglas, Director, LivableStreets Alliance

On behalf of:
Wendy Landman, Executive Director, WalkBoston
David Watson, Executive Director, MassBike
Pete Stidman, Executive Director, Boston Cyclists Union
Renata Von Tscharner, Executive Director, Charles River Conservancy
Christopher Hart, Director of Urban & Transit Projects, Institute for Human Centered Design
Rafael Mares, Staff Attorney, Conservation Law Foundation
Andre Leroux, Executive Director, MA Smart Growth Alliance

CC:
Thomas F. Broderick, P.E., Acting Chief Engineer, MassDOT Highway Division, 10 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116, Attention: Kevin Walsh, Project File No. 604361.

City of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino
City of Boston Transportation Commissioner Thomas Tinlin
City of Cambridge City Manager Robert Healy
Massachusetts Department of Conversation and Recreation Commission Ed Lambert State Representative Marty Walz

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