A Car-Free Northern Ave. Bridge is Within Reach

The City of Boston is planning to rebuild the Northern Avenue Bridge to support rampant growth in the Seaport — and one proposed redesign would create a car-free haven for pedestrians and cyclists.

Join us in urging the city to build a bridge to a sustainable future, not a car-choked past.

Wednesday, November 28 // 6:00 PM – 8:00 p.m;
District Hall, Assembly Room
75 Northern Ave., Boston MA
One of four concepts for updating and reopening the Northern Ave. Bridge.

On Wednesday, the city will present four design concepts for the bridge. The design above would limit access to pedestrians, cyclists and emergency vehicles. Another would add a high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane for transit, shuttles, carpools and ride shares, like Uber, carrying at least 3 people. The final two options would add cars to the mix, either in both directions or only westbound (exiting Seaport.)

We’re pleased that each concept features some form of separated bike and pedestrian facilities, which are sorely lacking in the area. That said, we strongly favor the design that prohibits vehicles entirely. Before being closed in 2014 due to deteriorating conditions, the Northern Avenue Bridge was already limited to people biking and walking — cars were banned in 1997. Why bring them back when there are three parallel roadways for motor vehicles? Imagine the bridge becoming a linear park with sidewalk cafes, absent of traffic noise.

There is no logical reason to add general traffic to the bridge. The main goal of this project is to improve mobility in the booming Seaport, where traffic is threatening to stifle economic and community health. Yet the city’s own analysis concludes both scenarios involving personal vehicles would increase traffic without reducing travel times. Additionally, we’re concerned about the conflicts that would be created between people driving and people walking and biking as motorists turn right onto Atlantic Avenue from the Northern Avenue Bridge, instead of at the signalized base of Seaport Blvd.
Photo credit: Jessica Rinaldi, Boston Globe

In concept, the HOV design encourages more people to take transit, especially the commuter line. Yet the HOV lane may primarily benefit private shuttles while having only a marginal impact on public transit. (More info on that here.) We are also concerned about the ability to regulate ride sharing vehicles and the inevitability of a space shared with cars becoming car-centric. And the analysis doesn’t consider alternative — and more impactful — options for improving the Seaport’s woeful mass transit situation, like adding priority bus lanes on existing corridors in the area.

This project is a unique opportunity to not only build a safe, dedicated route for cyclists, but also to create a landmark destination with cultural and community space in a bustling neighborhood. Tell Boston to prioritize people and placemaking above motor vehicle traffic. Show up, and speak up!

For more information on the Northern Ave. Bridge project, head here.

If you can’t attend the meeting, you can submit feedback about the plan using this form or via email to Team@NorthernAveBridgeBos.com