Historic bridge makeover brings Complete Streets to Boston’s Freedom Trail

Projects | June 19, 2018


Aerial view photo rendering of the North Washington Street Bridge in Boston, Massachusetts

Boston’s 118-year-old North Washington Street Bridge over the Boston Inner Harbor carries 44,000 drivers daily and has been considered deficient for 16 years. In addition to being a critical transportation link between Boston’s North End and Charlestown, the bridge plays another significant role for the City: it carries Boston’s historic Freedom Trail.

When Benesch was hired by the city to explore viable options for the structure’s replacement, selecting the best design not only required a sufficient structure—key to the project’s success was implementing a signature crossing that honored the history of the area while incorporating state-of-the-art facilities for a wide variety of users crossing the waterway.

That’s where Complete Streets design philosophies came in to play for Benesch Project Manager Matt Card, PE, and his design team. Working alongside the Massachusetts DOT, the City of Boston Public Works Department and architecture firm Rosales + Partners, the team commenced with a highly collaborative design process to solicit stakeholder feedback and identify a new signature structure design that would enhance user experience on the bridge and put Boston’s historic river views on full display from this revitalized section of the Freedom Trail.

Completed in 2017, the design includes a designated Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lane, two separated dedicated bicycle lanes, historic informational plaques and pedestrian sidewalks facilities with extra wide cantilevered lookouts that offer a place for gathering and learning. Curved architectural trellises, decorative lighting, ample seating and landscaping further enhance the experience along the bridge, at once accomplishing the structure’s multimodal objective while honoring the area’s history and creating a contemporary sense of place in Boston’s Inner Harbor.

With the required funding for the project recently approved by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, anticipated completion of the project’s construction is slated for fall 2023. Proactive environmental permitting, historical research, public outreach and extensive coordination with Boston Transportation Department and the numerous utility companies kept the project on schedule and on budget during design. The design team will continue to work diligently throughout each of the five stages of construction to ensure an equally successful construction process.

Photo rendering of North Washington Street bridge during night time in Boston, Massachusetts
Photo rendering of North Washington Street bridge during day with pedestrian and bicyclist in Boston, Massachusetts
Extra-wide cantilevered sidewalks and ample seating provide opportunities for learning more about the Freedom Trail and surrounding infrastructure of Boston’s Inner Harbor