Time for the New: Temporary Bridge Opens Smoothly; Demolition Starts for Old Structure

The temporary bridge replacing the old North Washington Street Bridge opened up last weekend without a hitch, paving the way for the demolition of the old bridge over the next several months.

The former rickety bridge has now been replaced with a meandering new bridge with two lanes in and one lane out that will be in place for a couple of years. At the same time, this week the demolition of the old bridge started on Monday and will continue 24-hours a day through November.

A view travelling on the new temporary bridge roadway outbound to City Square this week – the Zakim Bridge in the background.

One caveat is that the loud dismantling of the old bridge (which still interestingly carries one of the few vestiges of the old elevated Orange Line) will only take place from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Demolition from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. will involve inactive work such as positioning barges in the water and equipment on the ground for the following day’s workload.

That said, loud and sometimes disruptive heavy demolition will occur around the clock through the end of November.

For the transfer of traffic to the temporary bridge, the shift began last Friday evening, and carried over into Saturday morning. The shift started with inbound traffic from City Square, using police details to stop traffic for a time until temporary barriers were put in place in front of the old inbound lanes and barriers were removed from the inbound portion of the new, temporary bridge.

On Saturday, the same exercise took place, but on the outbound side from Keany Square to City Square.

By Saturday morning, all traffic was diverted and pedestrians were moved to a new sidewalk on the Locks side of the temporary bridge – complete with a temporary red line for the Freedom Trail.

There were no issues through the weekend or through the week as traffic moved smoothly along the temporary bridge and the pedestrian walkway – though bicyclists were unhappy with the shared lane concept on the roadway and many took to using the pedestrian sidewalks. Any cyclist seeking to use the bridge’s sidewalk is asked to dismount and proceed as a pedestrian due to a six-foot-wide section of sidewalk adjacent to the Converse Store.

Motorists using the two inbound lanes are prohibited from passing while on the bridge and large vehicles such as buses and trucks should use the right-hand lane.

Use of the temporary bridge saves approximately two months of construction time and has the added advantage of not needing to keep the existing North Washington Street Bridge open for traffic while parts of the structure are being demolished.

That temporary bridge and sidewalk will be in place for the next several years until substantial completion of the new bridge is done.

There are also Marine impacts associated with the demolition of the old bridge that started on Monday, July 20. Just after midnight on Monday morning, the Charles River Locks closed the navigational channel to all boaters over the next four weeks.

It isn’t expected to open until Aug. 11 and is meant to protect those beneath from the dismantling work of the swing span bridge parts directly above the channel.

This is mandated by the United States Coast Guard. Mariners should monitor VHF 13 with regard to the navigation channel. The work zone at the bridge will be configured to allow the passage of emergency vessels if needed.

This means that no boats currently in the Charles River can come out to the Harbor, and no boats in the Harbor can go into the Charles River.

On Monday morning, there were some complications with the fish after the locks closed and it appeared a large fish kill was underway. The Charles River Watershed Association said the die-off of cyanobacteria, the hot weather and very low oxygen levels helped to contribute to the many dying fish in the Locks area Monday. The same thing happened last year by the Locks at the same time due to low oxygen levels.

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