This story ran on page B2 of the Boston Globe on 7/2/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

Bridge stays open to pedestrians
By Mac Daniel, Boston Globe Staff, 7/2/2003

The Old Northern Avenue Bridge, set to close for three years as part of city budget cuts, will remain open to pedestrians through September before closing for a major repair this winter, city officials announced yesterday.

The temporary reprieve came after city officials found $300,000 in the newly resubmitted budget to keep the popular and historic Fort Point Channel swingbridge operating.

The steel bridge, which opens for water traffic and closes to allow pedestrians to cross between downtown Boston and South Boston near the new US federal courthouse, will close seven to eight months for repairs, said Joe Casazza, commissioner of the Boston Public Works Department, which maintains the span. It is expected to reopen to pedestrians next spring, he said.

During the closure, pedestrians will have to use the Evelyn Moakley Bridge, Casazza said.

When the Northern Avenue span reopens next year, Casazza said city officials and others hope to find more funding - possibly as much as $400,000 - that could bring vehicular traffic back to the bridge while maintaining pedestrian walkways. Permanent repairs on the 1908 structure are at least four years away, he said.

Facing a budget crisis this spring, Mayor Thomas M. Menino had hoped to save $500,000 by permanently leaving the swingbridge open to water traffic only and either laying off or relocating the three employees who operate it.

With the advent of the South Boston Waterfront and the debut of the new convention center, bridge supporters said the city's latest effort to keep the span open is an indication that the bridge's future as a popular walking link is now more secure. ''There's no question that we're going to maintain the bridge as a pedestrian bridge with an eye to handling traffic,'' Casazza said.

That's a change from 1998, when city officials had planned to tear down the bridge before supporters rallied to save it.

The bridge remains safe, Casazza said. ''If the bridge wasn't safe for pedestrians, you wouldn't be walking on it today,'' he said.

According to the Historic Boston Incorporated website, the Boston Engineering Department designed and built the Northern Avenue Bridge from 1905 to 1908 to provide additional auto, pedestrian, and railroad access to Boston's rapidly expanding wharves, warehouses, and factories along the South Boston waterfront. By the 1920s, nine operable bridges spanned the channel. Today, only the Northern Avenue Bridge remains.

This story ran on page B2 of the Boston Globe on 7/2/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

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