Longfellow Bridge Task Force Project
The Longfellow Bridge is an iconic national treasure that was completed it 1908. It spans 2,135 feet between the cities of Boston and Cambridge and is crossed by over 100,000 people on an average day utilizing diverse modes of transportation. Ownership of the Longfellow Bridge was recently transferred from the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to the MA Department of Transportation (MassDOT). Over the years, the condition of the bridge had steadily deteriorated and MassDOT seized the opportunity to rehabilitate and restore the bridge as part of the Massachusetts Accelerated Bridge Program (ABP).
According to MassDOT leadership, the goals of this project were to “restore the beautiful and historic structure in a manner that is sensitive to its original construction by improving its structural condition; to provide safe travel for transit, bicycle, pedestrian and vehicular travel, and to reserve an essential element of the Charles River Basin.” MassDOT was also committed to creating opportunity for broad public participation as it related to the final configuration of the bridge and to that end, convened the Longfellow Bridge Rehabilitation Task Force in June 2010. The charge of the 36-member task force was to collaboratively develop recommendations for the final configuration of the Longfellow Bridge that would meet MassDOT’s stated goals as well as the needs of its diverse user groups. Task force members were drawn from a wide variety of stakeholder groups, including local businesses, interest groups (bicycle, pedestrian, and environment), colleges/universities, hospitals, municipal/state/federal officials, planning/development organizations, transportation management associations and neighborhood and civic associations.
MassDOT engaged MOPC to act as a neutral forum and to design and facilitate the Longfellow Bridge Task Force process. The MOPC Facilitation Team conducted an initial stakeholder assessment and worked with MassDOT to design an open and transparent process suitable for constructive dialogue and deliberation. The task force met nine times between June and October and all meetings were open for the public to observe, with time allocated for members of the public to express their points of view. In addition, information related to the task force, including notices, agendas, meeting summaries, presentation and working documents were posted for public viewing. A dedicated email address was established by MOPC to provide the public the opportunity to provide feedback and comments to the task force and to MassDOT.
Throughout the project, MOPC structured and supported a collaborative process for the Task Force. MOPC designed the process, conducted assessment interviews with Task Force members, planned and facilitated Task Force meetings, collected broader public input, assisted with the drafting of the Task Force’s recommendations, and administered a process evaluation. Public engagement was encouraged through a process of open dialogue. Meetings were open to the public with time set aside for public comment, and a website was developed which featured meeting notices, presentations, documents, etc. as well as mechanisms for public feedback.
In a post-process survey, participants reported they were satisfied that these processes allowed them to exchange ideas and explore options that would meet the needs of all stakeholders while avoiding divisiveness and delays. In the end, progress was achieved on key issues through recommendations that included several innovative approaches to the bridge configuration, and new features such as improved connections to surrounding parks and an ADA-compliant pedestrian highway overpass. The Task Force provided MassDOT with several alternative configurations for the bridge that, in the collective opinion, better met the needs of current users, as well as users for years to come.
MassDOT moved forward with an Environmental Assessment and in February 2012 released its design plans to the public which included reducing vehicle lanes to allow for wider bike lanes and sidewalks, which were reflective of the recommendations for alternate configurations submitted by the Task Force.
To learn more, go to: http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/charlesriverbridges/LongfellowBridge.aspx
Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration. (January 2011). Longfellow Bridge Task Force Process Evaluation Report. University of Massachusetts Boston.
MassDOT. (November 10, 2010). Longfellow Bridge Rehabilitation Task Force’s Final Recommendations. Retrieved February 23, 2012, from http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/Portals/26/docs/Longfellow/LongfellowTaskForceRecFINAL.pdf.
MassDOT. Accelerated bridge program: Longfellow Bridge. Retrieved February 23, 2012, from http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/charlesriverbridges/LongfellowBridge.aspx.