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Mayor Walsh joins Boston Society of Architects/AIA to launch ideas competition for the Northern Ave. Bridge

Mar 07, 2016

Public conversation will help inform new bridge design

Seeking the practical and aspirational visions of designers and non-designers alike, Mayor Martin J. Walsh today joined the Boston Society of Architects/AIA (BSA) to launch a competition to solicit ideas for the future of the Northern Avenue Bridge. Mayor Walsh's administration is committed to facilitating a public process about the bridge's future, and the competition will serve as a way to engage a broad range of stakeholders.

"The Northern Ave Bridge represents a special piece of history for our city and for our people," said Mayor Walsh. "I welcome everyone to participate and help us generate ideas for this important challenge for the future of the bridge and Boston."

The Ideas Competition will be formally launched onMonday, March 21. A website,, has been created to host the exchange of ideas. For now, visitors to the site can register their email address to receive updates. People are also encouraged to engage on social media using the hashtag #NorthernAveContest. The Boston Society of Architects and several City departments, including the Public Works Department and the Boston Redevelopment Authority are coordinating the competition.

The competition is part of Mayor Walsh's commitment to building a new Northern Avenue Bridge that is informed by public opinion. The Seaport continues to grow at a rapid pace and short-term fixes to the current structure are no longer viable.

When the competition opens on March 21, participants will be able to register ideas as either simple text or as a drawing, sketch, or rendering. Organizers intend to capture feedback around the following overarching goals related to the future of the bridge:
  • Improve mobility connections between downtown and the South Boston Waterfront;
  • Honor the legacy of the current structure; and
  • Create an iconic structure and destination for the public.
"This ideas competition fosters two essential requirements for planning and implementing the best direction forward for the bridge," said 2016 BSA president, Tamara Roy, AIA. "A public process that allows alternatives to be proposed and evaluated, and a commitment to superb design so that bold forms and engaging spaces can bring this corner of the city to life."

To incentivize participation, the organizers are currently determining prize money to award in several different categories. A competition jury comprised of individuals from various backgrounds will judge entries and select winners of a variety of different categories. Through online voting, a people's choice award will also be given.

The competition will run through the end of April, and organizers, together with the BSA Foundation, expect to hold an awards ceremony and exhibition in late May at BSA Space. Ideas from the contest will help inform a Request For Proposals (RFP) that Boston's Public Works Department will release this summer for design of a new bridge.

The Northern Avenue Bridge, which opened in 1908, is a steel three-span, triple-barreled,Pratt-type through-truss bridge. Perched atop the Fort Point Channel, the iconic structure, which connected downtown to the South Boston Waterfront, was closed to all traffic in December 2014 due to concerns about its structural integrity.

Prior to its full closure, the Northern Avenue Bridge endured a series of challenges in recent decades. During its lifetime the bridge carried automobiles, pedestrians, cyclists, and even train traffic for the Union Railway for over 50 years. The train tracks, however, were removed in 1970, and the span was closed to vehicular traffic in 1997, and ultimately pedestrian traffic in 2014, as a result of safety issues.

A detailed history is available in the 1998 Historic Preservation Plan for the Northern Avenue Bridge and a 1999 Boston Landmarks Commission study report, both of which will be available at the on March 21, 2016.

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