MassDOT, Make The Fore River Bridge Better For Biking

On Thursday, February 9th I attended a public hearing in the Town of Weymouth on the Fore River Bridge Replacement Project. This bridge, part of the Accelerated Bridge Program, is the main connector between Quincy (and the City of Boston) and points further down on the South Shore, as proven by the fact that it carries over 32,000 vehicles per day. Were it not for the Fore River Bridge, anyone wanting to travel between Quincy and Weymouth would have to go four miles out of their way on neighborhood streets, or get a canoe.

Currently, there is a temporary bridge in place that is slated to come down in the next couple of years (there's an interesting history to this bridge, which you can find more information about here). If you've ridden across the bridge before, then you know that it isn't bike or pedestrian friendly. I was there to make sure that there was a voice for bicyclists who hope to cross the Fore River Bridge in the future.

Unfortunately, you can see in the cross-section below that they are just planning to have a 5-foot "bike-accommodating shoulder", which means an unmarked shoulder that bicyclists can use. Given that this is a high-profile project, and one that will set the stage for future bridge replacements (just like the Whittier Bridge) we need to make sure that it sets a strong precedent for biking and walking on our bridges.

Unfortunately, there was a parade of elected officials who were given preference to provide public testimony at the beginning of the meeting, meaning that I had to leave before they could get to the open public testimony. The Mayor of Weymouth, state legislators, and even US Representative Steven Lynch came up to give comment on the bridge, mostly surrounding issues like noise abatement, aesthetics, and other construction concerns. In my written testimony, I voice four major issues.

  1. A "bike-accommodating shoulder" is insufficient with 32,000 vehicles a day going 40 mph (at least) over the bridge;

  2. At these speeds and volumes, five feet is insufficient for most bicyclists;

  3. The shoulder needs to be expressly designated for bicycles;

  4. As is, many bicyclists will use the sidewalks instead of the "bike-accommodating shoulder". This increases the chances of a bike-pedestrian crash.

I suggest instead building a raised bike lane, not unlike the cycle track-sidewalk design that was recently built on Concord Avenue in Cambridge. Beyond these specific concerns, I also pointed out that the approach to the bridge from the Quincy side (a classic New England rotary) is difficult to navigate by bike, and that they should increase the scope of the project to reconfigure the intersection.

We are working hard to make sure that the needs of bicyclists aren't overlooked in this high-interest project, and hope that we can successfully attain grade- or buffer-separated bike lanes on this bridge with easy-to-bike approaches. We'll keep you updated on the project as it progresses.

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