Needham Street Bridge

Needham Street Bridge from Needham side. Not beautiful.

A while back, at one of the many meetings on future improvements to Needham/Highland St., I asked if MassDOT (Department of Transportation) would consider an adjacent, but standalone pedestrian bridge alongside the existing bridge, which may or may not end up with three lanes. The presenter (whose name I forget) said that the state had considered, but rejected, a standalone bridge, because it would block views of the beautiful, historical bridge. As someone who has experienced the bridge topside for nearly 20 years, I found the notion a bit, well, odd. This is not a lovely bridge. Or is it?

Recently, I went kayaking up to and under the bridge*. Turns out, the bridge is beautiful. I was blown away. It’s a shame that its beauty is only visible to folks in a parking lot or on the water.

Needham Street Bridge

Needham Street Bridge from the Charles

Whatever the future holds for vehicles on the bridge, it will require building pedestrian accommodation, likely cantilevered from the current bridge deck, especially if the current plan to have three travel lanes is executed. Instead of some sort of cantilevered approach, why not accommodate pedestrians (and cyclists) with a distinctive, standalone bridge or two? Create a strong symbol at one of the busiest thresholds to the city. Accommodate pedestrians in a way that doesn’t block views of the bridge. Make a stronger connection to the river. Give pedestrians a view of the magnificent bridge.

That the Needham Street Bridge is beautiful is more, not less, reason to create a special pedestrian bridge or bridges. We gotta make this happen.

Needham Street Bridge

*From Charles River Canoe & Kayak in Nahantan Park, which continues to be one of the treasures in Newton.


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