The Longfellow Bridge, also known to locals as the " Salt-and-Pepper Bridge" or the " Salt-and-Pepper-Shaker Bridge" due to the shape of its central towers, carries Route 3 and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's Red Line across the Charles River to connect Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood with the Kendall Square area of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Longfellow Bridge is a combination railway and highway bridge. It is 105 feet (32 m) feet wide, 1,767 feet 6 inches (538.73 m) long between abutments, and nearly one-half mile in length, including abutments and approaches. It consists of eleven steel arch spans supported on ten masonry piers and two massive abutments. The arches vary in length from 101 feet 6 inches (30.94 m) feet at the abutments to 188 feet 6 inches (57.45 m) at the center, and in rise from 8 feet 6 inches (2.59 m) to 26 feet 6 inches (8.08 m). Headroom under the central arch is 26 feet (7.9 m) at mean high water. Its two large central piers, 188 feet (57 m) long and 53 feet 6 inches (16.31 m) wide, feature carved, ornamental stone towers that provide stairway access to pedestrian passageways beneath the bridge. Its sidewalks were originally both 10 feet (3.0 m) wide, but now, for unknown reasons, the upstream sidewalks are narrower than the downstream ones. The bridge falls under the jurisdiction and oversight of Massachusetts Department of Transportation. The bridge carries approximately 28,600 cars and 90,000 mass-transit passengers every weekday. A portion of the elevated Charles/Massachusetts General Hospital train station lies at the eastern end of the bridge.

The first river crossing at this site was a ferry, first run in the 1630s. The West Boston Bridge (a toll bridge) was constructed in 1793 by a group of private investors with a charter from the Commonwealth. At the time, there were only a handful of buildings in East Cambridge. The opening of the bridge caused a building boom along Main Street, which connected the bridge to Old Cambridge. New streets were laid out, and land reclaimed from the swamps along the Charles River. The Cambridge and Concord Turnpike (now Broadway) was connected to the bridge's western approach around 1812. The bridge became toll-free on January 30, 1858. In 1898 the Cambridge Bridge Commission was created to construct "a new bridge across Charles River, to be known as Cambridge Bridge, at, upon, or near the site of the so-called West Boston Bridge... suitable for all the purposes of ordinary travel between said cities, and for the use of the elevated and surface cars of the Boston Elevated Railway Company." At its first meeting on June 16, 1898, Willam Jackson was appointed Chief Engineer; shortly afterward Edmund M. Wheelwright was appointed Consulting Architect. Both then traveled to Europe, where they made a thorough inspection of notable bridges in France, Germany, Austria and Russia. Upon their return, they prepared studies of various types of bridges, including bridges of stone and steel arch spans. Although both state and national regulations required a draw bridge, it became evident that a bridge without a draw would be cheaper and better-looking. The state altered its regulations accordingly, and after the War Department declined to follow suit, the United States Congress drew up an act permitting the bridge, which President William McKinley signed on March 29, 1900. Construction began in July 1900; the bridge opened on August 3, 1906, and was formally dedicated on July 31, 1907. The Cambridge Bridge was renamed as the Longfellow Bridge in 1927 by the Massachusetts General Court for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who wrote about the West Boston Bridge in the poem "The Bridge", in 1845. Wheelwright was inspired by the 1893 Columbian Exposition and was attempting to emulate the great bridges of Europe. Its four large piers are ornamented with the prows of Viking ships, carved in granite, which refer to a hypothetical voyage by Leif Eriksson up the Charles River circa 1000 AD, as promoted by Harvard professor Eben Horsford. It is also decorated with the city seals of Boston and Cambridge. Until 1952, the center traffic lanes of the bridge also contained tracks which connected what is now known as the Blue Line, running from crossovers at the Cambridge end to the subway tracks, across the bridge and into Boston to the North Russell Street Incline of the Blue Line subway. Before the Orient Heights Blue Line yards were built, major repairs to that line's trains were performed at the Eliot Square carbarns in Cambridge. On May 1, 2007, a fire broke out under the bridge. Ignited by a cigarette left by vagrants who sometimes stay in the covered crawlspace under the bridge deck, the fire caused the bridge to be shut down to vehicle and train traffic. This fire also severed Internet2 connectivity to Boston, causing problems with the Chicago-New York OC-192 route, according to the Internet2 blog.

Past neglect and future rehabilitation
The Longfellow Bridge, like many bridges in the Commonwealth, is in a state of disrepair. "Since 1907, the only major maintenance conducted on the bridge has been a small 1959 rehabilitiation project and some lesser repairs done in 2002." In the summer of 2008, the western sidewalk and inner traffic lane were closed, the Red Line was limited to 10 mph, and Fourth-of-July fireworks-watchers were banned from the bridge, all because of concerns that the bridge might collapse under the weight and vibration. The speed restriction was lifted in August 2008, and the lane and sidewalk were opened later on. On August 4, 2008 Governor Deval Patrick signed into law a $3 billion Massachusetts bridge repair funding package he had sponsored. Bond funds will be used to pay for the rehabilitation of the Longfellow, with a preliminary cost estimate of $267.5 million. If maintenance had been performed regularly, the total historical cost is estimated to have been about $81 million. Design began in spring 2005; construction is expected to begin in spring 2012 and end in Spring 2016. Ownership and management of the overhaul was transferred from the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to the new Massachusetts Department of Transportation on November 1, 2009, along with other DCR bridges.

Ironwork theft
In the summer of 2008, two state employees stole 2,347 feet (715 m) (linear) of decorative iron trim that had been removed from the bridge for refurbishment and sold it for scrap. The men, one a Department of Conservation and Recreation district manager, were charged with receiving $12,147 for the historic original parapet coping. The estimated cost to remake the pieces, scheduled for replication by 2012, was over $500,000. The men were convicted in September 2009.


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