A physical bridge to the 21st century

28 Sep

It’s funny that I left Boston when I did.

The Big Dig commenced construction in 1990 – the year I graduated from college in Boston. I still remember the news reports about people in the North End complaining about the rats infesting the neighborhood because their underground homes were being disturbed.

I returned in 1994, and construction was in full swing. It seemed that every couple of months, the already screwy Boston traffic patterns downtown by the waterfront would get even screwier. It was a big mess, but the Commonwealth did a good job with public relations, and people were genuinely supportive of the project as a whole. Everyone looked forward to the day when that project would be done, and downtown would be reconnected with its waterfront. I still have some of the booklets about the Dig that were sent around in the mail, or included as inserts in the Sunday Globe.

The Big Dig’s pretty much been finished for a year now. The elevated Central Artery is gone. The tunnel is open (and leaking like a sieve). Funny that I had to put up with the traffic headaches, and now I don’t even get to reap the benefit. Oh, well.

But the most visible part of the Big Dig project was the new Charles River crossing.

Once an ugly, rusting bucket of steel rising high over the Charles, complete with a Y-connection to the Tobin Bridge Chelsea-bound, it’s since been replaced by an elaborate ribbon of off & on-ramps, connecting with a gorgeous cable-stayed bridge designed by Swiss engineer Christian Menn.

By 2001, the bridge was complete and had become a distinctive and beautiful addition to Boston’s skyline.

In fact, the biggest controversy about the bridge was its naming – then-Governor Cellucci decided it should be named after a local civil rights activist who had recently died. But the adjacent Charlestown neighborhood balked, and demanded it be called the Bunker Hill Bridge. After all, Menn had the foresight to add little obelisk shapes to the tops of the towers – identical to the obelisk at the top of Bunker Hill nearby. A compromise was struck, naming it the “Leonard Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge”.

The traffic guys call it the “Zakim Bridge”.

As early as 2001 – just around the time that the bridge was completed – a local financial firm already incorporated the bridge’s design in its logo.

So, Buffalo, Christian Menn says you ought to rip down the existing Peace Bridge and replace it with a modern, cable-stayed bridge. Something that’s unique and distinctive. Who says a utilitarian bridge can’t be beautiful?

Thanks to several emailers, including 10th Legislative District Candidate Rus Thompson, the Buffaloblogger, and Pat McNichol from NMG for the postable pictures.

Folks, sometimes symbolism and perception mean more than reality.

The Peace Bridge is the past. Menn’s design is the future. I think Buffalo’s best days are ahead.

Let’s build the future.

One Response to “A physical bridge to the 21st century”

  1. Antibush February 12, 2007 at 6:40 pm #

    Bush is forever saying that democracies do not invade other countries and start wars. Well, he did just that. He invaded Iraq, started a war, and killed people. What do you think? Is killing thousands of innocent civilians okay when you are doing a little government makeover?
    Our country is in debt until forever, we don’t have jobs, and we live in fear. We have invaded a country and been responsible for thousands of deaths.
    We have lost friends and influenced no one. No wonder most of the world thinks we suck. Thanks to what george bush has done to our country during the past three years, we do!

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