The prospects for a substantial structure to replace the present insufficient wooden bridge over the Charles by next fall are extremely bright. There are still obstacles in the way, but none which seem in the least difficult to overcome.
In turn Congress has been induced to pass the required legislation to permit the construction of a drawless bridge, the Massachusetts Legislature has made the necessary provisions as to land damages that may result from the bridge, and specified that the Metropolitan Park Commission shall have the construction in charge, using money to be donated for the purpose. Now the cities of Boston and Cambridge have to be induced to consent to the building of the bridge and to agree to undertake the comparatively small expense of preparing the approaches.
The money for the bridge has not been given, and it cannot well be given until the preliminaries are all taken care of. On this account, therefore, the Harvard men who have been most interested in the proposition from the beginning are hastening to get these preliminaries out of the way.
In the law that was passed by Congress last February permission was given for the construction of a drawless bridge over the Charles at Soldiers Field of not less than twelve feet clearance in the main channel over the ordinary height of water in the basin. The Massachusetts Legislature passed an act that was approved by the governor on May 13 last amending a previous act in accordance with the act of Congress providing for the building of a bridge with funds donated for the purpose, the payment of damages to any persons up river whose rights of access by water are injured by the drawless bridge, and for the determination of these damages by a commission, also providing for a bond issue of $50,000 to provide the Metropolitan Park Commission with money to buy land in Boston to connect lands on the river now in its control.
The Legislature failed, however, to make provision for the changes in the grades of Boylston street in Cambridge and North Harvard street in Boston, necessary in connection with the building of the bridge. Negotiations are in progress, however, with the city authorities to obtain their consent to the construction of the bridge and their agreement to build the approaches. As the approaches are comparatively inexpensive, in comparison with the cost of the bridge itself, it is thought that the cities will not delay the project by refusing to do this small part. It is understood that the cities are not asked to build anything more than the rough retaining walls and the necessary fills.
There are two plans under consideration by the Metropolitan Park Commission which will have charge of constructing the bridge, after the preliminaries incident to the approaches have been settled and the money has been formally donated. One plan is for a bridge at the minimum height of 12 feet above the basin water level. This would necessitate approaches on either side of from 170 to 200 feet and there would be no land damages to abutting owners on either side, for the reason that the land affected is owned by the state, and is mostly Metropolitan parkway. The University might have a small claim but it undoubtedly would be waived.
The other plan is for a bridge 16 feet above the water level. This would necessitate approaches from 280 feet on the Boston side to 360 feet on the Cambridge side. There would be small possibilities of land damages in this case also, for with the exception of two small parcels, all the land affected is owned by the State or by the University. In either case the gradient of the approaches would be three per cent. With the 12-foot bridge the rise above the existing bridge would be about 3 1-2 feet and with the 16-foot bridge 7 1-2 feet, the existing bridge being about 8 1-2 feet above the Basin water level.
To build either one of these approaches would require comparatively a small amount of wall construction, as at the beginning of the approaches they would be graded to meet existing park roads. Some rough wall probably would be necessary near the river, and the rest of the work would be filling.
No plan has yet been made of the proposed bridge, though for years past various sketches have been made showing a new bridge connecting Boylston and North Harvard streets. It is the intention, however, that the bridge shall be wide, probably wide enough for street car tracks in addition to broad driveways and sidewalks, if it should be decided that it is desirable that street cars run over the bridge. It will be of material to harmonize with the surroundings, which are principally the University and Weld boathouses and the buildings in Soldiers Field.
The probable construction of the new Soldiers Field bridge will be the reward of years of dilligent work on the part of Harvard men who have been most active in the matter, and will be a recompense for numerous disappointments, some of which made the possibility of the bridge seem decidedly distant.
The present bridge is an old affair of wood so narrow that there always is congestion at the bridge on days of large crowds. It has been considered so dangerous that at times barges have been placed beneath the draw. One great obstacle that has prevented the construction of the new bridge has been in the past the opposition of the United States Government to obstructing the river approach to its property at the Watertown Arsenal. This objection was weakened materially by the construction of the West Boston drawless bridge and the Charles River dam and since then progress has been more rapid. One by one the obstacles have been surmounted, and now there is almost a certainty that a fine new bridge will span the river before another year has passed.--Boston Transcript.