Charles River Dam Bridge

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Charles River Dam Bridge
Coordinates42°22′05″N 71°04′15″W / 42.3680°N 71.0708°W / 42.3680; -71.0708Coordinates: 42°22′05″N 71°04′15″W / 42.3680°N 71.0708°W / 42.3680; -71.0708
Carriessix lanes of traffic ( Route 28), two sidewalks
CrossesCharles River at mile 1.0
LocaleBoston, Massachusetts
Maintained byMassachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation
ID number160134
Designsteel bascule bridge
Total length25.0 m (82.0 ft)
Width25.6 m (84.0 ft)
Longest span19.2 m (63.0 ft)
Clearance below4.6 m (15 ft)
Charles River Dam Bridge is located in Massachusetts
Charles River Dam Bridge
Location in Massachusetts

The Charles River Dam Bridge, officially the Craigie Bridge,[1] also called Craigie's Bridge or the Canal Bridge, is a six-lane bascule bridge across the Charles River, connecting Leverett Circle in downtown Boston, to Monsignor O'Brien Highway in East Cambridge, Massachusetts. The bridge, maintained by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR, formerly the MDC), carries Route 28 next to the Green Line's Lechmere Viaduct. The bridge is fully within Boston, with the city line to the north, at the center of the original river. The Museum of Science is located on the dam and nearby piers.

Photo of the original lock for the Charles River in Boston, Massachusetts as bordered by Nashua Street Park on the south and Charles Hayden Planetarium to the north and positioned just west of the Charles River Dam Bridge.

The original lock for the Charles River was just west of the Charles River Dam Bridge, but the lock services was relocated east to the Charles River Dam and incorporated as three parallel locks on the site of the old Warren Bridge.

The former lock at the Charles River Dam Bridge now allows water and small ships to flow freely. Taller ships require the opening of the drawbridge, operated by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.


The first bridge on the site was known as the Canal Bridge, named after the Middlesex Canal which ran from the Charlestown Mill Pond to Middlesex Village in East Chelmsford Massachusetts; later p/o Lowell.[2] As an investment, businessman Andrew Craigie purchased the largely undeveloped farmland on the Cambridge side around Lechmere Point from various owners (including Mary Lechmere and heirs) in preparation for building the bridge. The investors incorporated in 1807 with a charter to build a bridge from Leverett Street in the West End, Boston to the eastern end of Lechmere Point. One-third of shares were owned by the Middlesex Canal Corporation.[3]

The bridge opened in 1809, and came to be known as Craigie's Bridge. The construction of the bridge prompted the laying out of roads to the center of Cambridge (now Cambridge Street, running to Harvard Square) and Somerville/Medford (Bridge Street, now Monsignor O'Brien Highway/Massachusetts Route 28). Craigie and associates, who formed the Lechemere Point Corporation, benefited from the building boom that followed, spurred on by their efforts to expand the public street grid.[4] Residential cross streets were constructed and some were named after investors (Otis, Thorndike, and Gore).[5][6] The bridge was sold to the Hancock Free Bridge Corporation in 1846,[7] and became toll-free on January 30, 1858.[8]

The current bridge was constructed in 1910, along with the dam that turned the lower Charles River from a tidal estuary into a fresh-water basin. This reduced the problematic odor from raw sewage flowing into the river by keeping the formerly tidal lands covered with water.[9] It was completed on June 30, and greeted with a two-hour fireworks display that Fourth of July. Thousands of people watched from the new Boston Embankment (the early Charles River Esplanade), which took the place of the former tidal flats.[10]

Construction of the Museum of Science began on the dam in 1948, and finished in 1951.

2010–2011 construction project[edit]

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation completed a 2-year project to rehabilitate the Craigie Bridge and to completely replace the drawbridge in 2011. The project required the closure of the Boston-bound lanes from November 6, 2010, through mid December 2010, and again from early February 2011 through mid-April 2011, necessitating traffic detours.[11] This was paid for out of borrowed funds as part of the statewide Accelerated Bridge Program.

2019 bicycle safety project[edit]

In November 2018, a Boston University graduate student was killed by a dump truck while bicycling on the bridge as both turned right onto Museum Way.[12] The next month, MassDOT announced that dedicated bicycle signals and protected bicycle lanes would be added in summer 2019, dropping automobile traffic to two lanes in each direction.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ U.S. Coast Pilot, volume 1, Atlantic Coast: Eastport to Cape Cod. NOAA. 2008. p. 69.
  2. ^ Clark, Mary Stetson; The Old Middlesex Canal; Hilltop Press, Medford MA,1974, p-42
  3. ^ "Publications". The Society. 25 October 2018. p. 60. Retrieved 25 October 2018 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Publications, p. 60
  5. ^ Paige, Lucius Robinson (25 October 1877). "History of Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1630 - 1877: With a Genealogical Register". H. O. Houghton. p. 183. Retrieved 25 October 2018 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ "Publications". The Society. 25 October 2018. p. 60. Retrieved 25 October 2018 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ Publications, p. 61
  8. ^ History of Cambridge, p. 201-202
  9. ^ "Boston vs. the rising tide". Boston Globe. 2018-04-28.
  10. ^ "100 years of celebrating the Fourth of July at Esplanade". The Boston Globe. 2010-07-04. Retrieved 2010-08-11.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-10-22. Retrieved 2010-10-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ Cyclist killed is identified as BU graduate student
  13. ^ State to begin work in June to improve bike safety on road near Museum of Science