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Groups express concerns over Longfellow Bridge detours

Cambridge-bound traffic on the Longfellow Bridge (above) will be detoured starting July 20.

David L. Ryan / Globe Staff

Cambridge-bound traffic on the Longfellow Bridge (above) will be detoured starting July 20.

Representatives from institutions in Boston and Cambridge are raising concerns about traffic changes and detours scheduled to begin this month during the Longfellow Bridge reconstruction project.

Beginning July 20, transportation officials are planning to close the bridge to Cambridge-bound vehicles and detour them to the Craigie Bridge — a detour that is expected to continue through September 2014.

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Boston-bound vehicles will be shifted to one lane on the east side of the Longfellow Bridge during the first stage of construction, according to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and Red Line service will be impacted on 25 weekends during the project, which is expected to last 3½ years.

At a meeting held at MIT Wednesday night to review the traffic plans and construction at the bridge, representatives from Massachusetts General Hospital, TD Garden, and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary asked the design and build team for the project to reconsider their plan not to allow traffic to travel in both directions over the bridge during the project.

“The issue we still feel strongly about is two-way traffic on the bridge,” said Joe Crowley, senior manager of parking and ambassador services at MGH. “We believe a two-way traffic plan would be much better for residents of both Cambridge and Boston.”

Chris Maher, vice president for the Boston Garden Development Corporation, said he is also in favor of traffic being allowed to travel in both directions, and expressed concern about the detours are planned. He reminded representatives from the design and build team that pop star Justin Bieber will have a concert at TD Garden the weekend the detour begins and the Yankees will be in Boston to play the Red Sox.

Bill Shea, a project executive for White-Skanska-Consigli, said two-way traffic is being looked at as a contingency plan to manage the traffic, but project managers are ready to move ahead with their plan to detour Cambridge-bound traffic around the Longfellow Bridge. The vehicles will be routed from Charles Circle to Leverett Circle, then travel on Monsignor O’Brien Highway to Land Boulevard in Cambridge.

Representatives from White-Skanska-Consigli said they are installing 23 cameras in Boston to monitor the traffic around the bridge, and Boston, Cambridge, and State Police will assist with intense monitoring of traffic flows in the first two weeks of the project. After that, the monitoring will be decreased, but will continue.

Emergency access, and pedestrian and bicycle traffic will be maintained on the bridge during construction, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Red Line service will continue throughout the project, but buses will replace trains in the area on 25 weekends. Boston-bound traffic will traffic will also be detoured around the bridge on those weekends.

The $255 million project will address the 107-year-old bridge’s structural deficiencies and upgrade its structural capacity. The bridge’s four towers, sometimes called the “salt and pepper shakers,” will be dismantled, refurbished, and rebuilt, said Mark Ennis, design project manager.

The traffic detours come as construction has reduced vehicle traffic to one lane in each direction over a second key bridge spanning the Charles River, the Anderson Memorial Bridge between Harvard Square and Allston.

Memorial Drive’s Walter J. Reid Overpass, over the rotary at the BU Bridge, also closed in April for a six-month project. Michael Verseckes, a spokesman for MassDOT, said an effort is being made to reopen the overpass as soon as July 19.

The Longfellow project will lead to a permanent reduction in the number of traffic lanes headed from Boston to Cambridge over the bridge from two to one, allowing more space for wider sidewalks and bike lanes.

During the Red Line disruptions, T customers will ride buses between the Kendall/MIT and Park Street stations. Shea said five weekend Red Line outages are expected this year.

Mary Leach, director of public affairs at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, said she also has concerns about what will become of traffic in the area.

“Things are stopped in front of the hospitals already,” Leach said.

Crowley and MIT campus planner Kelley Brown urged officials to release the traffic management plan for the project so other stakeholders in the area can review it.

Brown said he hopes fears about the plan are not borne out.

“We’re really all going to have to kind of work together a little better,” Brown said.

Brock Parker can be reached at brock.globe@gmail.com.

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