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The Boston Globe


opinion | Paul McMorrow

The bridge that divides

To thrive, Chelsea needs to tame the Tobin

When a hulking span of concrete and steel cut Boston in two, Boston buried the highway. But the Big Dig was a one-time deal. The city sitting just across the Mystic River, Chelsea, doesn’t have that option. The neighborhoods sitting in the shadow of the Tobin Bridge suffer the same kind of artificial separation that led Boston to bury the Central Artery and reconnect its downtown to its waterfront, but no one is parachuting into Chelsea with a bottomless bucket of money with which to bury the Tobin. The bulk of Chelsea’s housing lies on one side of the bridge; its best parks and development opportunities sit on the other side. If the city is going to realize its potential, it needs to penetrate the bridge, and rejoin the neighborhoods sitting on either side.

The Tobin Bridge dominates Chelsea’s landscape. The bridge, which connects Charlestown and Boston to the North Shore, soars over the tightly packed industrial city. The Tobin’s opening in 1950 marked the beginning of an aggressive wave of road-building in and around Boston. The Central Artery, the Southeast Expressway, the Turnpike, and the paving of Esplanade parkland to accommodate Storrow Drive all followed in short order.

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