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editorial

Longfellow Bridge closure will require major adjustments

IT’S NEVER too late for improvements, especially where traffic patterns are concerned. But the 11th-hour, 59th-minute complaint by Massachusetts General Hospital and TD Garden about the extent of the disruption caused by the long-planned restoration of the Longfellow Bridge seems like a late-breaking effort to avoid reality.

Indeed, the sheer scale of the 3½-year effort to rehabilitate the main artery between Boston and Cambridge’s Kendall Square guarantees that thousands of people a day will be inconvenienced. But plans for rerouting traffic were announced months ago, and the closure of the Longfellow to Cambridge-bound traffic from this Saturday until September 2014 was a key feature. Such traffic will be directed across the Craigie Bridge, by the Museum of Science. Boston-bound traffic will be allowed on one lane of the Longfellow.

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Mass. General, the Garden, and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary now complain the one-way plan will create terrible congestion for patients, Garden concert-goers, and Red Sox fans — and they may well be right. But there may not be any good alternatives. At the ripe age of 107, the Longfellow is in bad shape. Project managers promise to monitor traffic during the first weeks of the Cambridge-bound closure and be prepared to make changes if necessary. That’s probably all that neighbors can rightfully expect.

Meanwhile, Mass. General, the Garden, and other nearby institutions should urge as many workers and patrons as possible to take public transportation. Eventually, when the bridge project is over, the number of traffic lanes from Boston to Cambridge will shrink from two to one, to better accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists. The most useful way to look at the Cambridge-bound closure is as practice for the future.

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