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Time for a new Tobin? State seeks consultant for Tobin Bridge replacement plan.

State officials are searching for a consultant to develop an "eventual replacement" plan for the Tobin Bridge, which connects Boston to Chelsea. The bridge was constructed in 1950.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

It won’t happen anytime soon, but state officials are starting to think about replacing a classic part of the Boston skyline.

The state Department of Transportation plans to hire a consultant to develop “options for the eventual replacement” of the Tobin Bridge, an undertaking that remains years away, Acting Secretary Monica Tibbits-Nutt said Wednesday.

Tibbits-Nutt announced the move at a MassDOT Board of Directors meeting, where members approved a $109 million contract for repairs to the bridge, which connects Boston and Chelsea over the Mystic River.

The roadway is a major commuter route from the North Shore, carrying tens of thousands of vehicles on weekdays.


“Repairs are not a permanent solution,” she said.

Tibbits-Nutt said a request for proposals to develop a replacement plan will likely go out Friday. A study would seek to “gather perspective on the bridge’s future, while it is still in good working order,” she said.

“The time is now,” Tibbits-Nutt added. “We need to be taking the steps needed with the planning and engineering decisions to replace the Tobin Bridge with a similar but also alternative infrastructure.”

The study is expected to take two years and will include an environmental impact review, she said.

“Given the number and variety of stakeholders in the Tobin Bridge area, the study’s scope of work proposes a robust public engagement process,” Tibbits-Nutt said. “This will include, but not be limited to, forming a working group, inviting key stakeholders to participate such as the city of Chelsea, the city of Boston, Massport, US Army Corps of Engineers, US Coast Guard, advocacy groups, and community organizations.”

There’s currently no timeline for when construction on a replacement bridge would begin, said MassDOT Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver in a phone interview Friday morning.

“This kind of a study is really about looking forward to the future to see what the best options are going forward,” Gulliver said.


The bridge remains structurally sound, he said.

“That bridge is currently in good shape and will be for a long time,” he said. “This is about making sure we’re looking towards the future ... to figure out what the best approach might be” going forward.

The replacement study is expected to cost about $1.25 million, officials said.

The Tobin Bridge saw more congestion than usual when the Sumner Tunnel closed from July 5 to Aug. 31 for repairs.

The Tobin made its debut as the Mystic River Bridge in 1950 and was renamed in 1967 for Maurice J. Tobin, who had been a governor, Boston mayor, and labor secretary during the Truman administration.

The iconic span has been featured in several Hollywood movies, most notably “Mystic River,” the 2003 Oscar-winning crime drama.

Travis Andersen can be reached at