The White House called out a Boston bridge — but used the wrong picture

The White House used an image of the wrong bridge near Harvard to criticize government permitting for infrastructure projects.
The White House used an image of the wrong bridge near Harvard to criticize government permitting for infrastructure projects.

As part of its campaign to boost infrastructure spending, the White House posted a criticism of lengthy government permitting that singled out the long-delayed reconstruction of the Anderson Memorial Bridge near Harvard University.

Except the Trump administration posted a picture of the wrong bridge to illustrate its point.

A post Tuesday on the White House’s website recounted the tortured rebuilding of the Anderson bridge, more than two years late and nearly 25 percent over budget, that the Trump administration put down to “a bloated, tangled patchwork of regulatory oversight.”


Titled “Washington Will No Longer be a Roadblock to Rebuilding America,” the missive was part of the administration’s lobbying for President Trump’s new infrastructure plan, which includes calls to speed up permitting processes.

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But the photo atop the White House post wasn’t of the Anderson bridge. Instead, the White House, which has been lampooned for typos in its public statements, used a picture of the nearby John W. Weeks pedestrian bridge, which crosses the Charles River a little further east.

Still, many commuters around Harvard — not exactly Trump’s base — may share the president’s frustration with the real Anderson Bridge project. Begun in 2012, it took years to finish, and included long lane and sidewalk closures that disrupted crossing the river. At $24.5 million, the job was nearly $5 million over budget.

Lawrence Summers, a former Harvard University president and US treasury secretary during the Clinton administration, coauthored a a 2016 Globe op-ed saying the Anderson delays may indicate Americans are “fated to increasing cynicism and distrust” of government bureaucracy.

The problems with the project, he noted, included a one-year delay after work began, for a state permit to move a water main. A design change mid-project tacked on another eight months. There were also challenges renovating the century-old bridge to historic standards, similar to the problem that plagued the long repair of the Longfellow Bridge further down the Charles.


But some in Boston think the delay wasn’t all bad because extra time allowed for a redesign that makes it possible to add a bike and pedestrian underpass that advocates have long wanted.

“To the outsider, it looks like this was just a delay,” said Renata von Tscharner, president of the Charles River Conservancy. “But it was doing something earlier rather than later that will save money.”

It’s unclear how Trump’s infrastructure proposal would have improved the Anderson rebuilding because its focus is centered on expediting federal processes, while the Anderson delays were attributed to local issues. But in remarks this week, Trump suggested local and state governments must also speed up their permitting processes or risk losing federal funds.

“Because we’re not going to sit around for eight years because you’re having a local dispute,” he said.

One of the main elements of Trump’s infrastructure plan is for the federal government to issue grants worth up to 20 percent of a project’s total costs to states and cities that show they have the remainder. Democrats say that is too costly for towns and states, and argue Trump’s $200 billion offer is far from adequate given the nation’s infrastructure needs.


The White House did not immediately provide further comment.

Adam Vaccaro can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @adamtvaccaro.