Maurice J. Tobin Memorial Bridge

The Tobin Bridge (formerly The Mystic River Bridge)

The Maurice J. Tobin Memorial Bridge, completed in 1950, is the largest bridge in New England. The bridge spans the Mystic River and has a long history as part of the Boston skyline.

The Mystic Bridge, more famously known as the Maurice J. Tobin Bridge, was constructed between April 1948 and February 1950. It replaced the Chelsea Street Bridge, which could not handle the traffic load caused by the expanding suburbs after World War II. The bridge was named after Maurice J. Tobin who left a lasting impact on the city of Boston. The Tobin Bridge connects Charlestown to Chelsea, Massachusetts and spans the Mystic River. This structure is a double decker steel span bridge capable of transporting six lanes of traffic in and out of the city.

During the first full year after the construction of the Tobin Bridge was complete, it is estimated that the bridge carried 13.5 million vehicles. The design and construction of the new bridge was deemed a success for the city of Boston. It allowed for those who moved into the suburbs to easily come back to Boston and enjoy a day in the city. Suburbanization began for a short period in the 19th century, but went on to boom after World War II. The Tobin Bridge quickly began to experience high amounts of use due to the fact it was now much more convenient to cross the Mystic River. Today, the Tobin Bridge experiences roughly 85,000 vehicles per day.

In order to construct the Tobin Bridge, a significant footprint of land had to be taken from Charlestown. This area of land where the piers of the bridge are located fall between Chelsea Street and Decatur Street. Prior to the construction of the Tobin Bridge, there was a lively neighborhood located between the streets of Chelsea Street and Decatur Street. Unfortunately, these homes had to go. Some houses located in Charlestown and Chelsea were raised and transported to another location. On the other hand, some houses had to be demolished to accommodate for the new bridge. The construction of the Tobin Bridge generated a shift in neighborhoods of middle-class homes to low-income housing in Charlestown, along with Chelsea.

This staple of the Boston skyline spans more than 2 miles (approximately 11,900 feet) and continues to act as a mainline for commuters to, from, and through the city. The total length of the Tobin Bridge is extremely impressive, given the fact it is 2,700 feet longer than the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge. Marcello Albanese describes the sites function, explaining: “The Bridge roads act as veins, carries life to and from the City – a heart.”. The bridge includes an “estimated 225,000 rivets and 50,000 bolts, in all some 45,000 tons of steel.” as stated by the Boston Globe. When originally built, the bridge costs $27,000,000 and has had little aesthetic change since its opening over 60 years ago. Monthly, the Tobin bridge make $700,000 in tolls and late fees.

One of the major problems for the Tobin is the harsh winter conditions it endures, which are often far greater than some of its warm weather bridge brethren. The Tobin must withstand elements including 80 mph winds, salt spray, and battering from plows. These circumstances also require bridge maintenance to halt during the winter months. Another problem which interferes with bridge is the gypsum plant below. The Boston globe article explains “Bridge officials sometimes have to call the gypsum plant to tell it to switch smokestacks or reduce the amount of steam, which can envelop the bridge and make work next to impossible.”

Access Information:

Pedestrian access from Charlestown and Chelsea across the Tobin Bridge is open to public.

Street Address:

US-1
Boston, MA 02129 [map]

Official Website:

http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/highway/TobinBridge.aspx

Cite this Page:

Mary Sbabo, Keven Mulcahy, Cody Farragher, “Maurice J. Tobin Memorial Bridge,” Boston History, accessed December 18, 2017, http://explorebostonhistory.org/items/show/5.

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