Harvard Bridge

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The Harvard Bridge (also known locally as the MIT bridge or the "Mass Ave" bridge) carries Massachusetts Avenue (Route 2A) from Back Bay, Boston to Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is the longest bridge over the Charles River.[4]

Named for the Reverend John Harvard,[5] it was originally built in 1891 with a swing span.[6] The bridge was revised over the years until its superstructure was completely replaced in the late 1980s. It is locally known for being measured in the idiosyncratic unit called the smoot.



In 1874, the Massachusetts Legislature passed two acts, Chapters 175 and 314 to authorize the construction of a bridge between Boston and Cambridge.[7] Nothing further happened until 1882, when a follow-up act (Chapter 155) with more specifics was enacted. The location was expressed as


The bridge was to have a draw with an opening of at least 38 feet (12 m).[8] Unfortunately, Boston did not like this act, mainly because it did not provide for an overhead crossing of the Grand Junction Branch of the Boston and Albany Railroad. So nothing happened until the act was amended by Acts of 1885, Chapter 129, which changed the draw to a clear opening of at least 36 feet (11 m) and no more, until the other bridges below the proposed location were required to have a larger opening.[9] Still nothing happened, until the City of Cambridge petitioned the Massachusetts Legislature in 1887 to compel Boston to proceed. This resulted in Acts of 1887, Chapter 282, which was mandatory for both cities. It required that each city pay for half the bridge, and allowed Boston to raise up to US$250,000 (US$6.09 million in present terms[10]) for this purpose, in excess of its debt limit. This implied an estimated cost of US$500,000 (US$12.2 million in present terms[10]) for the bridge.

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