The US city of Boston is launching an ideas competition to solicit ideas for the new Northern Avenue Bridge.

Mayor Martin Walsh joined the Boston Society of Architects/AIA (BSA) to launch the competition. "The Northern Ave Bridge represents a special piece of history for our city and for our people," said Walsh. "I welcome everyone to participate and help us generate ideas for this important challenge for the future of the bridge and Boston."

The ideas competition will be formally launched on 21 March. Participants will be able to register ideas as either simple text or as a drawing, sketch, or rendering on the competition website (link opens in new tab), which has been created to host the exchange of ideas.

The competition is part of Walsh's commitment to building a new Northern Avenue Bridge that is informed by public opinion. Boston’s Seaport continues to grow at a rapid pace and short-term fixes to the current structure are no longer viable.

"This ideas competition fosters two essential requirements for planning and implementing the best direction forward for the bridge," said 2016 BSA president, Tamara Roy. "A public process that allows alternatives to be proposed and evaluated, and a commitment to superb design so that bold forms and engaging spaces can bring this corner of the city to life."

The organisers are currently determining prize money to award in several different categories. A competition jury will select winners of a variety of different categories and online voting will result in a people's choice award.

Ideas from the contest will help inform a Request for Proposals (RFP) for design of a new bridge. The RFP will be released by Boston's Public Works Department this summer.

The Northern Avenue Bridge, which opened in 1908, is a steel three-span, triple-barrelled, Pratt-type through-truss bridge. The structure, which connected downtown to the South Boston Waterfront, was closed to all traffic in December 2014 due to concerns about its structural integrity. 

Northern Avenue Bridge

During its lifetime the bridge has carried vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, and even rail services. The train tracks, however, were removed in 1970, and the span was closed to vehicular traffic in 1997, and ultimately pedestrian traffic in 2014, as a result of safety issues.