- The Maurice J. Tobin Memorial Bridge is the highest bridge in Massachusetts at 254 feet.
- The original $27 million cost was intended to be paid back by tolls, and then the tolls were to be removed.
- Over 70 years later, the bridge brings in $700,000 a month in tolls and late fees, but the tolls still exist.
Home to about 6.95 million people, the beautiful state of Massachusetts in the U.S. prides itself on its many tourist destinations. From the Freedom Trail to Fenway Park, people love visiting the state and seeing everything it has to offer. In fact, the state holds 253 Guinness World Records as of August 2023! Not only that, but the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) tracks a whopping 7,880 bridges. Which bridge is the highest? Let’s learn more about this incredible bridge below!
The highest bridge in Massachusetts, the Maurice J. Tobin Memorial Bridge, rises 254 feet over the Mystic River. It also boasts the title of the longest bridge in the state at a total length of 11,906 feet.
Tobin Bridge Location
The Maurice J. Tobin Memorial Bridge spans the Mystic River between Boston and Chelsea. Some call it simply Tobin Bridge, while others call it by its previous name, the Mystic River Bridge. Regardless of the name, the bridge is an engineering marvel and a beauty to behold.
History of the Highest Bridge in Massachusetts
The Tobin Bridge opened to traffic on February 2, 1950, after two years of building. It replaced the Chelsea Bridge and allowed a speed of travel to and from Boston that was previously impossible. Originally dubbed the Mystic River Bridge, it took a new name in 1967 to honor Maurice J. Tobin, former Boston mayor and Massachusetts governor.
Construction of the highest bridge in Massachusetts began in 1948. The project was made possible through the Mystic River Bridge Authority (now part of the Massachusetts Port Authority), which created a program to finance the bridge through tolls or payment that would be required to cross the bridge. Some residents in the area were angry about the bridge because they were forced out of their homes as a result of its building. Yet, the project continued. The original $27 million cost was intended to be paid back by the tolls and then the tolls removed. Over 70 years later, the bridge brings in $700,000 a month in tolls and late fees, but the tolls still exist.
The Tobin Bridge faces up to 80 miles per hour winds, salt water, and harsh winters. It also carries roughly 85,000 vehicles per day. So, repairs and maintenance are both extremely important.
Despite the bridge still standing strong, a massive reconstruction project began in 2018 and cost a further $41.6 million. MassDOT repaired the bridge in portions and completed the project in 2019. The high costs of the project and the estimated rise in cost for future repairs caught the attention of many residents, who call for a stop to the repairs. They would much prefer to see the money go to the construction of a tunnel instead.
In June 2023, MassDOT announced a new project to scrape and repaint Tobin Bridge. The nearly 75-year-old bridge’s original paint contains lead. The paint chips fall into the river below and cause contamination. The proposed project cost ($125 million) and four-year time span worries residents in the area. Officials promise that crews will clean up the paint chips on a monthly basis during the repairs.
The 3-span double-deck cantilevered truss bridge, made of steel, towers over the river below. With six lanes, the bridge remains the fastest way to travel to Boston from the surrounding areas.
The highest bridge in Massachusetts may be impressive, but it doesn’t make the list of the highest bridges in the United States. Some of them are more than three times the height of Tobin Bridge!
Despite not holding the title for the highest bridge in the U.S., Tobin Bridge still commands attention as the largest bridge in all of New England as of August 2023. The total cost of the bridge so far in today’s money is nearly $2.9 billion. This number includes the repainting project.
Wildlife Around the Tobin Bridge
Bridges around the world often give wildlife enthusiasts a unique bird’s eye view of the creatures that live around them. Whether over land or water, the vantage point provides an opportunity to see these animals living their natural lives. The highest bridge in Massachusetts is no different! Let’s explore some creatures living around the bridge and in the water of the Mystic River flowing below.
Many types of fish live in the water of the Mystic River, such as white perch, river herring, and striped bass. However, the Mystic River Watershed Association (MRWA) fish advisory cautions against eating most of the fish and shellfish from this river due to the high pollution. The major source of pollution for the river is drainage from the surrounding cities.
MRWA reports state polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury, arsenic, and lead were all found in fish from the river. These chemicals soak into the fish and shellfish and are then consumed when another animal (including humans) eats them. Fishing of shellfish and crustaceans is not allowed in the area. The advisory states it is especially important that young children (under 12 years) and women who are pregnant, nursing, or trying to become pregnant do not eat any fish or shellfish out of the Mystic River. MRWA recommends catch and release only when fishing the Mystic River, except in the case of bluefish and striped bass. In addition to the other toxins, oysters and green crabs from the area are known to contain higher levels of lead than other inhabitants of the water.
Technically a fish, the American eel also inhabits the Mystic River. As with most other fish, MRWA recommends people not eat the eel caught in the river. American eels eat fish, mollusks, crustaceans, worms, and some plant material from the water they live in. Because the pollution affects all of these creatures, the eels consume the toxins, as well.
Those choosing to swim in the river should be cautious, as eels pack a powerful bite and can cause significant damage to fingers and toes they mistake for a meal!
These beautiful birds of prey typically make their nests on tall, man-made structures, including Tobin Bridge. Peregrine falcons also nest around the skyscrapers in Boston. These incredible birds use a hunting technique called the stoop, which involves folding their wings in and aiming straight down. When performing the stoop, these falcons can reach speeds of up to 240 miles per hour!
These birds of prey are also affected by water pollution because they eat fish. Fortunately, they also prey on other birds, often snatching them out of the air. Because their diet is variable, they may be less impacted by pollution than some other animals. There are 46 nesting pairs of these falcons in Massachusetts currently, and they are not listed as an endangered species.
The highest bridge in Massachusetts, the Maurice J. Tobin Bridge, rises an impressive 254 feet over the Mystic River. It is also the longest bridge in the state. It connects the cities of Boston and Chelsea. Built more than 70 years ago, the bridge is boasted as one of the most significant landmarks in the area. There are fish in the river below, but you probably shouldn’t eat them due to pollution. The bridge may eventually be replaced with a tunnel, but that’s yet to be seen. Without this amazing bridge, many people in the surrounding areas would be stuck traveling side roads, and traffic would be much worse.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Mihai_Andritoiu/Shutterstock.com
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