With little fanfare, the fences came down and, finally, the pedestrian bridge and plaza at Wonderland Station opened to the public last week.
Now, what looks to be the newest signature landmark for Revere Beach is ready for the eager feet of those headed to the Beach from the MBTA.
“We were substantially completed with the project in February 2013, but there were some things that were slow in coming to us like the railings and the dampening system, but they started trickling in over the last few months,” said consultant Paul Rupp. “The state building inspector signed off on it Friday, June 28th, and so, we decided to open it up to the public last week. I think it’s a very elegant and exciting feature that is added to the Beach, especially at night when it’s illuminated. There are LED lights embedded in the rails and up above too. They can be programmed for limitless combinations of colors. I think it’s pretty striking.”
So far, most Beach-goers haven’t fully discovered the bridge or the plaza. Mostly, it remains empty due to the fact that it is located in a bit of a dead zone on the Beach and also due to the fact that people are so used to crossing Ocean Avenue at grade.
That emptiness, though, is expected to change as the learning curve sets in and the larger private Waterfront Square development begins to creep out of the ground.
Those who have discovered it are shocked when they stumble upon the huge expanse of the new plaza and the miniature Zakim Bridge stretching towards the ocean. (the bridge was actually designed by the same man who designed the Zakim Bridge in Boston and is patterned after it purposefully).
“Wow!” and “Where did this come from?” are commonly heard as people walk out of the Station or the Parking Garage into an unexpected new feature.
“I think it’s awesome,” said Ashley Aguilar of Boston, who was directed to the bridge by an MBTA worker this Monday afternoon. “It reminds me so much of the Zakim Bridge in Boston. We didn’t know it was here at all. We were having trouble finding the Beach from the Station and a T worker showed us how to get up here.”
Added her friend, Jackie Fuentes, also of Boston, “I think it is really nice. It makes it a lot easier to get to the Beach, especially with kids or a stroller.”
Rupp said he had made some observations and found that people have found the bridge and do appreciate it.
“People have discovered it, and when they do discover it, they really, really like it,” he said.
The idea of putting a walking bridge to the Beach from Wonderland Station is nothing new, Rupp said, but was something that became doable only recently.
“That was a very old idea we have had floating around since I was a Planning Director for the City in the 1970s,” he said. “It was way back then that they put pedestrian access in a master plan for Wonderland. It was for aesthetic and safety reasons. It was always in the works and always something we always felt we’d do at some point. We took a run at it with this project and it succeeded.”
One of the only drawbacks to the project, however, has been the long delay – and to note, the elevators still do not function yet. Rupp said part of the problem was abiding by the rules of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the Stimulus Bill), which funded a majority of the bridge and plaza.
“There are a lot of very customized features for the bridge which had to be manufactured just for the bridge – things like the railings,” he said. “We had to deal with the Buy American provisions of the [Stimulus], which means we had to buy everything from American companies and that led to some delays. We could have bought things in Germany and had this done six months earlier, but American was required and it was like a Catch-22.”
Now, Beach advocates and state officials are looking for ways to make use of the new feature.
Already, the Revere Beach Farmer’s Market has committed to using the plaza this summer, and they will set up there again this Thursday, and will continue there through October.