Commuters confronted with Longfellow Bridge traffic changes

Shortly after 8 a.m. today, Sal Spinetti drove over the Charles River on the Longfellow Bridge, pulled up to a traffic light at the foot of the bridge and waited to make a right turn. Like many Monday mornings, Spinetti had encountered traffic on his way to Massachusetts General Hospital.

But today was the first workday commute after the partial closure of the Longfellow Bridge — no cars are allowed from Boston to Cambridge and vehicles coming into Boston now use the opposite side of the bridge — a change that seemed destined to create traffic nightmares for many commuters.

“It was better than I expected. Not too bad,” Spinetti, 55, of Cambridge, said as he waited for the light to turn green.

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The closure marks the beginning of a $255 million project to rehabilitate the more-than-100-year-old bridge, famous for its salt and pepper shaker towers, that is expected to take about 3½ years.

“It could be a real headache,” Spinetti said. “I guess we’re all going to have to get used to it.”

Other drivers on the front edge of the morning’s commute said they had no problems adjusting to the unfamiliar traffic pattern.

“It was not as bad as I anticipated and there was no traffic getting on the bridge,” said Amy Barczak, 38, of Medford.

State troopers stationed on the Boston side of the bridge explained the new routes to confused drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians as the line of cars approaching from Cambridge grew longer by the minute.

By 9:30 a.m., many drivers said they were running late and had spent too much time sitting in traffic on the Longfellow.

“It’s a horror show. I tried to go over the MIT bridge but that’s all backed up, too,” said Bill Shannon, 47, of Canton. “This trip usually takes me 10 minutes and today it’s taken 45.”