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Old 12-15-2015, 09:56 AM   #1
Arlington
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Accelerated Bridge Repair (ends in 2016?)

Mass' own Accelerated Bridge Repair program will end in 2016, after a run of 8 years, having rebuilt ~200 bridges statewide, such as replaced all the bridges on I-93 North and little stuff, and rebuilt the Longfellow.

What's next? Seems to me that we should raise the gas tax and "keep going" Having stuff in good repair. Mostly these small projects seem to benefit from (1) adequate competition between bidders and (2) not subject to "too big to fail" hostage-taking (like the Big Dig, GLX, and Longfellow have been, each in their way)

Over those 8 years we went from ~540 deficient bridges to ~410 (note that in "doing" 200 bridges, you only clear a [130] bridge backlog, because [70] bridges "turned bad" during the 8 years. How about another 200 over the next 8 years? And we get down to 300?


I'd like to see Gov Baker sign up for rolling-renewal with small enhancements (like the lengthened exit lanes we got on I-93 as part of the bridge redo) Stuff like electronics: free tolling, traffic modeling/automation, and signal upgrades on the Worcester lines.

These little projects seem like a good value for money precisely because we don't bid them on a "will pay any price" basis.
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Last edited by Arlington; 12-15-2015 at 12:36 PM.
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Old 12-15-2015, 12:18 PM   #2
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Re: Accelerated Bridge Repair (ends in 2016?)

I think this is money well spent. The state actually maintained what we have instead of adding more lanes. I would love to see the state keep this program going. These smaller projects are what I think the state needs.

In the accelerated bridge program, there were 4 projects (out of 200) that ate about a third of the budget:

Fore River Bridge: 244 m
Whittier Bridge: 292 m
Longfellow Bridge: 249 m
Braga Bridge (fall river): 127 m

Some bridges were replaced for as little as $600,000. If the state wanted to get the number of structurally deficient bridges as low as possible, they would have chosen other projects. Maybe those 4 bridges were in miserable shape, but Massdot should be trying to reduce the number and avoid these 1/4 billion dollar projects that balloon.
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Old 12-15-2015, 12:29 PM   #3
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Re: Accelerated Bridge Repair (ends in 2016?)

I'm pretty sure all those bridges were in severe need of replacement and not rehabbing or replacing was not an option and would have caused larger issues than eating up the budget.
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Old 12-15-2015, 01:36 PM   #4
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Re: Accelerated Bridge Repair (ends in 2016?)

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Originally Posted by BuilditDenser View Post
I think this is money well spent. The state actually maintained what we have instead of adding more lanes. I would love to see the state keep this program going. These smaller projects are what I think the state needs.

In the accelerated bridge program, there were 4 projects (out of 200) that ate about a third of the budget:

Fore River Bridge: 244 m
Whittier Bridge: 292 m
Longfellow Bridge: 249 m
Braga Bridge (fall river): 127 m

Some bridges were replaced for as little as $600,000. If the state wanted to get the number of structurally deficient bridges as low as possible, they would have chosen other projects. Maybe those 4 bridges were in miserable shape, but Massdot should be trying to reduce the number and avoid these 1/4 billion dollar projects that balloon.
It doesn't work that way.
  • The more complex a bridge it is, the more each year of deferred maintenance adds to the price tag and construction schedule.
  • The more complex a bridge it is, the more advance time it takes to plan design-build, the longer-duration a project it becomes, and the less wiggle room there is to move it around a 5-10 fiscal year plan because of a 2-3 fiscal year budget shock.
  • The more complex a bridge is, the more likely it's going to be a mission-critical span with highest impacts to mobility, fewest alternatives for detour, and biggest impacts on the economy from compromised mobility.
  • The more mission-critical a span, the more pain its going to inflict on day-to-day maintenance with every traffic cone that has to get plopped for midday work.
  • Bridge maintenance is cycled for a reason.
    • Design-build even for the $600K overpasses takes time, so you can't just hotplug them all over the map on a whim.
    • The construction logistics themselves put stress on the roads; all those contractor trucks, cement mixers, jersey barriers, etc. scrambled to one area makes it turn into a megaproject fast the bigger a bridge it is and the closer a construction project is to the next construction project. And squeezes every reliever road in the process. This is why the 128 add-a-lane has been creeping along 1-2 towns at a time instead of everywhere all at once. Why for the Charles Basin replacements they waited till BU Bridge was done before starting the Longfellow and Andersen projects, and why Longfellow and Andersen have to be all done before they start Western Ave., River St., and Arsenal.
    • MassHighway has 6 districts; District 1 staff in Berkshire County isn't familiar with Division 6's bridges in Boston. You can't put a moratorium on all bridge replacements in Berkshire County and 'surge' the staff from the D1 office in Lenox because the commute costs and extra overhead of bringing them up to speed in foreign territory ends up chewing up more resources than it saves. Nobody can know everything about every bridge in the state on-demand.
I've seen these arguments appear all the time on the Internet that we can just prioritize every construction project by car counts (<-- frankly surprised Ari got taken in by that fallacy) or go cherry-picking for free throws to run up the score. When maintenance is distributed by nature to minimize disruption to a living/breathing interconnected network, you can't suddenly anti-distribute or super-concentrate the work without cure becoming worse than disease. Any more than you can say: "Doc...my heart, lungs, and liver are all shot. Can we package them up all in one surgery so I can save a few bucks on my Medicare?" Or, for that matter: "Doc...can we defer the life-saving bone marrow transplant to another fiscal year and just do a discount 'Fast 4' of twin knee replacements, rotator cuff surgery, and hernia?" The end result is all the same for you ()...and the distributed network that is within you.
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Old 12-15-2015, 01:47 PM   #5
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Re: Accelerated Bridge Repair (ends in 2016?)

BTW...I can't recommend the Somethingawful forums thread "Ask me about being a Traffic Engineer!" enough for getting a Cliffs Notes education on all these dynamics from the civil engineer's side of all this transpo brick-and-mortar we talk about. You could lose yourself for an entire weekend on that 10-years-strong thread, since every few pages is another wormhole into some issue-specific discussion. (LOTS of bike/ped and transit goodness too, even though the star of the thread designs big honking highways as his day job).
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Old 12-15-2015, 03:27 PM   #6
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Re: Accelerated Bridge Repair (ends in 2016?)

OK so it it fair to say we want another 8 year cycle to get to 300 and then we ease off to keep it there? Something tells me that getting to zero deficient bridges would be gold plating (IIRC all structures are expected to be deficient at the time of renewal...otherwise you are replacing stuff that didn't need fixing and not spending enough on expansion
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Old 12-15-2015, 03:48 PM   #7
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Re: Accelerated Bridge Repair (ends in 2016?)

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Originally Posted by Arlington View Post
OK so it it fair to say we want another 8 year cycle to get to 300 and then we ease off to keep it there? Something tells me that getting to zero deficient bridges would be gold plating (IIRC all structures are expected to be deficient at the time of renewal...otherwise you are replacing stuff that didn't need fixing and not spending enough on expansion
I'm in favor of bringing the number down, 408 still feels really high. I also agree with you that it should be balanced against bringing it too far down, or, as you suggest, we run the risk of repairing some bridges sooner than makes sense.

As for your suggestion in your original post about raising gas tax to continue pushing the deficiency number down: can you remind me whether the accelerated bridge repair program had some dedicated separate stream of funding? Or was it more of a "let's make sure we get this much done in these years" type of thing, and force the remainder of the highway budget to fit around that, all within the existing funding stream? I really can't remember. I don't feel like I could opine on your question without knowing where this phase fit into the general funding picture.
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Old 12-15-2015, 04:04 PM   #8
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Re: Accelerated Bridge Repair (ends in 2016?)

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Originally Posted by Arlington View Post
OK so it it fair to say we want another 8 year cycle to get to 300 and then we ease off to keep it there? Something tells me that getting to zero deficient bridges would be gold plating (IIRC all structures are expected to be deficient at the time of renewal...otherwise you are replacing stuff that didn't need fixing and not spending enough on expansion
You never ease off. Ease off and inertia puts you in the place Connecticut is now, where they did a dozen-plus years of blitzing bridge repair in the wake of the 1983 Mianus River Bridge disaster...and then just stopped. And are now staring down such a big maint hole it's taking that $300B transportation package Gov. Malloy is proposing--which they have no idea how they're going to pay for--to recover from basically taking 20 years off. They thought their state-of-repair backlog was low...then it turned out not to be. There's never a "too-low". For every years-overdue 1950's bridge we fix, there's a 1970's one joining the bottom of the list where your best bet to do it within-cost is to do it when rated lifespan says it's time...not when deferred maint says it's way past time. "Too low"/"too soon" is never a problem they're going to have in the real world.

Never ever ease up. If anything they need to resist urge to defer the major ones that the long-range plans have attached recommended timetables to...no Longfellow hangovers, please. They have to keep up with the cycling on those remaining Charles Basin bridges. And since they proved themselves a national model of efficiency with 'Fast 14', it's time to start ID'ing candidates for another such high-profile blitz (though it never really stopped; lately it's been statewide rail bridges on the Fairmount, Fitchburg, and Patriot Corridor freight lines quietly getting the prefab replacement treatment). Keep the same efficiency parameters that so impressed the feds the first time around, and they'll have an inside track at getting additional funding for it.


I know everyone's nervous and in audit mode after the GLX bid debacle, but it can't induce paralysis. Stuff like this has to get done, and if they want to make it more efficient then multitasking the efficiency changes without taking a pause is the only way that'll happen.
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Old 12-15-2015, 04:09 PM   #9
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Re: Accelerated Bridge Repair (ends in 2016?)

Quote:
Originally Posted by F-Line to Dudley View Post
BTW...I can't recommend the Somethingawful forums thread "Ask me about being a Traffic Engineer!" enough for getting a Cliffs Notes education on all these dynamics from the civil engineer's side of all this transpo brick-and-mortar we talk about. You could lose yourself for an entire weekend on that 10-years-strong thread, since every few pages is another wormhole into some issue-specific discussion. (LOTS of bike/ped and transit goodness too, even though the star of the thread designs big honking highways as his day job).
That's a dead link, try here instead: http://forums.somethingawful.com/sho...345&perpage=40

SA's great, I rarely post anymore but still lurk the Traffic Engineering thread and a few of the political schadenfreude threads.
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Old 12-15-2015, 04:13 PM   #10
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Re: Accelerated Bridge Repair (ends in 2016?)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Arlington View Post
OK so it it fair to say we want another 8 year cycle to get to 300 and then we ease off to keep it there? Something tells me that getting to zero deficient bridges would be gold plating (IIRC all structures are expected to be deficient at the time of renewal...otherwise you are replacing stuff that didn't need fixing and not spending enough on expansion
There should be no backlog. Whatever comes "due" for maintenance each year should get maintenance that year.
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Old 12-15-2015, 04:24 PM   #11
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Re: Accelerated Bridge Repair (ends in 2016?)

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can you remind me whether the accelerated bridge repair program had some dedicated separate stream of funding? Or was it more of a "let's make sure we get this much done in these years" type of thing, and force the remainder of the highway budget to fit around that, all within the existing funding stream? I really can't remember. I don't feel like I could opine on your question without knowing where this phase fit into the general funding picture.
I'm fairly sure it was a $2b ~ $3b bond issue that we'll be paying off until 2040s, so it isn't like when the current program ends some revenue stream becomes uncommitted, rather, the current program ends (kinda) because the ability to pay for it with the 2008 spending/bonding authority ends, while paying back the bonds goes on and on (as bonds tend to do).

So the remaining $14b backlog in repair (see article linked above) will need its own funding source if we are to clear it (as F-Line suggests, rather than letting it balloon back to CT-sized $30b)

If it takes 8 years to clear a 130 bridge backlog, we're still left with 24 years of backlog clearing if we just kept the current pace. That seems too long.

So now would be a good time to
(1) Scale up the program, since we know it basically worked
(2) Identify revenue to pay back the next increment's financing
(3) Launch the next 10 years and $8b worth. (to go faster, for longer, but not go crazy ramping up)

Frankly, letting bridges depreciate/fall apart is another way by which we hide from drivers the true costs of their driving (we also do that with rail too, but the scale of the psychology is bigger on the highway side when we fail to raise gas taxes to prop bridges up as fast as they naturally fall down)

So, yeah, I'd say higher gas taxes are called for.
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Old 03-17-2016, 07:57 PM   #12
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Re: Accelerated Bridge Repair (ends in 2016?)

The new 5 year capital plan for Massdot was kinda unveiled today. We now know that 80% of the agency's capital plan will go for modernization of infrastructure. The part relevant to the accelerated bridge program is:



Quote:
.$2 billion - Planned spending on bridge infrastructure, which would reduce the state's structurally deficient bridges to 2 percent if extended over 10 years, according to MassDOT

http://patch.com/massachusetts/bosto...lans-numbers-0

Note that this plan will not be voted on by the board of directors until May and there is no public list of the projects yet (other than t expansions).
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Old 08-12-2016, 08:47 AM   #13
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Re: Accelerated Bridge Repair (ends in 2016?)

^ That ".2B" seems to have turned out to be the "Municipal Small Bridge Program"...which is a new and good thing, but not the billions we need for Accelerated Bridge Repair.

I like that the Governor is pleased with this sort of idea --seems like a good program, providing $500k per municipality per year for replacing bridges 10' to 20' long (too small for federal $, they say). The kind of state-of-good-repair stuff that in other contexts, politicians mostly ignore (favoring big/shiny/new).
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Old 08-12-2016, 09:12 AM   #14
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Re: Accelerated Bridge Repair (ends in 2016?)

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That's a dead link, try here instead: http://forums.somethingawful.com/sho...345&perpage=40

SA's great, I rarely post anymore but still lurk the Traffic Engineering thread and a few of the political schadenfreude threads.
Resident Traffic Engineer here. Hit me up anytime.
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Old 01-09-2018, 10:38 AM   #15
Arlington
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Re: Accelerated Bridge Repair (ends in 2016?)

Reviving this thread, because we're coming to the end of the original Accelerated Bridge Repair projects (e.g. Longfellow Bridge, which, admittedly, was hardly accelerated). But also many unsung successes, and the 93 Fast 14 back in 2011, which was an internationally-acclaimed success

We still have a lot of bridges from the interstate-and-suburbs building boom that are coming to the end of their design life, and it'd be great to clear that backlog.

Any progress in the last year or two on renewing or extending the original program?

[img][/img]
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Old 01-10-2018, 09:23 AM   #16
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Re: Accelerated Bridge Repair (ends in 2016?)

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Originally Posted by Arlington View Post
Reviving this thread, because we're coming to the end of the original Accelerated Bridge Repair projects (e.g. Longfellow Bridge, which, admittedly, was hardly accelerated). But also many unsung successes, and the 93 Fast 14 back in 2011, which was an internationally-acclaimed success

We still have a lot of bridges from the interstate-and-suburbs building boom that are coming to the end of their design life, and it'd be great to clear that backlog.

Any progress in the last year or two on renewing or extending the original program?

[img][/img]
Question, is the Comm. Ave. Turnpike bridge replacement part of this program? We still have the second half of that replacement pending this summer.
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Old 01-10-2018, 11:43 AM   #17
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Re: Accelerated Bridge Repair (ends in 2016?)

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Originally Posted by Arlington View Post
Reviving this thread, because we're coming to the end of the original Accelerated Bridge Repair projects (e.g. Longfellow Bridge, which, admittedly, was hardly accelerated).
Also the Fore River Bridge.

I understand why it was lumped in as part of the Accelerate Bridge program. I just find it funny being that this project has been in the works for the majority of my lifetime.
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Old 01-10-2018, 11:53 AM   #18
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Re: Accelerated Bridge Repair (ends in 2016?)

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Question, is the Comm. Ave. Turnpike bridge replacement part of this program? We still have the second half of that replacement pending this summer.
Good question. It clearly uses the accelerated construction techniques that "we" (MassDOT and its ecosystem of contractors) have gotten good at.

I would guess that the Comm Ave project is NOT funded from the ABP bond issue, since I could NOT find it (check my work) on this:
official roster of ABP-funded projects (PDF) from March 2017
...where only the Casey Overpass is listed for "in construction" and "Boston"

[Note: it appears I named this thread wrong. Mass.gov calls it ABP, Accelerated Bridge Program, not Repair.]
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