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Old 03-01-2013, 03:54 PM   #1
AmericanFolkLegend
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Whittier Bridge Replacement

On Wednesday, 2/27, MassDOT has awarded the Whittier Bridge Replacement and Highway Widening Project to the Walsh/McCourt Joint Venture for $292M. This is the 4th of 5 "Mega Projects" (>$100M) awarded as part of the $3B Accelerated Bridge Project. This is the State's largest highway job since the Big Dig. Highlights of the project include:
  • 2 new "iconic" 1,400 foot long network arch bridges over the Merrimack River. There are only 4 (I think) network arch bridges in the US. This will be Massachusetts' first.
  • Replacement/reconstruction of 5 smaller bridges over or under the highway that were nearing obsolescence.
  • Over 5 miles of I-95 highway widening (1 lane in each direction).
  • A shared use path along the highway to create bike and pedestrian access between several neighborhoods. This is the first bike path adjoining an interstate highway in Massachusetts.
  • Significant environmental work (wetland creation, haz mat remediation, riverfront restoration, etc.).
  • Two new sound walls.

More info on the project:

A flyover video of the bridge rendering.
DOT's official web site for the project.
The right-of-way plans used for environmental filings.
An article discussing the project and award.
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Old 03-01-2013, 05:04 PM   #2
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Re: Whittier Bridge Replacement

Happy to see this as a Newburyport resident. Going over the Whittier Bridge is terrifying. That said:

Don't really understand the bike/pedestrian path, as the Newburyport side of the path is a park and a farm. The Amesbury side is all residential. I suppose the added connection is good- I just doubt the level of usage that it is going to enjoy, as retail opportunities/attractions lie further away. Not to mention I'd like more than more or less a jersey barrier between me and an 18-wheeler going 70.

The design is fine. Similar but a lot more streamlined than the old bridge...


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Old 03-01-2013, 08:16 PM   #3
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Re: Whittier Bridge Replacement

A widening? Why the Christ does this need a widening? Give me a break. I've been through here, and while the bridge certainly is scary with repairs/construction and a lack of width or breakdown lanes, I can't see any reason to widen the highway itself. All you need is a new bridge, same amount of lanes, maybe slightly wider lanes, and a breakdown lane.
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Old 03-01-2013, 08:52 PM   #4
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Re: Whittier Bridge Replacement

If you build a bike path ending in a park, people will use it. Especially if it provides cool views over a river.

Maudslay State Park hosts two summer performance venues - Theatre in the Open and Maudslay Arts Center (a concert stage).
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Old 03-02-2013, 05:03 PM   #5
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Re: Whittier Bridge Replacement

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Originally Posted by BostonUrbEx View Post
A widening? Why the Christ does this need a widening? Give me a break. I've been through here, and while the bridge certainly is scary with repairs/construction and a lack of width or breakdown lanes, I can't see any reason to widen the highway itself. All you need is a new bridge, same amount of lanes, maybe slightly wider lanes, and a breakdown lane.
To keep the road a consistent 8 lanes.

My biggest question is: Who is going to ever sit on the bench overlooking the water with traffic whizzing by at 70+ mph 12 feet behind them?
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Old 03-03-2013, 03:29 PM   #6
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Re: Whittier Bridge Replacement

Like Kahta said, the widening is just a continuation of the 8 lane configuration found North and South of this project.
The environmental rationale behind the shared use path has been overblown by DOT. They needed to widen the NB shoulder during construction phasing in order to keep three lanes in each direction. So they're basically just making that widening permanent and calling it a shared use path. The alternative was to dig up the asphalt after the fact and loam/seed the shoulder.
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Old 03-03-2013, 05:59 PM   #7
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Re: Whittier Bridge Replacement

The shared use path is a shoulder, not separated from the road? Is it a two-way path?
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Old 03-03-2013, 07:36 PM   #8
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Re: Whittier Bridge Replacement

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Originally Posted by AmericanFolkLegend View Post
Like Kahta said, the widening is just a continuation of the 8 lane configuration found North and South of this project.
The environmental rationale behind the shared use path has been overblown by DOT. They needed to widen the NB shoulder during construction phasing in order to keep three lanes in each direction. So they're basically just making that widening permanent and calling it a shared use path. The alternative was to dig up the asphalt after the fact and loam/seed the shoulder.
You know that both bridges will be brand new, the current bridge will be torn down.
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Old 03-03-2013, 08:10 PM   #9
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Re: Whittier Bridge Replacement

The bridge definitely looks like it has to be rebuilt. My only question is how much did the original bridge cost (and of course I have to adjust for inflation and factor cost to redo roads)?
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Old 03-04-2013, 05:12 PM   #10
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Re: Whittier Bridge Replacement

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You know that both bridges will be brand new, the current bridge will be torn down.
Yes. I worked on the winning estimate. I'm oversimplifying it, but:
  • Phase I, widen the highway east of the existing ROW and build the new NB bridge.
  • Phase II, put all 6 lanes on the new NB Bridge separated by bolted down barrier while you build the new SB Bridge.
  • Phase III, put 4 lanes on the SB Bridge, and 4 lanes plus the SUP and a shoulder on the NB Bridge.
The design-guidelines called for overbuilding the Phase II configuration to keep the highway open to 3 lanes in each direction. Rather than ripping it out when we're finished, we'll put in permanent extra large barrier and protective screening along the east side of I-95 NB and call it a shared use path.
It's definitely a community benefit. I just think the environmental rationale is being over-emphasized.
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Old 03-05-2013, 10:28 AM   #11
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Re: Whittier Bridge Replacement

IMO every river crossing should have some provisions for bicycles and pedestrians. Distances between bridges have a huge impact on whether a trip can be reasonably done via walking or bicycling. For example, the I-91 bridge over the CT River in Western Mass doesn't allow peds or bikes, so anyone going between West Springfield and Chicopee by walking or bicycling would have to take a multi-mile detour via Springfield or Holyoke.
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Old 03-05-2013, 01:52 PM   #12
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Re: Whittier Bridge Replacement

Does the I-91 bridge have sufficiently wide shoulders that a cyclist could safely try to use it anyway?
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Old 06-10-2013, 10:03 PM   #13
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Re: Whittier Bridge Replacement

Construction is about to begin!

Newburyport News Article.

June 8, 2013
Early work starts on Whittier Bridge
Construction expected to start later this month

By Mac Cerullo Staff Writer

AMESBURY – Preliminary work on the $292 million Whittier Bridge reconstruction project is underway as state crews have begun drilling test borings to prepare for the impending construction of the new bridge’s foundation.

Michael Verseckes, a Massachusetts Department of Transportation spokesperson, said that while the majority of the progress being made is still in the design phase, people driving over the Hines Bridge will occasionally notice crews working on the river next to the bridge.

“There are three things going on, survey work, delineation of wetlands and other sensitive resource areas, and then drilling test borings, on land and in water, in order to advance the foundation design,” Verseckes said.

Verseckes said the exact construction schedule won’t be set until the final design plans are completed, but he expects the heavy construction to begin later this month when crews will begin building the new bridge’s foundation and eventually the piers that will support the new bridge.

In the meantime, there will also be some road improvements made on the existing bridge later in order to keep the bridge in serviceable shape for those who drive over it now, he said.

First built in 1951, the John Greenleaf Whittier Bridge carries Interstate 95 over the Merrimack River and was named after the poet and abolitionist who called Amesbury home. The bridge has served as a key link in the state’s highway transportation network for 58 years, but is structurally deficient and is nearing the end of its economic life.

Over the next three years, the existing bridge will be replaced and the new bridge will be wider, safer and built up to current standards. Throughout the course of the project, three lanes of traffic will remain open in both directions, so motorists should see minimal disruptions in traffic flow. The project is expected to be completed in 2016.

The construction plan calls for the bridge to be built in two phases. First a new bridge consisting of four lanes and two breakdown lanes will be built next to the existing one, and once completed the existing bridge will be torn down, traffic will be diverted to the new bridge, and another four lane bridge will be put up in its place.

Once the second new bridge is completed, the southbound highway traffic will be diverted again, and the end result will be two adjacent bridges with a small gap separating them, with each side carrying four lanes and two breakdown lanes of traffic in each direction.

There will also be a third breakdown lane left over once the project is completed as well, and that lane will be converted into a pedestrian walkway and bike path. It will be the first time in Massachusetts history a pedestrian/bike path will have been installed on an interstate bridge.

The Whittier Bridge is one of five Accelerated Bridge Program projects known as “mega projects” by the MassDOT. It is the only project in the state to have been designated as a presidential priority by President Barack Obama.

In February, the MassDOT announced that the project had been awarded to the joint venture of Walsh/McCourt for $292,155,280. The project is being paid for entirely with federal funds.
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Old 07-09-2013, 09:50 PM   #14
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Re: Whittier Bridge Replacement

Looks like lane closures on the bridge will be beginning in a week or two, according to my local newspaper. One northbound lane in daytime hours, more during off-peak hours.
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Old 07-10-2013, 01:02 PM   #15
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Re: Whittier Bridge Replacement

^Yep. There's already been some sporadic lane closings to support boring crews.
Clearing & Grubbing and Erosion Control activities start next week.
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