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Worcester bridge worries, and a boost for transit

Posted by Nichole Davis  July 9, 2012 12:00 AM

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Happy Monday to you (unless you're having a Case of the Mondays, in which case, I hope your day improves).

Today we're heading toward Central Massachusetts, with a question about a new project starting up there. There's also some good news not only for construction crews, but for T riders, coming from the federal government this week.

Let's jump into the mailbag...

"I commute to the Worcester area for work every weekday, and my drive takes me over the bridge on Route 9 that goes over Lake Quinsigamond. When traffic's bad there, it's very bad. Lots of gridlock, no room for anywhere to go. Plus, it's near the UMass hospital so when ambulances have to get through it makes things even worse. I've heard through the grapevine that there may be some work done on the bridge. Do you know anything about this?"
Roger, Millbury

I did some research, Roger, and I've figured out what's happening with your bridge.

The DOT has announced they will be completely rebuilding the bridge, which is formally named the Kenneth F. Burns Memorial Bridge. According to DOT sources, the bridge in its current form has been around since 1916, but has been repaved with different lane configurations several times. They've determined that the traffic on the bridge has just been too tough, but that's not the only problem:

Narrow shoulders do not permit the passage of emergency vehicles during heavy traffic or offer acceptable bicycle accommodations... Westbound left turns are not permitted at Route 9/Lake Avenue requiring vehicles to make a right turn onto Lake Avenue and reverse direction using a U-turn. Bridge sidewalks are narrow and do not offer a good vantage point for watching sailing and rowing races. The height and width of the center arch prevent sailboats from accessing both sides of Lake Quinsigamond... Stormwater discharges directly from the bridge into the Lake to the detriment of water quality.

So, needless to say, they've determined that a completely new design is necessary. The project is in its final design stages now, and construction will begin at the end of the summer. The bridge will cost the state $89 million to build, and should be complete by the summer of 2015.

You'll start to see them removing the sidewalk and doing other work in the water by the end of the summer, and then they'll get into the nitty-gritty of the construction over the winter. The full schedule is available here, along with other project information, which will be updated as the project progresses.

Officials for the DOT say they'll keep all lanes open for rush hours, but will have to close lanes during off-peak hours. Pedestrians will be able to access at least one side of the bridge at all times. Buses will also be permitted on the bridge while work is taking place.

Good news for transit crews

So imagine if the government gave you two mill -- I'm sorry, billion dollars to fix up your property. It'd be a pretty wonderful feeling, for the most part.

The state of Massachusetts is feeling just that way right now. Well, at least the DOT and MBTA. After the President signed a new transportation package into law on Friday, Massachusetts received a hefty cut of the funds - a good $2 billion out of an overall total of $120 billion.

Those agencies will get to use that boost in funding statewide. There'll be new construction on portions of 128 in Wellesley and Needham, and some resurfacing of tough spots on Route 6 in Bourne and Sandwich. Officials say over 11,000 construction jobs will be created.

Something I'm excited about: with the new funds, the MBTA will be able to completely re-construct the Government Center T stop. (A station I'm very familiar with, as I use it daily, not unlike thousands of commuters.) If you've been there, you'll know that it's difficult to access if you're handicapped. It also really just needs an overhaul ... it's old, too warm (especially in summertime), and is in various states of disrepair.

Remember that the MBTA has suggested that the station close completely for three whole years starting in November while construction takes place - which, as they say, would save money and also expedite the process. They also have a four-year construction plan, but it's unclear if that's completely out of the running at this point.

But not everyone's too happy about how the funds came about. Representative Michael Capuano of Somerville told the Globe:

[This] is not the greatest one we’ve ever passed by far, but it does solve a political problem in Washington, namely, people really don’t want to address our transportation problem... It effectively kicks the ball down the road for two more years, and obviously there are many of us who wanted to do more than that.”

Previous transportation bills have provided spending for up to five or six years. This latest bill is in effect for the next 27 months.

Check out the article by the Globe's transportation go-to guy, Eric Moskowitz.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Nichole Davis is a Boston-based traffic reporter and news anchor. She’s been seen and heard on television and radio airwaves across New England since 2003, providing commuters with all the More »

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