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An Alford Street bridge driver's anguish, and the Callahan closure

Posted by Nichole Davis  June 22, 2013 02:24 PM

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We start today's entry with a question from Sean in Chelsea:

"I saw your post about the Chelsea Street bridge, and I wonder if you could find out what the deal is on the Rte 99 bridge just outside Sullivan Square. I go over it every day and I've been tracking the "progress" or lack thereof for years. Back in November of 2010 is when the traffic was first reduced to 2 lanes from 4 and routed over the east 2 lanes of the bridge. They've had complete access to the other 2 lanes for over 2 1/2 years and they are not done yet. Best guess it looks like it could be 3 full years to do 1/2 of the work.

Again, they have complete access to that side of the bridge. What the hell is taking so long? They got the Chelsea Street bridge complete (or nearly complete) with 6 months of uninterrupted access. Is it really going to take 6 years or more to compete this work?"

A good question, as I'd recently been wondering the same after driving through the area. I got in touch with Michael Verseckes, who's a spokesman for MassDOT. He gave me the rundown on what's happening with the over $51 million project.

The reason, according to Michael, that things have been backed up a bit is because they had some "major utility delays", along with some issues in the early planning stages of the project. Certain areas of the bridge had been deemed refurbish-able, and weren't necessarily slated to be rebuilt. As the job progressed, though, it was determined that this wasn't the case and all new materials had to be started from scratch for those areas. Those two problems alone tacked just over an extra year onto the project.

What's been finished so far? Well, the Boston-bound side has been completely constructed and the paving has been complete. The drawbridge-style part of the bridge (technically called the "bascule span") has also been installed, and is currently undergoing testing, all of which should be completed in the next week or so.

In fact, the Boston-bound side is doing so well that Verseckes says traffic is going to start using it at the end of this coming week - he says likely on Friday, the 28th. One lane of traffic will be using that new Boston-bound side, with Everett-bound traffic using the already-existing setup for now.

Contractors now have to take down what remains of the current Everett-bound bridge, including the approaches and that side's bascule span. They've also got to, well, put in the new Everett-bound bridge, and perform paving activities and whatnot to allow access to, eventually, all four travel lanes.

Good news is that Everett-bound traffic is going to start to use the new span by mid to late July. You'll be sharing the new span with Boston-bound traffic until the Everett side is constructed, so it might still be a bit tight getting through there. Verseckes says all travel lanes will be open and the bridge is set to be completed by June 2014.
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Regular reader of the blog Stephen is also a regular user of the Chelsea Street bridge. We talked about the bridge in an entry a few weeks back, but Stephen says the frustrations still continue for workers at Logan Airport.

He sent along these photos last week, remarking that:
"After over a year a “tweaking” the bridge opened to let a ship pass around 6:00 PM today but when it went back down the gates would not go up. I attached pictures of Logan Airport employees walking across the bridge to get to the Chelsea Street garage to get to their cars to go home...The new bridge has been open for over a year yet it still closes all the time for maintenance and still doesn’t work properly."

image.jpeg image2.jpeg

And this one, where he mentions that: "...this was posted in our Break Room at the airport. This is what we have to deal with just to go to work and go home."

WP_000299.jpg

The DOT says that the bridge is set to be completed on July 1st. Spokesman Mike Verseckes told me a couple of weeks ago that contractors and crews are testing and calibrating cables and motors to move the new lift span up and down. They're also working on some safety features and greasing up cables to keep the bridge in good shape to also protect wear and tear. All of this work, though, on a bridge that was reportedly opened to the public last year is sure to raise some frustrations, as it obviously is for workers over at Logan. We'll have to keep an eye on the situation to see if this carries on past July 1st.
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In case you missed it...

Check this out: it's a fantastic shot of the Callahan Tunnel under construction.

callahan 2-036.jpg

There'll be more of this - in a way - coming soon. The DOT announced this past week that they are shutting down the Callahan Tunnel completely at year's end for several months. They'll be undertaking a complete refurbishment (with a price tag of almost $35 million) which the over-half-a-century-old tunnel sorely needs. You may remember that, last year, a panel fell during rush hour which led to the removal of three other panels. More problems have been popping up over this past year, which led Highway Administrator Frank DePaola to mention that the tunnel would only be safe for drivers for maybe two more years if a permanent fix wasn't put in place. Read more from Martine Powers here.
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MBTA Matters

Red Line riders: you will continue to see busing for the remainder of the weekend, once again, on the span between North Quincy and JFK/UMass. This is all for work on the Columbia Junction project and will be in place until the end of service Sunday. Expect significant delays in both directions.

Also, Red Line riders to and from Cambridge: you will start to see busing in place in August due to the Longfellow Bridge project. Busing will run from Park Street to Kendall Square on Saturday August 10th and Sunday the 11th, as well as the 24th and 25th. Normal weekday service will remain in place for now.

Blue Line riders - you may have noticed some delays due to the recent kicking-off of the State Road project. Busing will be in place several nights this upcoming week between Wonderland and Beachmont. Expect to see the buses from 9:00 PM until the end of service this Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Don't forget that busing is also in place for those trying to access the Orient Heights station. You can exit at Suffolk Downs and catch the shuttle bus that's running to and from Orient Heights.

Orange Line riders: you don't have to deal with shuttle buses for a while (and that's probably for the best, considering you've had to deal with them for some time now). Busing will start back up again on August 4th between Oak Grove and Sullivan Square.
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You'll find slowdowns here... (on Sunday, June 23)

Mass Pike westbound

The on-ramps from Albany Street, Arlington Street, Clarendon Street and Copley Square will all be closed from 11:00 PM to 5:00 AM.

Expressway/O'Neill Tunnel northbound

The off-ramp to the Mass Pike east (Exit 20) will be closed from 11:50 PM to 5:00 AM.

Expressway/O'Neill Tunnel southbound

The ramp from the O'Neill southbound to the Mass Pike west will close from 11:00 PM to 5:00 AM. Access will remain open to Albany Street.

++ COMPLETE CLOSURE ++ of the Zakim Bridge from 11:50 PM to 5:00 AM. All traffic will be detoured down the Leverett Connector and through Leverett Circle back into the O'Neill southbound.

Leverett Circle

The tunnel from Storrow Drive, as well as the ramp from Leverett Circle, to the Leverett Connector outbound will be closed from 11:30 PM to 5:00 AM.

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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