A revealing picture of the Highway Department was recently published in Worcester and other local news but not in the Globe. [ Beverly Ford, Delays take a bite out of taxpayers' wallets, Worcester Telegram and Sun, August 14, 2011, at www.telegram.com/article/20110814/NEWS/108149846/1116 ]
Its prime example of waste was the Fore River Bridge on Route 3A, between Quincy and Weymouth. A 4-lane bridge built in 1936 was demolished and replaced by a temporary bridge in 2004, for $88 million. New construction is scheduled for next year, estimated at nearly $300 million--probably over $1,000 per lane-foot per year of life.
The reason the cost is so high is that the state will build a lift bridge with 250 feet of clearance. A nearby shipyard, which once needed the clearance, has been defunct since 1986 and is now storage for used cars. The project is an example of foolish priorities, rebuilding an antique that no longer serves a practical purpose.
The Highway Department continues to maintain a huge inventory of antique bridges, 218 in all. [ listed at http://www.mhd.state.ma.us/default.asp?pgid=content/environ/brhist&sid=about ] A few were sturdily built and remain cost-effective, but most are far beyond their practical service lives.
Here are current repair projects for antique bridges. They are old-fashioned, steel-frame bridges. About every 20 years, these bridges have been under repair for two years or more:
Project 605506, Boston/Cambridge, Route 2 (B.U. Bridge)
4 lanes, 725 ft, 1928, arch-suspended, 20 year intervals
$339 per lane-foot per year, 2-1/2 years repair, rebuilt-in-place
Project 82611, Holyoke/Chicopee, Route 116 (Willimansett Bridge)
4 lanes, 797 ft, 1891, lenticular thru-truss, 20 year intervals
$334 per lane-foot per year, 3 years repair, rebuilt-in-place
By comparison, here are current repair projects for modern bridges:
Project 604007, Wellesley, Cedar Street over Route 9
4 lanes, 79 ft, 1932, multi-beam, 80 year interval
$162 per lane-foot per year, 1/2 year repair, prefabricated
Project 606255, Medford, 14 bridges along I-93
4 lanes, 2671 ft, 1961, multi-beam, 50 year interval
$183 per lane-foot per year, 1/2 year repair, prefabricated
Because of modern construction, these bridges can be repaired with prefabricated spans. Based on their service histories, the repairs will last much longer, the bridges are out-of-service only a few days, and continuing maintenance costs are about half as much as for antique, steel-frame bridges.