Patch Answers: What's the Status of the North Washington, Alford St. Bridge Projects?
The two structures on either side of Charlestown are both in varying stages of reconstruction.
Currently, Charlestown is sandwiched between two bridges that are in varying stages of reconstruction—the Alford Street/Route 99 bridge to the north, heading into Everett, and the North Washington Street bridge to the south, heading into Boston’s North End.
Both appear to be under construction, but to those who pass over the bridges daily it may be unclear exactly what work is being done.
So what is the actual status of the two projects?
For the answer, Patch turned to Para Jayasinghe, city engineer for the Boston Public Works Department. Both bridges are owned by the City of Boston, but redevelopment is being managed through the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, or MassDOT.
North Washington Street Bridge
Despite appearances, the North Washington Street Bridge is not actually under construction—yet. This bridge replacement project is in the early design stages, a process that is expected to wrap up within the next couple of years, according to Jayasinghe. That process will include a public review portion, which has not yet begun.
After the city completes the design process, MassDOT will advertise the project for construction—but, again, that work is several years away.
Though it’s not under construction, the North Washington Street Bridge does appear to be undergoing work, with orange cones set up in the middle lane, forcing traffic down to one lane in either direction. But rather than marking off a current construction area, these cones are being used to block off the middle segment of the bridge for safety reasons and will remain in place until the new bridge is built, Jayasinghe said.
“The middle barrel has been closed and will remain closed, but the bridge has adequate capacity to carry the volume of traffic it needs to service today,” he said.
MassDOT inspects the bridge on a regular basis and occasionally may do minor repair work to keep the bridge functional until it is replaced, Jayasinghe added.
As for what the new bridge will look like, the city engineer said one thing is certain: it will be a vast improvement on the existing structure.
The North Washington Bridge connects Charlestown and the North End, carries a portion of the Freedom Trail linking to the USS Constitution and Bunker Hill and lies in the shadow of the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge, making it an important city feature.
As Jayasinghe put it: “We want that bridge to have some personality."
Alford Street Bridge
Also owned by the City of Boston, the Alford Street Bridge, part of State Route 99, is currently under construction, with MassDOT managing the project. The $50 million improvement project will result in a four-lane “movable bridge” that will allow for vehicle traffic overhead as well as boat traffic underneath, according to Jayasinghe.
Construction on this bridge began in 2010 and was originally expected to finish up this year, but because of some unforeseen issues involving utility connections the project has been delayed another year, the city engineer said.
“Right now the anticipated completion date will be in the summer of 2014,” Jayasinghe said.
Particularly in an older city such as Boston, it is not unusual for these kinds of under-the-surface issues to be discovered once construction begins, Jayasinghe said.
Charlestown Patch will continue to monitor both projects and will provide updates as more information becomes available.
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