North Washington Street Bridge Project Ready to Proceed

The state and contractor JF White are working to iron out the construction contract for the North Washington Street Bridge right now, and expect to start the project in mid-May – a project that will unfurl in six stages over a period of five years.

Partners in the project appeared at the Charlestown Knights of Columbus on Thursday, April 12, to give the community an overall update on the work and to take questions and comments. The partners included MassDOT, Boston Transportation Department, Howard Stein Hudson, and many others.

“We’re now putting the language together in the contract,” said Michael O’Dowd of MassDOT. “Once that is done, before we get to work we’ll be talking to JF White about their methods of construction…We probably are looking at the middle of May for an authorization of the notice to proceed with JF White. Then they’ll be off to the races with documents and submissions to us.

“We’re going to ask for your indulgence on the inconvenience, the traffic, the delays and the congestion that will affect you,” he continued. “Five years. That’s the timeline.”

For most of the project, the configuration of lanes will be about what is currently there due to the October closure of one outbound lane to Charlestown. During most times there will be two lanes inbound and one outbound at all times.

Notification for the project stretches far and wide, with dozens of warning signs places outside of Rt. 128, and even more warning signs regarding the project placed in the Boston area.

Several in the audience felt that Charlestown wasn’t being considered as much as the regional traffic. Along with this Bridge, several others are also being worked on as well.

“I don’t see much being done for the people of Charlestown, but you want to prepare people on the North Shore,” said Cookie Giordano. “We’re going to be totally cut off with this project and all the others around us. Now we hear there’s going to be pile driving in the middle of the night with young children nearby that have to go to school the next day. No way. We should not have to put up with that…This isn’t fair. I really wish you would just consider Charlestown and the impact it’s going to have here.”

O’Dowd had no direct answer, but said that MassDOT is prepared to pay JF White considerable benefits for finishing early.

“Expediting the project is our mitigation,” he said. “To mitigate a project like this is to get it done as soon and quickly as possible. To get it done fast, we are prepared to pay more than $7 million to them to complete the project faster and more efficiently than the original schedule.”

Navy Yard resident Lois Siegelman said she isn’t happy with the lukewarm response to water transportation as a way to avoid the project’s impacts. She said now is the perfect time to usher in such a use – something that could end up being permanent after the project.

“We’re going to have a major problem with the van shuttles at the Bridge,” she said. “Water transportation is the way to get around it. It doesn’t have to go to Lovejoy Wharf. It could go to the Navy Yard or Spaulding or a lot of places. I wish people would stop eliminating water transportation as one of the options that can help with traffic.”

One man in the audience said he was disappointed that the dedicated, inbound bus-lane was implemented in place of a third inbound lane, leaving only two lanes inbound and two outbound for general traffic.

Some direct abutting neighbors were concerned with overnight work, which will be in effect at times. MassDOT said they have very strict noise plans that they are currently working on. More will be available later on that, but it is expected that the noisiest work would occur in the day and evening, rather than overnight.

The current stages of construction were detailed as follows:

  • Stage 1A (six months)

*There would be two lanes in and two lanes out. However, if the temporary repairs cannot be shored up, it could stay like it is now with one land out. That determination is yet to be made.

*The sidewalk on the Locks side would be closed.

  • Stage 1B (12 months)

*A temporary utility bridge would be constructed on the Locks side. Utilities are a major factor in the Bridge replacement, and the temporary bridge would be used to hold the utilities during construction. It will also hold a temporary sidewalk on top of it.

*During this stage, the middle span will house one lane in each direction.

*The Constitution side of the bridge would be closed, as would the sidewalk on that side.

  • Stage 2 (18 months)

*There would be two lanes inbound and one outbound. Both sidewalks would be open.

*Bicycles would be sharing the roadway with motorists during most of the construction period as well.

  • Stage 3 (18 months)

*Constitution side construction would continue.

*Sidewalk on the Locks side would be open.

*Two inbound lands and one outbound lane would be open.

  • Stage 4 (12 months)

*Things will really start to take shape in this stage and the work zone will shrink.

*Sidewalks would be closed on the Locks side.

*The seven-foot bike lane would open on the Constitution side with a 21-foot sidewalk promenade (with Freedom Trial) also now open.

  • Stage 4B

*Two inbound lanes, two outbound lanes.

*Utilities would be moved back to the Bridge, and temporary bridge would go down.

*The dedicated bus lane on the inbound side would be installed from City Square nearly to the North End.

The project is to finish in 2022.

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