Special to the Patriot-Bridge
The construction delays of the North Washington Street bridge replacement project have not gone unnoticed by those who were in attendance at the North End Waterfront Residents Association on Thursday night, with all attesting that the traffic gridlock around the project is getting worse. That is what James O’Leary of MassDOT heard from North End residents last Thursday night — and he basically agreed. O’Leary noted that three years into the replacement of the old drawbridge, 60% of the steel has been erected. However, a total of 52 cracked welds recently were discovered which, if they were not to be repaired, could have resulted in a disaster. Whether the fault lies in the design or in the fabrication is still being debated, but all work has been stopped on the bridge until the cracked welds are fixed. Some of the cracks are wide enough that a dime could be inserted into the steel. The completed timeline has been moved to December, 2024, with the final landscaping completed in March, 2025. The process of repairing the welds is being undertaken by construction workers who are in interior tubs and working out of sight. “We have to get it right,” O’Leary said. By December of 2023, three lanes of the structure should be able to be shifted off the temporary bridge onto the permanent bridge. And yes, the temporary bridge does have a certain bounce to it, but it is safe and inspected on a yearly basis. After hearing O’Leary’s update, residents still were upset about the traffic woes that they are blaming on the police details. While O’Leary said that that is out of his domain for the most part, District 1 City Councillor Gabriella Coletta said that she will bring up the matter with Mayor Wu to determine whether a better solution can be implemented, adding that North Washington Street is a Boston roadway and details must be undertaken by Boston Police, not the State Police. The two-week update of the project presented by Mass DOT officials is as follows: Scheduled Work: Inspection and testing of tub girder welds; weld repairs. Work Hours: Most work will be done during weekday daytime hours (6:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.) Travel Tips: For everyone using the temporary bridge, please help share the space: walk to the right, walk bikes, and, if walking in a large group, be mindful of motor vehicles coming from both directions, Motorists should take care to pay attention to all signage and proceed carefully through the work zone. Police details, lane markings, temporary barriers, traffic cones, signage, and other traffic control tools will be implemented to create safe work zones. The Tudor Wharf Walkway (which is under the bridge next to the water in Paul Revere Park) will be intermittently closed for safety reasons during construction operations, with alternative access provided via the Water Street underpass. The Boston Harborwalk under the bridge and the eastern/harborside bridge sidewalk will remain closed until it is rebuilt. The contractor is coordinating with the TD Garden and local police to provide awareness and manage traffic impacts during events. The following TD Garden events are scheduled during this look-ahead period: CONCERT: Oct. 21 at 7:30 p.m., BRUINS: Oct. 20 at 7:00 p.m., Oct. 22 at 1:00 p.m., Oct. 25 at 7:00 p.m. and Oct. 27 at 7:00 p.m. CELTICS: Oct. 28 at 7:30 p.m.