A new state program has been successful in reducing the backlog of urgently needed repairs to Massachusetts bridges. Innovative construction methods have reduced the amount of time it once took to make repairs.
The Manhan River Bridge in Easthampton is one of the current projects in the state’s 5-year- old $3 billion Accelerated Bridge Program. MassDOT Highway Administrator Frank DePaola said the program prioritizes repairing structurally deficient bridges.
When the program began the state had flagged more than 540 bridges structurally deficient as a result of age, insufficient maintenance, and harsh New England weather.
$1.2 billion has been spent so far on bridge repairs across the state.
The bulk of the funding over the remaining three years of the program will go into five so-called mega projects in the eastern part of the state, including the Longfellow Bridge over the Charles River, the Fore River Bridge in Quincy and the Whittier Bridge in Amesbury.
DePoala said another goal of the Accelerated Bridge Program was to develop innovative construction methods to complete projects on time and on budget with minimal disruption to motorists and pedestrians. The Manhan River Bridge project is the first in western Massachusetts to use precast concrete deck beams.
Before the advent of precast construction materials a bridge like the Manhan would have been repaired one lane at a time and the project would have taken two years to complete. The Manhan bridge closed on June 3 and is now projected to reopen by the end of October.
The $4 million contract for the bridge project imposes financial penalties on the contractor if the bridge is closed for more than 180 days. The contractor, Northern Construction Services of Weymouth, will receive a bonus amounting to $3,000 per day if the job is finished sooner.
The Manhan bridge is part of Route 10 which connects Easthampton and Northampton. About 22,000 vehicles cross it on an average day, according to Patrick Brough, president of the Greater Easthampton Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber published an online newsletter and created a text alert system to report on the bridge construction progress.