EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Haverhill

January 19, 2014

Bridge rehab to begin in spring

Major impact expected for downtown businesses, commuters

HAVERHILL — A $100 million project to rebuild the deteriorated downtown train bridge is expected to begin in the spring and take about three years to complete, according to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

Mayor James Fiorentini said he is thrilled the span is finally going to be repaired, but that the project is going to have a major impact on downtown.

“We are concerned about the impact to our downtown businesses near the train bridge and the impact to commuters and the general public,” Fiorentini said. “We stressed to (MBTA) that we want the downtown parking garage kept open, we want commuter trains to keep running to the extent possible, and we want the minimal impact possible on commuters, the public and local businesses.”

The train bridge, which crosses both the Merrimack River and Washington Street and connects the western end of downtown to the city’s Bradford section, is heavily used by MBTA commuter trains, the Amtrak Downeaster and PanAm freight trains. Because of its deteriorated condition, state transportation officials have been planning for its eventual replacement for several years.

Speed and weight restrictions have been in place for trains crossing the two-track railroad bridge for several years. Passenger trains are limited to 15 mph and freight to 5 mph. Only one freight at a time is allowed on the bridge.

In the recent past, some city councilors have said they fear the bridge is unsafe and could collapse. State officials have said the bridge is monitored regularly and is safe.

MBTA spokesman Joseph Pesaturo said work is expected to begin in April. He said buses will replace train service for a limited number of off-peak train trips.

There will also be six weekends between September 2014 and November of 2016 in which train service will be suspended to accommodate construction activity, Pesaturo said.

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