EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 31, 2008

Trouble with city's main bridge; State says Basiliere needs repairs, but not replacement

By Mike LaBella , Staff Writer

HAVERHILL - They say trouble comes in threes. That saying fits when talking about three bridges that span the Merrimack River in Haverhill.

First it was Comeau Bridge, which was closed in 2002 due to structural problems and was replaced by a new bridge that opened in September, linking the west end of downtown with Bradford.

Now the Groveland Bridge and Basiliere Bridge are being scrutinized. Both aging bridges are considered "structurally deficient" by MassHighway.

The state plans to replace Groveland Bridge and repair Basiliere Bridge - which yesterday saw one lane closed to traffic after a section of concrete lifted at the seam where the road meets the concrete. Andrew Herlihy, chief of staff for Mayor James Fiorentini, said city Highway Department workers used a new cold patch product to repair the surface yesterday.

"One lane had to be closed for a short time while repairs could be made," Herlihy said.

Basiliere Bridge is one of the most heavily traveled bridges in the area. It is crossed by an average of 28,000 to 30,000 vehicles per day, according to transportation officials.

MassHighway spokesman Adam Hurtubise said the bridge is not unsafe, but it is nearing the end of its useful life.

"It is scheduled to be repaired, rather than be replaced," he said.

Tony Komornick, transportation program manager for the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission, said if Basiliere Bridge were in danger of falling, the state would close it.

"Although it may be deficient, the bridge is not unsafe to cross," Komornick said.

City Councilor David Hall said the bridge has seen numerous repairs over the years, including resurfacing of the approaches at the Haverhill and Bradford sides.

"The approaches seem to be the big problem," Hall said. "There's no way they can replace the bridge. But they can repair it."

Komornick said Basiliere Bridge is nowhere near as structurally unsound as the Groveland Bridge, which was built in the early 1950s as a replacement for an old bridge linking Groveland and Haverhill. Komornick said the Groveland Bridge received a very poor rating and that the state is looking to replace it with a new bridge once funding becomes available.

Komornick emphasized the need for routine maintenance of bridges, especially bridges like Basiliere.

"Although it's not at the point where more serious problems are about to become apparent, you have to keep up with maintenance," he said.


A tale of three bridges

Comeau Bridge: Declared unsafe and closed in 2002, replaced by a new bridge that opened September 2007

Basiliere Bridge: Declared "structurally deficient" by state, scheduled to be repaired

Groveland Bridge: Also declared "structurally deficient," scheduled to be replaced