HAVERHILL — The state has approved a $24 million contract to begin rebuilding the deteriorated downtown train bridge, a century-old span that some local officials feared would eventually collapse.
Work is expected to begin in April and take about three years to complete, according to the MBTA. City and state officials have said the project will have an impact on commuters and some downtown businesses. It will require occasional suspension of train activity and busing of commuters, the officials said.
The bridge crosses both the Merrimack River and Washington Street and connects the western end of downtown to the city’s Bradford section.
The bridge is heavily used by MBTA commuter trains, the Amtrak Downeaster and PanAm freight trains. It connects the city’s downtown commuter rail station and the Bradford station.
Because of the bridge’s deteriorated condition, state transportation officials have been planning for its 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 train 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.
The winning bidder for the $24 million job is a joint proposal by LM Heavy Civil Construction LLC and Cooperativa Muratori & Cementisti — CMC di Ravenna. The work includes structural repairs to the entire bridge, rehabilitation of the land piers and replacement of the bridge bearings, MBTA spokesman Joseph Pesaturo said.
The contract is the first phase of a two-part project that is expected to cost $100 million, Pesaturo said. He said a second contract will be awarded later for repairs to the substructure for the bridge piers in the river.