HAVERHILL — If your ride over the Groveland Bridge was slow this week, don't worry about the problem continuing.

The contractor, NEL Corp. of Georgetown, is expected to finish work there today, said Adam Hurtubise, spokesman for the state Office of Transportation.

"This is routine maintenance being performed by NEL Corp. under one of our drawbridge maintenance contracts," Hurtubise said.

Specifically, the work consists of welding some of the open grates on the bridge, which has served as the only road connection between Groveland and Haverhill over the Merrimack River for about a century.

NEL confined its work to 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., each day this week, in order to cause as little disruption as possible to traffic. While the NEL crew was working, one lane was kept open, with Groveland police officers directing traffic.

"It's an inconvenience, but the bridge work has to be done," said Groveland police Chief Robert Kirmelewicz.

The state is working to maintain the well-traveled span until it can build a new Groveland Bridge farther downriver.

The bridge, officially known as the Congressman William H. Bates Bridge, has been slated for replacement for years by the state Highway Department. Construction of the new Groveland Bridge is expected to begin in late summer or early fall, state transportation officials have said.

It will probably take two to three years to build the bridge, said Anthony Komornick, transportation project manager for the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission. It will be built a few yards downriver from the present span.

The cost of the new bridge is estimated at $68 million, with the Federal Highway Administration paying 80 percent of that total and MassHighway covering the rest.

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