Our side of the story – Construction moves to the Eastie side of the bridge

Construction on the new Chelsea Street Bridge has moved to the East Boston side of the Chelsea Creek.

At an Eagle Hill Civic Association meeting last Wednesday, the bridge’s project consultant John Vitagliano briefed residents on what they should expect over the next few weeks.

For one, the bridge is only scheduled for a single one night closure from 8 p.m. through 5 a.m. this Thursday, May 6th, into Friday, May 7. However, there is a possibility of nighttime closures on Sunday, May 9, Monday, May 10 and Tuesday, May 11 from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Watch for sign postings.

Vitagliano added that during the Eastie construction phase motorist and residents alike will notice the huge 200 ft. trusses being erected on Chelsea Street side of the project.

“The initial structures on the East Boston side are already there and will soon duplicate the Chelsea structures,” he said.

The new bridge being built to replace the aging drawbridge is still on track and on budget according to Vitagliano.

Visible from dozens of points throughout Eastie, the set of steel trusses that will hold the bridge are done on the Chelsea side. Once complete the bridge will be a impressive 200 ft. structure that will tower over the Chelsea Creek.

“So far so good,” said Vitagliano. “The nighttime closures have been extremely successful with very little impact on local motorists and the communities.”

The weekend closures have allowed the construction team to shorten the construction phase by over a month.

The purpose of this four month construction phase is to provide for the erection of the four large vertical support towers of the new bridge. They are about 200 ft. high and have been shipped up by barge from Florida.

The 73-year-old structurally-deficient Chelsea Street Bridge will be replaced with a new state-of-the-art drawbridge.

A few years ago, U.S. Congressman Michael Capuano was able to secure funding for the project in the federal transportation bond bill. In the last two weeks, the federal government granted the state the authority to spend $437.9 million on transportation projects through federal highway funds, with $153.2 million of that funding committed to “shovel-ready” projects.

Last year, the Patrick Administration put the first eight recovery projects out to bid, dedicating an estimated total of approximately $30 million for infrastructure improvements in every region of the state.

The Chelsea Street Bridge was one of these projects.

The Chelsea Street Bridge project involves the replacement with a truss-type structure that spans 450 feet and will provide 175 feet of vertical clearance when raised. The new bridge and approach roadway match the footprint of the existing bridge and will provide for four lanes of traffic (two in each direction) and two pedestrian sidewalks. Approach roadways will be reconstructed to meet existing local streets and a complete warning signal and gate system is included in the project.

The project will address long-standing issues caused by the narrow passageway used by oil tankers that resulted in accidents. Since 1972, there have been 133 incidents in which ships, tugs or barges have struck the bridge. The new bridge has an environmental as well as a safety component, as the reduced potential for collisions will diminish the threat of oil spills. In June 2000, a tanker collision spilled 50,000 gallons of fuel oil, closing the waterway and delaying aviation fuel deliveries for three days.

The warning gate and bridge traffic signal operations will be coordinated with the Central Avenue/Marginal Street/Eastern Avenue intersection in Chelsea to control traffic flow during bridge openings.

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