The road ahead – Vitagliano briefs resident about bridge project

John Vitagliano, consultant for the Chelsea Street Bridge project was at last week’s Eagle Hill Civic Association (EHCA) meeting to update members and residents on the progress of the bridge project. Construction is expected to begin in April 2012.

Although there were some concerns over traffic and rerouting of traffic during bridge construction, Vitagliano assured members and residents that the project is on schedule and the current bridge would stay open as long as possible to accommodate traffic in and out of East Boston.

“It’s high time we replace this bridge,” said Vitagliano. “It has been struck by oil tankers in the past and closed costing the state $1 million to fix.”

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 unprecedented economic challenges confronting our Commonwealth have made the mission of government clear – we must secure our common economic future,” said Patrick. “Our Massachusetts Recovery Plan will integrate state, federal and private resources so we can deliver immediate relief and long-term solutions. The Chelsea Street Bridge reconstruction is just one way to create and sustain the jobs and the opportunities that will move our people and our economy forward once again.”

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.

“I am proud to have gotten more than $31 million in earmarks over the years for the Chelsea Street Bridge, a span that is clearly in need of modernization,” said Capuano. “Today’s groundbreaking brings us closer to the day when ships can more safely navigate the Chelsea Creek, reducing the likelihood of a spill while delivering home heating oil and fuel.”

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 new Chelsea Street Bridge is a winning project for everyone involved,” said Mayor Thomas Menino. “It’s good for both the community and the economy. It will improve the infrastructure on a major roadway and ease traffic concerns for the residents of East Boston, while strengthening access and safety for the numerous ships that use this waterway.”

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.

The state’s contractor on the project is J.F. White Contracting Co. of Framingham. The projected completion date is April 2012. For additional information, please visit and

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