Going Up and Down: State, Local Officials at Opening of New Chelsea Street Bridge

U.S. Congressman Michael Capuano addresses the crowd.

Pointing at the massive structure behind him, U.S. Congressman Michael Capuano said the new Chelsea Street Bridge is an example of how federal earmarks work.

“When there are projects like these that create jobs and improve infrastructure, earmarks work and are good,” said Capuano.

Capuano on Monday joined Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Secretary and CEO Richard A. Davey as well as state and city officials to officially cut the ribbon on the $125.3 million project to replace the aging bridge with a state-of-the-art vertical lift structure. The bridge was reopened to vehicular traffic on Saturday.

“The new Chelsea Street Bridge not only helps improve traffic in the area, it also represents increased safety for the vessels navigating the Chelsea Creek,” added Capuano. “The old bridge was narrower, making it a challenge to transport fuel and other supplies to their destinations at Logan Airport and elsewhere. Officials worked hard to minimize traffic disruptions during construction and I thank everyone involved for their efforts. I am very pleased to be here today celebrating the completion of the Chelsea Street Bridge.”

The project was funded to 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.

“I am very pleased that the Chelsea Street Bridge is now open,” said Representative Carlo Basile. “This new, state-of-the-art bridge serves as a vital connection for the people of East Boston to the surrounding communities and its opening will significantly help ease the traffic burdens for our neighborhood.”

The new bridge is the largest permanent lift bridge built in Massachusetts to date.  The project includes a truss-type structure that spans 450 feet and provides 175 feet of vertical clearance when raised. The new bridge and approach roadway provides two lanes of traffic in each direction and two pedestrian sidewalks.

“The Patrick-Murray Administration is truly building a legacy of investment road-by-road and bridge-by-bridge,” said MassDOT Secretary and CEO Richard A. Davey. “I want to thank our Highway Division staff and the contractors for a successful outcome to this important and complex project.”

To accommodate the massive size and tight space constraints in the bridge area, MassDOT contractors J. F. White Contracting Co. of Framingham used an innovative technique of launching the truss across the river.  The launching sequence of the truss bridge across the channel was carefully designed to minimize disruption of the navigation channel below.

The project also addresses safety and the environment, improving longstanding issues caused by the narrow passageway used by oil tankers that resulted in accidents and the potential for oil spills.

Final work continues during May and early June, requiring overnight closures that will not affect weekday commuter traffic.  Additional work will be completed during the day after the mornings commute with at least one lane of traffic open in each direction.

“I can remember as a kid when the bridge was closed during the early 1980s after it was hit by a tanker,” said Senator Anthony Petruccelli. “I believe it was closed longer then and was more of a disruption than the project to replace the bridge. It was a little disruption but the end result is fabulous and will improve the delivery of goods and services and the quality of life for residents in East Boston and Chelsea.”

Petruccelli thanked the project’s community liaison, John Vitagliano, for his work keeping the community informed.

“When I say it was a small disruption it was because of the work of John (Vitagliano) and his ability to keep the community well informed throughout the project,” said Petruccelli.

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