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Starts & Stops

Neponset River Bridge backups raise motorists’ hackles

Construction has snarled traffic on the Neponset River Bridge, which links Quincy to Boston.

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Construction has snarled traffic on the Neponset River Bridge, which links Quincy to Boston.

Bill Geary of Quincy wrote to ask about backups around the Neponset River Bridge ­reconstruction. He’s not the ­only one wondering. Those stuck in recent weeks trying to get to Boston from the South Shore have fumed on Twitter, Craigslist’s “rants and raves” section, and blogs such as ­Neponset River Bridge Dig , which tracks the progress of what some locals dub “one of the biggest traffic headaches since Boston’s ‘Big Dig.’ ”

The bridge carries 61,000 to 71,000 weekday vehicles — for perspective, that’s about three times the volume on the ­Longfellow Bridge — on Route 3A between Quincy and ­Boston. On the Boston side, it meets Neponset Circle and feeds the Southeast Expressway, also known in that stretch as Interstate 93, US Route 1, and state Route 3.

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The bridge was built in 1970. From 2006 to 2009, the crumbling infrastructure on the underside was rebuilt, at a cost of $20 million.

The current project, awarded as a $34 million contract to J.F. White three years ago, involves replacing or repairing nearly everything on the top side, including the expansion joints, deck, median, lighting, and sidewalks, work that requires disrupting traffic and closing some lanes on the span and on the approaches.

Earlier this year, the state reduced approach traffic on Quincy Shore Drive from three lanes to one, squeezing the roadway with orange barrels for more than half a mile before the bridge. That has caused headaches for motorists, especially during foul weather, backing up traffic to the Squantum peninsula, where Geary lives, and tying up local roads. This month, conditions have worsened, with gridlock sometimes bringing traffic to a halt.

That prompted Geary to write. No ordinary reader, he ran the former Metropolitan District Commission from 1983 to 1989, overseeing a number of bridge projects. So he empathized with the challenges and gave high marks to MassDOT, until now.

“It’s been gnawing at me,” said Geary, calling the configuration an obstacle course that could have been avoided by making the merge less drastic and placing it closer to the bridge.

MassDOT spokeswoman Sara Lavoie, asking for patience from drivers, said it was done in the interest of safety at the construction site.

She also said that traffic has worsened this month, perhaps because of seasonal changes or drivers tiring of detours.

But Lavoie said all Boston-bound traffic restrictions should be lifted by Friday and all restrictions in both directions should be gone by the third week of October.

The project should be complete by March, five months ahead of schedule, she said.

MBTA thanks acting GM

Moments before voting to name ­Beverly A. Scott the new general manager of the MBTA, Secretary of Transportation Richard A. Davey and other members of the state transportation board paused to thank the MBTA’s chief financial officer, Jonathan R. Davis, for his service as acting general manager.

Appointed last September after Davey became the state’s transportation chief, Davis has steered the T for an unusually long time as interim leader and will remain on the job until Scott’s expected starting date, on or around Dec. 15. That’s twice as long as the last acting general manager served in 2009 and ’10.

More than that, Davis was the face of the organization through months of difficult public hearings and presided over the fare increases that took effect July 1, helping to close the latest budget deficit for the cash-strapped transportation authority.

“He held a steady ship when this organization needed a steady ship,” board member Janice Loux said. “That doesn’t happen by accident.”

Eric Moskowitz can be reached at emoskowitz@
globe. com
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