The work to replace the Fore River Bridge on Route 3A has officially begun, but it won’t be finished until 2016, with many motorists and residents of Quincy and Weymouth wondering what to expect over the next few years as the new span is built.
In an effort to address those questions and concerns, state transportation officials are holding an informational meeting on Jan. 15 about the $244 million bridge replacement project. The meeting is open to the public and will be held in Weymouth.
Since 2002, motorists who use Route 3A to travel between Weymouth and Quincy have had to drive over a temporary bridge. Nicknamed the “Erector Set” by locals, it has a steel plate deck system that rattles whenever vehicles pass over it. It will be removed once the replacement bridge is complete.
The new structure will be a steel vertical-lift bridge. It will have two towers and a deck that can be raised and lowered to allow tankers, barges, and other large vessels to pass through the channel.
At the Jan. 15 meeting, state officials and contractors will explain the timeline for construction and what the potential impact will be, said Michael Verseckes, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation. The bridge carries approximately 32,000 vehicles every weekday.
“This is certainly a big undertaking — this route serves a lot of people,” said Verseckes. “We want folks to get familiar with the project, and if they think there’s something we need to know, we want to make sure they know we’re available and listening.”
He said traffic, detours, noise, and dust are among the topics that will be covered at the meeting.
Traffic will not be affected much for the first two years of the project, according to Verseckes. “We’re two years out, at least, from any kind of traffic shift at all,” he said. That will probably start around June 2015, when work crews begin connecting the new bridge to the approach ramps.
Meanwhile, preliminary work is underway, and a groundbreaking ceremony was held Nov. 9. The bridge replacement project is being done by White-Skanska Koch J.V., a joint venture between Skanska-Koch of Cateret, N.J., and J.F. White Contracting Co. of Framingham.
Much of the initial work will take place in the water and along the banks of the river, according to Verseckes. Workers have been grading and compacting on both banks, and preparing the construction site. A temporary trestle is being built that will extend from the banks out to the river, where the tower legs of the new bridge will go.
State Senator Robert L. Hedlund, a Weymouth Republican and avid cyclist, is among the many residents in the area who say they will be following the project closely. Hedlund said he’s looking forward to using the new bridge, which will have bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides. (Bicyclists are supposed to walk across the temporary bridge, but Hedlund admits he pedals along the bridge’s lone sidewalk.)
He said the biggest concern he and his constituents have is the traffic rerouting that will be necessary as the project progresses. “That’s going to be a nightmare,” he said. “It’s inevitable.”
But, despite those concerns, he agrees the project is long overdue.
“In the end, we’re going to have something that will help traffic flow,” said Hedlund. “It’s just something that needs to be done.”
State transportation officials say the new bridge will have a higher clearance — 60 feet versus 55 feet with the existing span — that will help reduce the number of times the bridge has to open for sailboats, which means fewer traffic tie-ups for motorists. It opens, on average, 594 times per year. They also say the new span will have a solid concrete deck, so it will be quieter than the rattling structure there now.
Not everyone is embracing the project. Some neighbors maintain the proposed bridge is too big and expensive, and not easy on the eyes.
“I live in the shadow of the thing,” said Gary Peters, a Weymouth resident and founder of the Fore River Bridge Neighborhood Association.
Peters is not happy with the vertical-lift bridge design. Like a number of other area residents, he preferred the old 1936 bascule bridge that once spanned the Fore River. It had operated like a drawbridge and had a much lower profile.
Peters said he’s also concerned about the cost of the project and the future maintenance costs.
“As an abutter and a taxpayer, I want them to do it right this time,” he said.
Peters wishes the 1936 bridge had been maintained better so it could have been used while a replacement was designed and built. That would have eliminated the need for the existing temporary bridge and all of the design and construction costs that came with it.
“This bridge has been nothing but a disaster. . . . It’s a money hole,” he said.
The Jan. 15 meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. at the McCulloch Building at 182 Green St. in Weymouth.