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STARTS & STOPS

Demolition underway in replacement of key North Shore drawbridge

The new Belden Bly Bridge between Lynn and Saugus has been long-anticipated as motorists have relied for years on a temporary replacement.

The Belden Bly Bridge linking Saugus and Lynn is being rebuilt. A temporary bridge (in the background with vertical beams used for a drawbridge) that is already eight years old is still accessible, but right next to it is the old bridge, which is being torn down presently and will be rebuilt as a more modern structure.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

The state transportation department has begun to demolish the century-old Belden Bly Bridge, a key span on the North Shore, moving forward with a long-awaited replacement after relying for years on a single-lane stand-in.

Formerly known as the Fox Hill Bridge, the Bly Bridge links Saugus and Lynn by carrying Route 107 over the Saugus River. The aging drawbridge was closed in 2013, when the state opened a narrow, curving structure beside it.

More than seven years later, the state is now tearing apart the original bridge as it prepares to build its permanent replacement over the next five years. Although the project won’t fully wrap up until 2026, traffic will shift to the new bridge in late 2024. That’s when the temporary bridge, which itself took three years to build, will close.

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“I moved to the North Shore 10 years ago, and have no recollection of that bridge being in any state other than under construction,” said Colin Codner, executive director of the Greater Lynn Chamber of Commerce. “It’s nice, but at this stage it’s a little like, ‘Oh, thanks, you’re going to finish the bridge that broke years ago.’ ... We’re grateful that they’re moving forward.”

In November, the state hired Salisbury-based SPS New England for the $103 million project. Demolition began in January, using excavators placed on barges in the river.

When it’s complete, the new permanent bridge will include two lanes in each direction, as well as bike lanes and sidewalks. The project will also rebuild the approach roads on both sides.

The extended use of a temporary bridge is not unique to this project. On the South Shore, the state used a temporary structure in place of the Fore River Bridge between Quincy and Weymouth for about 14 years before opening the permanent bridge in 2017.

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On the North Shore, replacement of the Bly Bridge has been in the works since as early as 2008, but even then officials warned it was going to take a while. “It’s pretty complex because it’s a drawbridge,” a state spokesman told the Daily Item of Lynn at the time.

Kristen Pennucci, a state transportation department spokeswoman, said the temporary bridge has “allowed time for the new replacement project to be fully designed, permitted and funded,” as well as “continued access for vehicles and marine traffic while the new permanent bridge is installed.”