The Massachusetts Department of Transportation completed work on the Interstate 90 westbound bridge over Woodland Road in Southborough Monday morning — the first of eight bridges on the highway set to be replaced as part of the agency’s ambitious “Acceler-8” construction project, officials said.
The project seeks to “replace or substantially repair” eight bridges on the highway’s Boston/Worcester corridor across eight weekends this summer, the agency said in a statement. Work on the bridges is anticipated to conclude on Aug. 16, and no construction will be done the weekend of July 4 to accommodate highway travel.
The bridges set to be replaced are those over Cordaville, Flanders, and Parkerville Roads. After work on the westbound side of the bridges is complete, a weekend will be dedicated to paving all four replaced bridges before work moves to the eastbound side.
Weekday drivers hopefully “won’t notice” a change in their commutes, said Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver.
“If we do it right ... you won’t notice anything,” he said in an interview. “Hopefully that’s what’s going to happen is, it might be a little smoother in that patch but these are ‘blink and you’ll miss them’ bridges.”
“I’m really hoping their challenge is going to be to figure out actually which bridge we did,” he continued.
But, weekend drivers likely will experience backups if they don’t take an alternate route, Gulliver said. Officials created a median crossover to shift all vehicles to the opposite side of the highway during construction.
“If you’re a weekend driver and you choose to come that way ... you’re going to be stuck in a lot of traffic,” he said. “This past weekend ... it got backed up quite a bit, we had a stretch where it was a two to three-mile backup for a while and you probably spent an extra 15-20 minutes in traffic over this past weekend if you’re coming through that way.”
“These types of projects, you basically are trading a lot of pain upfront for a very short period of time,” Gulliver continued.
The eight bridges are being replaced due to what Gulliver described as structural deficiencies.
“We have to do a fair amount of maintenance on them to keep them in a safe operating condition,” he said.
A “typical bridge job” on bridges of the size of those being replaced currently would take three to four years, Gulliver said. The rapidly accelerated timeline on the “Acceler-8″ project comes as a result of the fact that the bridges lend themselves to a rapid replacement.
“You can’t do these kinds of replacements on every bridge ... the requirement for doing these rapid replacements is that you have to have a relatively short span. In this case, the longest part of the bridge is only 120 feet,” he said. “We use what we call prefabricated bridge units which are integrated beams and decks ... so they can be easily made and dropped in quickly, so that’s a big reason why we chose these ones.”
The project requires triple the amount of manpower as similar projects, Gulliver said.
“It is a very, very intense effort for everybody involved,” he said.