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Major work on Tobin Bridge to start in 2018

The project calls for the Tobin Bridge’s lower deck, which carries northbound lanes, to be repaired. The upper deck will be repaved.David L Ryan/Globe Staff/file

State transportation officials approved a plan Monday to rehabilitate a major stretch of the Tobin Bridge into Chelsea, a project that is expected to cause lane closures and traffic disruptions into 2020.

The $41.6 million project, approved by the board of directors for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, is scheduled to start in April and will take place from spring to fall each of the next three years.

The Tobin Bridge, opened in 1950, carries Route 1 over the Mystic River between Charlestown and Chelsea. The upcoming work will focus on a 1,675-foot stretch where cars approach Chelsea after passing the bridge’s iconic green truss structure, potentially affecting tens of thousands of motorists who cross the bridge each day.


Commuters leaving Boston for the North Shore will have a harder go of it. Because the lower deck, which carries three northbound lanes, is undergoing significant rehabilitation work, one lane will be closed around-the-clock from April to November of 2018, 2019, and 2020, transportation officials said. One of the three lanes will close each year, allowing for the full rehabilitation over three years.

The work on the northbound lanes will involve removing concrete from the bridge, replacing a steel grate below, and refilling the concrete before repaving.

Meanwhile, southbound passengers, who travel on the upper deck, will still see one lane closed each year as well, but only overnight between Sunday and Thursday. That’s because that part of the bridge is undergoing less significant work, with a focus on repaving.

The bridge will be at full capacity during the winter months, because the project involves concrete work that is best accomplished in warmer weather, said Thomas Donald, director of bridge project management for the department of transportation.

“Concrete work is very weather-dependent,” Donald said. “And we don’t want to have any lanes closed on the Tobin Bridge during the winter months, for snow purposes.”


The work will also include repairing and repaving ramps to the bridge from streets in Chelsea, causing road closures and detours in 2018.

The Tobin underwent significant repairs last decade, featuring similar work on other sections of the bridge. That work occurred when the bridge was under the control of the Massachusetts Port Authority, which agreed to transfer control of the toll bridge to the Department of Transportation in 2009. More recent maintenance work was completed in 2014.

Also in 2014, the state completed a project to convert the bridge to an electronic tolling system. That project was a precursor to the state’s broader embrace of all-electronic tolling on the Massachusetts Turnpike.

The new job was awarded to the Framingham-based contractor J.F. White, which led previous Tobin work as well.

Braintree Mayor Joseph Sullivan, who sits on the transportation department board, said he supported the project but has concerns about the contractor. He said the state should “keep a short leash” on J.F. White, citing delays the company has faced on other projects, including work to restore the Longfellow Bridge between Boston and Cambridge.

The latest work also comes amid a series of major bridge repair or replacement projects in Boston, including the ongoing work on the Longfellow Bridge; upcoming work on the North Washington Street Bridge between the North End and Charlestown; and a project to replace the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge over the Massachusetts Turnpike, which saw major work this summer and will be completed in 2018.