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Dedham/Westwood

Long-stalled Route 109 bridge project set to resume soon

As frustration mounts among residents and motorists affected by the delay, state officials said a more than year-long interruption to a bridge project on the Westwood-Dedham line will soon come to an end.

Michael Verseckes, a state Department of Transportation spokesman, said that work on the project to replace the Route 109 bridges over Route 128 in both directions will resume by the end of this month.

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“The utility company will begin relocating the power lines above the bridge, and subsequent to that we can begin replacing the bridge beams on Route 109 over the 128 northbound bridge and begin constructing the abutment on Route 109 southbound,” Verseckes said.

The project began in the late winter of 2010, but work was abruptly halted in early 2012.

Area residents and officials complain that the result has been a prolonged period in which motorists have been subjected to unsafe conditions and delays, with traffic confined to one lane in each direction instead of the usual two. Adding to their frustration is what they contend has been a lack of communication from the state about the delay.

“This is the single largest issue I’m hearing from people in town on,” said Nancy Hyde, chairwoman of the Westwood Board of Selectmen. “People don’t understand what is going on. We’d like to know but also we’d like to see some action start happening. . . . Nothing has been happening.”

The bridge reconstruction is part of the state’s ongoing Add-A-Lane project, a multi-year effort to add a fourth lane to both sides of Route 128 from Route 24 in Randolph to Route 9 in Wellesley. One feature of the project is the rebuilding or replacing of about two dozen bridges.

‘This is the single largest issue I’m hearing from people in town on. People don’t understand what is going on. We’d like to know but also we’d like to see some action start happening. . . . Nothing has been happening.’

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The Route 109 bridges required replacement to accommodate the additional width of Route 128 and because the vertical clearance of the two bridges needed to be raised for larger trucks, Verseckes said. He said the bridges, though not structurally deficient, were also aging.

Work on the Route 109 bridges was halted when contractors determined that the underground bedrock on the southbound side of Route 128 was cracked and unsuitable to sustain the load of the bridge, Verseckes said. Due to the bedrock problem, both the bridge project and the planned relocation of utility lines by NStar had to be redesigned, and during that time, contracting crews shifted to other areas.

Verseckes said that the bridge project has been redesigned so that the bridge abutments will “run deeper in the ground and the footing will be larger than the original design.” The utility poles will also be fitted at a lower elevation under the ground.

Bruce Davis, who lives in Westwood and often drives over the bridge, said in an e-mail that since the Globe first reported on the project delay in December, “there has just been nothing going on at the project that anyone I know is aware of.

“There is a lot of frustration,” Davis said of the motorists who have been forced to navigate the narrow roadway over the bridge, with no end in sight to the inconvenience. He noted that Route 109 is a “major linking artery for commuters from Westwood, Medfield, Millis, Medway, and other towns.”

Westwood Town Administrator Michael Jaillet said by e-mail that the town “has been concerned with the slow progress of the bridge but has not really been brought into the flow of information loop to fully understand the problem.”

Jaillet said the town is concerned that “safety is compromised by the narrowing of the travel lane to one in each direction, and we have been told that from time to time motorists actually get confused and have been known to travel in the wrong lane.’’

He said the “bottleneck design of these temporary construction lanes” has also resulted in traffic congestion in peak hours.

Jaillet said the town also worries that “delays to this project will likely delay the full implementation of the Add-A-Lane project, which is important to the regional economic competitiveness with other regions.”

“We apologize for this inconvenience,” Verseckes said. “If neighbors or residents in town are accustomed to seeing work going on and it stops, certainly that will prompt some questions.”

He said that despite the delay, the state remains committed to its deadline of restoring two lanes of traffic on the new bridges by the end of 2014 and of fully completing the project by June 2015. He said that would be accomplished by revising the sequencing of work.

“We certainly apologize for the apparent lack of work and we could do a better job of communicating any kind of issues that may arise during construction.”

Dedham Town Administrator William Keegan said his town has also been concerned about the delay, though the town is less affected by the project. He said the town was encouraged, however, by reports it had heard from the state that the project was set to get underway again.

“It’s obviously an improvement that needs to get done and we want to see it done as soon as possible,” he said.

Hyde said that the town had not been informed that the work was to resume, but is hopeful that is the case.

“I really want to see this get going, but we also really need better communication,” Hyde said.

“Even if the state starts tomorrow, we need better communication about what is going on.”

John Laidler can be reached at laidler@globe.com.
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