Roof panel being installed on the observation level of the control tower. (MBTA photo)
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) announced just before Christmas that its commuter-rail service over the Gloucester Drawbridge on the Rockport Line is expected to be restored by May.
In the meantime, construction is progressing on the $100 million drawbridge replacement project. The bridge carries the rail line over the Annisquam River. Work left to be completed includes removing loose rock from the ledges alongside the MA Rt. 128 bridge tracks and cyclical maintenance operations.
MBTA noted in a press release that the disruption in service has provided an opportunity to accelerate other projects planned for the Rockport Line that would have required service interruptions later in 2022. Several complex projects were launched that could only be accomplished with rail service suspended, and this extended interruption allowed MBTA to complete its work more efficiently.
Those projects include:
- The 100 percent replacement of more than 11,000 treated wood ties with plastic ties containing no preservative chemicals. The distance between Cleveland Street in Gloucester and Poole's Lane in Rockport was completely rebuilt using a new type of tie that does not require preservative chemical. In addition to replacing ties in the area, the rail also was treated to bring it within current neutral temperature standards to prevent track alignment issues in hot weather. The track also was realigned both vertically and horizontally.
- Eleven 150-year-old "stacked stone" box culverts were removed and replaced with concrete pipe restoring water flows, ensuring they are ready for the predicted changes in weather patterns brought about by global warming. A twelfth culvert will be replaced in the early spring prior to the rail service's restoration to complete the culvert that was deemed at risk.
- At Rockport, switches and special track work beyond Poole's Lane were renewed and brought up to current standards for reliable service.
- Both the Gloucester and Rockport stations were deep cleaned and repainted to refresh their appearance and improve the customer experience.
- Between Gloucester Station and the drawbridge, a new interlocking was installed to replace a spring-powered switch that utilized outdated technology. The interlocking allows the train dispatcher in the central dispatching office to control the track used by each train and allows that dispatcher to display signals to control the movement of trains through the area.
- The grade crossing at Maple Street in Gloucester also was replaced.
Other work to be completed includes the critically important effort to remove loose rock from the ledges alongside the tracks by the MA 128 bridge. Regular cyclical maintenance operations also will be scheduled to maximize the remaining time to the greatest benefit.
Shuttle buses will continue to serve the MBTA's Gloucester and Rockport Stations during the bridge closure, and the agency has the capacity to offer additional buses if ridership demand warrants it.
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