In November 2014, crews from MIG Corporation Inc. began work on the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s $13.4 million I-290/Belmont Street Bridge Project in Worcester. The project has a contract completion date in summer of 2017.
The Belmont Street Bridge is east of Lincoln Square and the city’s downtown. The 135-ft. (41 m) long, four-lane bridge — two eastbound, two westbound lanes and two sidewalks — is part of an interchange with I-290.
The work site is large, covering a quarter mi. of Belmont Street around the bridge and the span itself. Planning for the project began in 2008 and several design public meetings were held between October 2012 and February 2015.
“The existing structure has reached the end of its useful lifespan,” stated the project’s Web page. “MassDOT issued the construction Notice to Proceed (NTP) on October 15, 2014.”
The 135-ft. bridge, built in 1958, carries an average daily traffic of 31,000 vehicles per day.
MassDOT provided a history of the bridge that is being replaced.
“The existing bridge was originally constructed in 1958 and reconstructed in 1991,” stated a reply from MassDOT engineers to CEG questions. “The bridge overall condition is poor and had been classified as a structurally deficient bridge. The primary deficiencies with the existing bridge are the poor condition of the bridge deck, the damage to the existing steel beams due to vehicular collisions caused by substandard vertical clearance under the bridge and deterioration of the center pier due to the open bridge deck joint over the pier.
“The west bridge sidewalk was closed by MassDOT in 2009 due to poor condition of supporting beams,” added the engineers. “MassDOT performs routine inspection of the bridge every 24 months,” he said. “In addition, the bridge beams are inspected every six months due to the poor condition of several of the beams which have sustained repeated damage from vehicular impact of trucks passing under the bridge. MassDOT has also performed repairs to the bridge deck on an as needed basis, painted the steel beams (most recently in 1991) and replaced the original bridge railing in 1973.”
Also, the bridge was considered functionally obsolete due to high traffic volume creating a need for a wider structure that can accommodate traffic movements on the bridge and adjacent ramps.
The replacement bridge will be a two-span, continuous steel beam structure.
“The center pier is being replaced while the existing abutments are being reused since they are in satisfactory condition,” stated the engineers. “The new bridge will be raised to increase the vertical clearance under the bridge to 16 ft. (4.8 m), satisfying FHWA standards. The new bridge deck will be a jointless system helping to prevent water and road salts from damaging the supporting bridge abutments and pier.
“The new bridge will have a minimum 75 year design life expectancy,” they added. “The use of continuous spans with a jointless bridge deck is a common practice with many MassDOT bridge replacements which can greatly extend the service life of new structures and reduce required maintenance.”
The new bridge will be wider than the existing bridge in order to provide a left-turn lane for Belmont Street westbound traffic entering I-290 westbound. All of the bridge widening is occurring at the south side of the existing bridge footprint.
“The main challenges of this project are the site constraints, the numerous utilities that are carried by the bridge structure and the significant vehicular and pedestrian traffic volumes that utilize the bridge,” stated the engineers. “The steel beam structure type was selected primarily because it is the shallowest structure allowing maximum vertical clearance under the bridge and it can best accommodate the numerous utilities carried by the bridge, which includes a gas line, two water lines, electrical conduits, telephone conduits and lighting/traffic signal conduits.
“Phasing the work to minimize the impact on traffic during construction was an important goal for the design,” they added. “The bridge is being constructed in phases to allow lanes to remain open to accommodate traffic in both directions at all times. Work that has major impact on I-290 is being performed during off-peak hours.”
All concrete being used on this project conforms to MassDOT’s standard specifications. MassDOT’s research and materials section approves all concrete design mixes for all approved concrete producers in the area used by MassDOT, and it requires that all concrete mixes be designed and formulated to meet design strengths and to perform to its stringent durability testing requirements.
MassDOT’s bridge section, headquartered in Boston, establishes the design scope of work and reviews and approves all design submissions performed by consultants. The state bridge engineer and the MassDOT chief engineer approve issued construction plans.
“MassDOT also has local bridge sections at each district office,” stated the engineers. “This project is located in MassDOT district 3 headquartered in Worcester. The district 3 bridge section also plays a key role in project management and design reviews. Once a bridge design reaches the 75 percent design level, a detailed anticipated construction schedule is prepared in order to determine the anticipated duration for construction. These schedules are reviewed by MassDOT and refined before the final construction contract duration is set and the project is advertised for construction bids.”
During the winter of 2014-2015, crews placed construction signage; removed the north sidewalk; relocated utilities, gas mains, National Grid electrical conduits, AT&T communication cable, and highway lighting and traffic signal conduits; and installed a temporary pedestrian bridge to detour pedestrians around the work site.
“In November of 2015, the first in a series of two temporary traffic configurations, featuring a single westbound, and two eastbound lanes over the Belmont Street Bridge, will be implemented,” stated the Web page. “At present, the second of these phases is scheduled for June 2016. It is anticipated that full beneficial use of the rehabilitated bridge will be achieved by December 2016.
The project will fully replace the bridge’s road deck, steel superstructure and center pier to ensure that the structure can continue to safely and efficiently carry traffic.
“The completed bridge will be wider than the existing structure allowing for the incorporation of a left-turn lane for vehicles entering I-290 westbound from Belmont Street westbound,” stated the Web page, “[and] improve traffic flow and reduce delays to through traffic caused by turning vehicles. In addition to the left-turn lane, the bridge’s profile will consist of two eastbound lanes, two westbound lanes, and a 4-foot bicycle accommodating shoulder on either side of the structure. The project also includes upgrades to pedestrian signal equipment, crosswalks, and accessibility ramps at the intersections abutting the bridge and the intersection of Belmont Street/Edward Street. All upgrades will meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
To further minimize the impact on the public, a temporary pedestrian bridge — 7-ft. (2 m) wide — was opened in June 2015, to improve pedestrian safety.
“This footbridge, which stemmed from a suggestion made by a resident at a public information meeting, will allow pedestrians to safely traverse I-290 while avoiding work zones associated with the bridge rehabilitation,” stated the Web page. “[Its] opening also marks the temporary closing of the sidewalks on the Belmont Street Bridge for reconstruction. Crosswalks have been provided to help those traveling on the southern side of Belmont Street access the footbridge.”
The bridge accommodates four lanes of north-south traffic, including two shoulders. “Managing vehicular, public transit, and pedestrian traffic on Belmont Street during construction is essential to the successful completion of the bridge replacement project,” stated the Web page. “This is particularly important given the local connections made by Belmont Street to downtown Worcester, area hospitals and schools and the Worcester Regional Airport.”
Because of concerns with traffic impacts, MassDOT included an incentive/disincentive clause to ensure a timely completion of the contract.
In the spring of 2012, MassDOT’s design team put forward a traffic plan that called for: 1) the existing bridge to maintain two lanes of travel for the eastbound direction and the westbound direction to be reduced to one lane of travel throughout the construction duration; 2) the I-290 eastbound to Route 9 off ramp be reduced to two lanes — all existing movements, left, through and right be allowed during construction; 3) the Belmont Street westbound left-turn onto I-290 westbound be prohibited during construction to keep Belmont Street traffic flowing, with alternate routes to I-290 westbound (Shrewsbury Street to Summer Street, Major Taylor Boulevard to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to East Central Street); 4) a temporary footbridge be installed just north of the existing bridge to provide pedestrians with a safe path around the construction site; and 5) temporary lane shifts on I-290 both east and westbound to accommodate the proposed center pier replacement.
“The lane restrictions were scheduled to be implemented on Belmont Street in November,” stated the engineers. “The replacement of the pier and the widening of the existing abutments are occurring at this time. All of this work was designed such that it could be done without impacting Belmont Street traffic. The demolition of the bridge superstructure will be performed at night. Lane restrictions and short-term closures of I-290 may be necessary based on the contractor’s selected methods of demolition.”
To help inform the public on the work and traffic management, MassDOT is maintaining an email burst database for this project and it is issuing regular three-week look-ahead emails throughout the duration of the job.
MIG crews are dealing with the challenges in stride.
“The project provides no laydown for any materials on Route 9 [Belmont Street], so most of the materials had to be brought in or removed daily,” said a company representative. “MIG’s yard is 20 minutes away, so we are able to stage equipment and material from there. Mass General Hospital is adjacent to the bridge, so access for emergency vehicles needs to be maintained at all times.”
The majority of the work on I-290 is performed at night to maintain traffic.
“Nightly traffic closures that reduce the highway from three lanes to one are implemented after traffic tapers off in the evening and reopened by 5:00 a.m.,” said the representative. “The project has no winter shutdown and work will continue year round. The bridge widening is utilizing precast footings, new abutments, wing walls and new caps installed on the existing abutment. This was the specified method in lieu of the traditional cast in place concrete. Central Mass Crane has provided the large hydraulic cranes for setting the precast.
The project is 38 percent complete.
“The major traffic switch on Belmont Street was just completed and the project is on track for beneficial occupancy in January 2017 with final completion in June 2017,” said the representative. “About 3,000 cubic yards of earth excavation has been removed from the site, along with 1,000 cubic yards of concrete demolition that was sent to a recycling facility. MIG uses both rubber tired and track excavators sized for the work in urban environment.”
There are several subcontractors working on the project — Algar Construction Corp. is performing the cast-in-place concrete work, Cosco Fencing and Guardrail is installing new guardrail and bridge rail, and Vigil Electric Co. Inc. is providing all electrical and signal work. Grinding and paving of I-290 and Belmont Street will be by Aggregate Industries.
Mechanics are brought in as needed to service the equipment and vehicles. Normal maintenance is performed on regular intervals. If something breaks, it is rapidly repaired as required. With many projects ongoing, equipment is shifted at times to other work sites to help meet deadlines and deal with unexpected equipment breakdowns.
MIG has a large fleet and has not purchased or rented any equipment for the project. Its equipment manager and mechanical staff, via many years of experience, ensure that equipment and vehicles are in good working order upon arrival at a work site and that throughout a job, routine maintenance is performed and that nothing is left to chance.
“No specific lessons were brought to this project,” said the representative. “It is a typical urban bridge project and everyone recognizes that it is a team effort.”
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