The current Kenneth F. Burns bridge was constructed in 1916 by the Massachusetts Highway Commission.
For too many years, the second-largest city in Massachusetts has been maligned for urban decay, crime, even ugliness going and coming. The joke around Worcester was how best to leave it.
That joke has now been turned on its head. The best way to visit and leave Worcester (to and from Shrewsbury) will be over a new, specially designed $89.9 million bridge that will shine like an all-night beacon gateway.
The Kenneth F. Burns Bridge is the first of five mega-projects in Gov. Deval Patrick/Lt. Gov. Tim Murray administration’s Accelerated Bridge Program, which has earmarked federal and state funding of about $3 billion to replace many well-traveled but decaying spans across the Commonwealth over the next decade.
Middlesex Corp., a contractor in the New England region, is the design-build force behind the replacement project. The present decomposing span will have hit the century mark when demolished by 2015.
Named For Great Public Servant
The current concrete deck arch bridge dates to World War I when it was constructed in 1916 by the Massachusets Highway Commission, and has been repaired and reconfigured several times in the past 96 years. The bridge — currently owned by the Massachusets Department of Transportation (MassDOT) — has reached the end of its useful lifespan.
The span currently carries an average of 53,000 vehicles per day. The bridge also carries Rte. 9 over Lake Quinsigamond and connects the city of Worcester with the town of Shrewsbury. According to Michael Verseckes of the Public Affairs Office of MassDOT, the bridge serves as a gateway to local business districts, the major regional medical and biotech hub for the area and offers a view of Lake Quinsigamond.
Verseckes lauded the local man and mentor who officials have chosen to honor in naming this new bridge.
“Kenneth F. Burns served on the Shrewsbury police force for 42 years and was police chief from 1947 until his retirement in 1970. Chief Burns was a champion sculler in his youth and was a successful rowing coach at Shrewsbury High School,” said Verseckes. “He was instrumental in bringing the Olympic crew trials to Lake Quinsigamond in 1932 and 1952, and in making the inter-collegiate Eastern Sprints crew regatta a regular event at the lake for many years.”
According to MassDOT, the bridge was found to be structurally deficient and the traffic operations required an upgrade, as preliminary traffic results indicated it would fail soon.
Three-Year Plan in Phases
Unlike in a traditional project where design firms create a completed design, which is then advertised and awarded to the lowest bidder, the design/build team in this project was chosen based on a best-value analysis using a design/build procurement process.
According to Verseckes, the Middlesex Corp. proved its asset value in this process when it recently completed the Lowell Bridge Bundle Project on Interstate 495 in the Lowell, Mass., area. The $34-million design/build I-495 Lowell Bridge Bundle project fully replaced six major highway bridges on I-495 on the southern edge of the City of Lowell and also is part of Massachusetts’s $3 billion Accelerated Bridge Program.
Between summer 2012 and late 2015, Middlesex Corp. will replace the current Burns Bridge with a new steel deck arch bridge. The new bridge will provide three travel lanes in both directions with exclusive left- and right-turn lanes on the westbound approach into Worcester. It also will include accessible sidewalks and dedicated bicycle lanes on both sides of the bridge. Federal funds will account for 80 percent of the project’s total cost over the next three years.
“This will accommodate projected increases in traffic volumes, improve safety at the intersection of Route 9 and Lake Avenue and remove the need for eastbound motorists to make a U-turn on Lake Avenue North to access destinations on Lake Avenue South,” added Verseckes.
The new replacement bridge will carry traffic over Lake Quinsigamond and MassDOT said this will mean environmental challenges, such as in-water work including driving piles, building piers and abutments.
The start of preparatory utility relocation to facilitate construction was in July 2012. Following that, Middlesex Corp. implemented the following schedule, starting with demolition of the EB sidewalk the week of Aug. 13.
• Summer 2012: Continuing design work, removal of the south sidewalk, trunk telephone line splicing and mobilization of marine operations.
• Fall 2012: Beginning of heavy in-water work including driving piles, building piers and abutments for the new eastbound barrel.
• Spring 2013: Arrival of steel for the eastbound barrel and start of steel erection. Roadwork construction starts.
• Summer 2013: Steel work on the eastbound barrel. Roadway construction on Lake Avenue and Belmont Street including sidewalks and retaining walls.
• Fall 2013: Deck construction on the eastbound barrel and moving of all traffic to the new span.
• Winter 2013: Demolition of the existing Burns Bridge. New fiber optic cables shifted from the old span to the new bridge.
• Spring 2014: Beginning of heavy in-water work including driving piles, building piers and abutments for the new westbound barrel.
• Fall 2014: Arrival of steel for the westbound barrel and start of steel erection.
• Spring 2015: Deck construction for the westbound barrel.
• Summer 2015: Eastbound and westbound lanes will be fully open to traffic.
• Phase 1 Eastbound bridge complete and open to traffic: Dec. 2013
• Phase 2 Westbound bridge complete and open to traffic: Aug. 2015
Upon completion, some 4,300 tons (3,900 t) of structural steel, about 900 tons (816 t) of rebar and 12,000 cu. yds. (9,174 cu m) of concrete will have been used in the new span.
Special Lighting Design
The average driver will be able to see this new bridge from miles away because of a beacon-like lighting system that will give a futuristic appearance to the arches.
“One of the most unique components of this bridge is the architectural LED strip lighting that will illuminate the underside of the arches. There is also LED lighting mounted in the handrails to light the sidewalks,” said Verseckes.
The steel components of the bridge are being fabricated by Casco Bay Steel Structures, Portland, Maine.
“They will be trucked over the road to Worcester, where we have an off site staging area on Lake Quinsigamond that is about a half mile from the bridge,” he added. “The steel pieces will be offloaded onto Middlesex barges where they will be brought via water up to the bridge site. The erection and assembly of the steel will take approximately three months for each of the two phases.”
Beyond the dazzling nighttime light display, the Burns Bridge project will illustrate its own valuable history and educate the public at the same time with vista overlooks.
“There will be eight overlooks on the bridge, each with an interpretive panel. The subjects are: History of the bridges at the crossing; natural history of the lake; Native American history around the lake; the regatta; White City Amusement Park; history of Worcester; history of Shrewsbury; and one dedicated to local veterans,” said Verseckes. “There also will be bronze plaques at either end of the bridge commemorating Kenneth F. Burns.”
The bridge also will have signature gateway elements, including four sail sculptures with seating areas and LED lines of light. The design seeks to create a new bridge that will accommodate all users while minimizing impacts to the intersections or the homes and businesses on either side of the bridge adjacent to the state highway layout line in Worcester and Shrewsbury.
The proposed roadway profile will be raised in order to provide improved vertical under-clearance for recreational users of the lake. Bicycle lanes on the bridge and sidewalks will be provided in both directions. Work also will be undertaken on Lake Avenue to the north and south of Route 9 to improve bicycle and pedestrian accommodations.
Officials Laud the Proposal
Ground was officially broken by Lt. Gov. Tim Murray and various officials earlier this summer.
“The Accelerated Bridge Program is extremely effective at rapidly rebuilding deficient bridges in our cities and towns,” said Murray. “By partnering with state, local and federal officials, we are moving forward to replace the Burns Bridge, a bridge heavily used by commuters traveling in and out of Worcester. In doing so, we are also creating jobs and boosting our local economy.”
U.S. Congressman James McGovern said, “This bridge will be more than a link between Shrewsbury and Worcester, it will serve as a gateway to vital business districts; to a major regional medical and biotech hub; and to one of our region’s great natural resources in Lake Quinsigamond.”
According to the Public Affairs office of MassDOT, since it began in 2008, the Accelerated Bridge Program has created or sustained 15,404 direct construction jobs and approximately 38,000 indirect jobs.
For more information, visit the Project Schedule Report tab on www.massdotprojectkenburnsbridge.info/report.html.