Worcester Commuters Rejoice as Long-Awaited, Much-Needed Interchange Reconstruction Approaches Finis

Fri August 10, 2007 - Northeast Edition
James A. Merolla



The long national (well, regional) nightmare for motorists will end in 2007 when a 12-year Interstate reconstruction project is finally finished.

Drivers coming in and out of Worcester from all points over the past decade may want to shout, “Hallelujah!” Anyone who has been behind the wheel of their car as they were forced to slow down to a crawl into single lanes will rejoice as projects at Brosnihan and Hurley squares are completed over the next few months.

Overall, the $290 million Route 146/MassPike Interchange project relocated and widened about 4 mi. (6.4 km) of Route 146 from Route 122A in Millbury to I-290 in Worcester.

Construction was started in 1995 and completion of the final road and bridge pieces is expected by December. It has been one of the largest and most visible roadway projects in Massachusetts, along with the Central Artery/Ted Williams Tunnel and Route 3 North projects.

Since 1995, the project was divided into 10 major construction segments and several smaller landscaping and railroad agreement contracts. Of the major segments, nine were funded and constructed by the Massachusetts Highway Department. One segment was funded and constructed by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.

Over that time period, the Route 146 project upgraded the existing two-lane, unlimited access roadway segment to a four-lane, divided, limited access highway. It also involved the reconstruction of a segment of Route 20, grade separation of local streets and Route 146 at Hurley and Kane Squares, and completion of the newly constructed interchange connecting the MassPike to Route 146 and Route 20.

A bikeway also was constructed using local streets on the northern segment of the project and running along the Blackstone River on an independent path along the southern segment of the project. The project entailed the acquisition of approximately 105 houses and 56 business properties. It included a gateway and parkway, and “water quality enhancement areas,” or small constructed wetlands that capture pollutants from highway runoff before they can reach the Blackstone River, which is the Millbury water supply.

The Massachusetts Highway Department has worked closely with Worcester and Millbury to provide amenities to the project by including landscaping, a canoe launch, bicycle paths and recreational access.

There are many sections of the project, but the two biggest and most critical are known as Brosnihan and Hurley squares.

Brosnihan Square

(I-290 Interchange)

The Brosnihan Square project broke ground on Dec. 14, 2004, and will be functionally completed by the end of 2007. The project will complete the corridor and tie the new Route 146 into I-290 with a reconstructed interchange.

The work includes the construction of 1 mi. (1.6 km) of Route 146, 1.3 mi. (2 km) of I-290 and 1.1 mi. (1.7 km) of local roads. The work also includes five bridges, retaining walls, traffic signals, lighting and extensive landscaping. It is more than half done. J.F. White Construction Company was chosen as contractor after its bid of $54 million, the lowest bid for the job, was accepted.

Brosnihan Square is slightly ahead of schedule, according to Michael Hartnett, district construction engineer of the Worcester district of Mass DOT. The construction contract has unlimited work hours available and the work has not had any insurmountable delays.

“The finished product is completely new. It bears very little resemblance to what was out there before. The bridge work is all part of this — primarily for the purposes of carrying cross traffic across the new highway, or carrying the new highway over the local roadways and/or rivers,” said Hartnett.

Prior to construction, this section of Route 146 (within Worcester and Millbury) consisted of a full-access roadway that had one travel lane in each direction. There were numerous areas where traffic entering or crossing the roadway would cause delays to through traffic.

Traffic delays were excessive and there were numerous accidents along this stretch of the corridor. Congestion issues also prevented vehicles from crossing from one side to the other during peak traffic times.

“The connection to I-290 was basically one big rotary that allowed local traffic to mix with the highway traffic,” said Hartnett. “This added to the delays as this area was also a main route for local traffic to cross from one side of I-290 to the other.”

The new Route 146 is a limited access divided highway with two through lanes in each direction. The local roadways that crossed Route 146 were connected through grade-separated interchanges, thereby eliminating any traffic conflicts. At I-290, the finished product will have high-speed connections between I-290 and Route 146. Connections to local areas are accomplished through ramp systems at all necessary locations along this corridor.

“The area has already seen a positive impact with economic development opportunities,” added Hartnett. In Millbury, a major shopping center has opened at the Route 12A Interchange. In Worcester, a shopping plaza is planned for the Providence Street/McKeon Road Interchange. Also, traffic moving between Providence and Worcester now has a continuous highway all the way to the connection with I-290.

At Brosnihan Square, approximately 220,000 cu. yds. (168,202 cu m) of earth, rock and trenches were excavated, and about 200,000 cu. yds. (152,911 cu m) of ordinary fill, special borrow and gravel borrow was put into the ground. There was approximately 5,000 cu. yds. (3,823 cu m) and 35,000 tons (31,751 t) of hot mix asphalt pavement used.

Under J.F. White contractors, subcontractors who worked on the project included Northern Land Clearing, Inc., Wolsey Associates Inc., Rock Crushers Corp., Pioneer Supply Corporation, J.A.J. Tile Company Inc., New England Bridge Products, Chapman Waterproofing Co., P. J. Keating Co., Aztec Steel, Inc., Atlantic Bridge & Engineering Inc., Surianello General Concrete and Dagle Electrical Construction Corp.

Hurley Square, Nearby

The Hurley Square project involves the reconstruction of the existing Hurley Square to create a new grade separated interchange on Route 146 as part of the ongoing Route 146 corridor project. It began in January 2004 and is about 85 percent complete and scheduled to be completed this summer.

The work consists of construction on new alignment of approximately 0.83 mi. (1.3 km) of Route 146 — between Providence Street and a point just south of the I-290/Route 146 interchange — as a controlled access state highway and ramps, reconstruction of 0.31 mi. (.49 km) of Millbury Street, construction of a new street (the McKeon Road Extension), construction of a new access road (Dryden Access Road), and construction of 0.32 mi. (.51 km) of the Millbrook Conduit Extension.

Major demolition was involved, including a portion of the Rome Building, demolition of Starr Scrap Building, construction of related access/egress drive and parking lots, partial demolition of the former Exide Building at 40A Ballard St., and various bridge demolitions.

The bid price, also by J.F. White Construction Co., was $37 million. The work also includes building five new highway bridges including a pedestrian bridge over Route 146, new retaining walls, excavation and embankment work, paving, concrete barriers and guardrails, traffic signals at four intersections, highway lighting, drainage and utility relocation and improvements. This is being followed with extensive landscaping and environmental mitigation including, but not limited to, wetlands replication, disposal of contaminated soils, and disposal and/or treatment of contaminated groundwater.

Approximately130,000 cu. yds. (99,392 cu m) of earth, rock and trench was excavated, and about 120,000 cu. yds. (91,746 cu m) of ordinary fill, special borrow and gravel borrow was put down, as well as approximately 5,000 cu. yds. of concrete and 18,000 tons (16,329 t) of hot mix asphalt pavement.

Hurley Square will finish about one year behind the original schedule. This is due primarily to numerous utility relocations that were placed underground by Verizon and NStar, and took much longer than expected.

This relocation work is completed by the utilities, so the contractors had to wait for them to finish before the contract work could be finished.

Subcontractors who worked on Hurley Square included Northern Land Clearing Inc., Traffic Systems Co., McConnell Enterprises Inc., NES Traffic Safety LP, Aggregate Industries, Northeast, Pioneer Supply Corporation, Delucca Fence Co. Inc., M.O.N. Landscaping Inc., J.A.J. Tile Company Inc., M & P Jacking Corporation, BATG Environmental Inc., Chapman Waterproofing Co., Vynorus Piledriving Inc., Wildeca Corp., New England Bridge Products, Saugus Construction Corp., Regis Stell Corporation, Aetna Bridge Co., Manuel R. Pavao Contractor Inc., McCoy Fence Inc., and Hub Foundation Co.