By Mac Cerullo
---- — AMESBURY — A little more than six months after the Hines Bridge finally reopened following a 21-month reconstruction effort, additional work has begun to protect the bridge from future collisions like the one that led to its closure in the first place.
Work began recently on a $1.8 million state project to repair the fender system underneath the Hines Bridge, which was badly deteriorated and in need of replacing. Specifically, work is being focused on the westerly side of the bridge’s center pier, according to state Department of Transportation spokesman Mike Verseckes.
The bridge’s fender system is essentially a system of buffers that protects the bridge from passing boats. If the bridge opens and a boat hits it as it travels through, the fenders absorb the shock and keep the impact from damaging the bridge itself.
The current fender system under the Hines Bridge was not replaced as part of the earlier reconstruction project. Officials discovered the problem early in the reconstruction process and moved to make repairs once the bridge itself was open.
“In the meantime, we were able to shore up the existing system,” Verseckes said. “Now that the construction is over, we were able to design a permanent repair and that’s what’s going on right now.”
The Hines Bridge was closed for nearly two years after a barge hauling electrical parts for National Grid struck it in 2010, knocking the northern pier 8 inches and requiring the entire bridge to be torn down and rebuilt.
The project cost $34 million in total, and Verseckes said the $1.8 million needed for the fender repairs would be coming out of the original project’s contingency budget.
The project is scheduled for completion by early July, but since most of the work is being done under the bridge, there will only be sporadic traffic disruptions when construction materials are delivered to the site, Verseckes said.
“Periodically during the week, materials will be unloaded from the top of the bridge to the barge down below,” Verseckes said. “When the deliveries occur, there will be alternating one-way traffic.”
When that happens, the bridge will be reduced to one lane and a police officer at the scene will direct traffic around the truck. Verseckes said in those instances, the one lane of alternating traffic would likely be in place for about 30 minutes, causing some minor delays for motorists.