AMESBURY — City officials were briefed yesterday on the construction timeline of the $292 million Whittier Bridge reconstruction project, which will see the existing six-lane bridge replaced with a new eight-lane bridge by 2016.
Mayor Thatcher Kezer said he and other officials were given a pre-construction presentation to explain the latest on the project now that a contractor is in place, and Kezer said residents can expect to see work begin in June or July.
“The first thing you’ll see is work in the river; that’s the first thing you’ll visibly see during this summer,” Kezer said. “The piers that hold the bridge up, that’s the first phase, and those have already been designed; and while that’s being constructed, they’ll design the actual bridge.”
The John Greenleaf Whittier Bridge was built in 1951 and named after the poet and abolitionist who called Amesbury home. The bridge carries Interstate 95 over the Merrimack River and has served as a key link in the state’s highway transportation network for 58 years, but is structurally deficient and is nearing the end of its economic life.
Over the next three years, the existing bridge will be replaced and the new bridge will be wider, safer and built up to current standards. Throughout the course of the project, three lanes of traffic will remain open in both directions, so motorists should see minimal disruptions in traffic flow, Kezer said.
The way that will be accomplished is a new four-lane bridge will be constructed right next to the existing one, and once that is completed, traffic will be diverted from the existing bridge to the new one. That will allow the old bridge to be torn down so a second new four-lane bridge can be constructed in its place.
“You’ll have the northbound on one bridge, the southbound on the other, and there will be a little gap in between them,” Kezer said. “That’s how they’re doing this while keeping the existing bridge in place.”