“They came to me,” Chaisson said, with a proud smile on his weathered face.
In February, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation accepted a nearly $300 million contract from the joint venture of Walsh/McCourt to replace the iconic yet aging bridge and rehabilitate eight additional bridges to accommodate the widening of Interstate 95 in Newburyport, Amesbury, and Salisbury. The project — considered one of the largest highway jobs in the state — will involve demolishing the 58-year-old, six-lane span connecting Amesbury and Newburyport over the Merrimack River and replacing it with an eight-lane bridge with four lanes on each side.
The Whittier Bridge/I-95 Improvement Project is one of five Accelerated Bridge Program projects known as “mega projects” by MassDOT.
It also includes the replacement or reconstruction of eight nearby bridges along I-95 in Newburyport and Amesbury and widening I-95 between exit 57 in Newburyport and exit 60 in Salisbury.
The northbound side of the bridge is scheduled to be completed first and will be 16 feet wider than the southbound side. The existing bridge will be demolished in segments from the center span toward both shorelines.
Construction began this spring but aside from the sight of a barge secured near the bridge, most people wouldn’t know it. Chaisson said: “There’s a lot of work going on that nobody knows what’s going on.”
The last few weeks, Walsh construction crews have been building a staging area off Spring Street near the city’s water treatment facility, where another project is also underway. Massive quantities of rock have been carted into the job site and dumped over a large swath of shoreline to construct the area where most of the heavy equipment and material used to be destroy and rebuild the bridge will take place. Another staging area is under construction off Elm Street across the river in Salisbury.