By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — Two different work barges broke free in the Merrimack River earlier this month, banging into the new Groveland Bridge and the recently renovated Rocks Village Bridge.
Michael Verseckes, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said neither bridge was structurally damaged.
“The damage was cosmetic in nature and was minimal and had no impact on the structural components of the bridge,” Verseckes said of the Groveland Bridge, which was hit by the barge Jan. 13.
David Van Dam, Mayor James Fiorentini’s aide, said the Rocks Village Bridge was hit about a week earlier by a different barge under the control of another state contractor.
Both incidents, Verseckes said, were the result of ice buildup on the river, which caused the barges to move and make contact with the bridges.
“Since that time, the contractors have brought in additional resources to break up ice on the river,” Verseckes said. “Additionally, some equipment is being removed on a nightly basis so it does not inhibit the flow of the river.”
Van Dam said the city has asked the state to put in place better safeguards to make sure the bridges are protected.
Verseckes noted there has been some “cracking” on the top course of pavement on the Groveland Bridge deck, as well as some deterioration of the paint, or pavement markings. That damage, he said, is unrelated to being hit by the barge. Those issues will be corrected by the contractor when the weather allows, Verseckes said.
The new Groveland Bridge, also known as the Congressman William H. Bates Bridge, opened Sept. 20. The 775-foot span cost $49.7 million to build and replaced the old Groveland Bridge, which was deteriorating. The new bridge links Haverhill and Groveland over the Merrimack River.
The historic Rocks Village Bridge, which spans the river between Haverhill and West Newbury, reopened in October following lengthy repairs. The span had been closed to traffic since June 2012, to allow $14.1 million in renovations.