NEWBURYPORT — Driving between Newburyport and Amesbury is going to be much easier once again.
Road blocks will be removed this morning, and passenger cars can begin traveling over the Hines bridge starting at 10 a.m. The bridge will have a weight restriction that prohibits trucks from crossing the structure.
The long-troubled bridge received $925,000 in repairs to reopen temporarily before a project to replace the entire structure begins later this year. Public officials said they decided to reopen the bridge at the urging of officials from surrounding towns affected by the closure.
The bridge, which connects Newburyport and Amesbury, has been closed since Nov. 13, when a barge carrying a 220-ton National Grid transformer hit the northern pier of the bridge, causing significant damage.
Its closure has affected Amesbury, Newburyport and Salisbury, which has been hit hard with diverted traffic.
At a meeting in January, local and state leaders urged the Massachusetts Highway Department to open the bridge as quickly as possible, even if for just a short time, as the abrupt, unexpected closing caused inconvenience for businesses and residents.
MassHighway Commissioner Luisa Paiewonsky said yesterday that message came through loud and clear, and today's opening is the filling of a promise to reopen the bridge, even if just partially, by the summer tourism season. Both lanes of the bridge will be open to traffic.
Extensive testing was performed on the bridge, something Paiewonsky called "a good investment," saying her department got a "clear message" from state and local leaders of what an important link the span is for residents.
The bridge will remain open until the rehabilitation and replacement project for the Hines gets underway. It is scheduled to begin this year, and it is on an accelerated track, Paiewonsky said. It will take 21âÑ2 years to complete once the project begins.