Neighbors get more detail on Morton bridge project

For 10 days in August, most of the traffic that typically crosses the Morton Street bridge will be weaving its way using Washington Street, Talbot Avenue, and Blue Hill Avenue as alternate routes while work crews replace the existing bridge deck with a new, modern span.

While MassDOT and organizers expect the detoured traffic situation to be hairy from Fri., Aug. 8 to Mon., Aug 18, they also expect that locals who know their own shortcuts will use them. The main goal is to keep major traffic —such as trucks— off the side streets.

“There is going to be traffic,” MassDOT municipal affairs liaison John Romano told a group of 30 community members at last Thursday’s meeting at Economy Plumbing, where he detailed the logistical challenges to come. Based on the community’s input over recent months, “we have picked a time of year with the lowest possible traffic.” Nevertheless, “It’s going to be a very inconvenient 10 days,” Romano said.

Detour signs will be posted a week ahead of road closures. Interim routes for the 21 and 26 buses are still being ironed out pending community input and will be released once finalized, Romano said.

Beginning the evening of August 8, pedestrians will be able to travel across a handicap- accessible ramp over the train tracks as the bridge deck is slid into place over the weekend. The construction is not expected to affect train service, although the last Fairmount Line train on Aug. 8 might have to be replaced by a bus. The bridge will be in place in time for the train to resume service early Monday morning while road traffic will have to wait another week to resume its regular flow.

In response to a number of community concerns about emergency response during construction and detours, Emergency Medical Service crews will pre-position one vehicle on either side of the bridge rehab section. Parking will be restricted on the right side of Selden, Corbett, and Nelson streets to allow room for fire trucks to pass through. Police officers will also be placed at most major intersections and State Police troopers will be stationed on either side of the bridge around the clock for the duration of the work.

Parking won’t be available at the Morton Street commuter rail station, but space will be made available along Morton Street during the construction.

The MBTA will also deploy a number of people before and during construction to help commuters and community members navigate the detours. The “ambassadors” will be stationed at the 21 and 26 bus terminals at Ashmont and Forest Hills stations, at the bridge-closing site, and at the Morton Street Commuter Rail platform during peak transit hours, handing out fliers about the detours and answering questions.

While the project’s accelerated timeline is meant to allow crews to get out of the community’s way faster, it does not make the construction any less noisy or obtrusive, Romano said. Crews will demolish the existing bridge beginning Friday night into Saturday. MassDOT will also pay the bridge’s contractors a bonus sum for finishing ahead of schedule. “We’ll be out of your hair in a lot shorter time,” Romano said.