The traffic bottleneck at the Beades drawbridge on Morrissey Boulevard should be over by the end of the summer, a state official told the Pope's Hill Neighborhood Association last week. The reconstruction project, which started in the spring of 2001- was supposed to be completed in April 2002. Fixing the 85 year-old span, however, has proved to be headache for engineers and commuters alike. The repairs that began in the spring of April 2001 and were supposed to take a year to complete have stretched into a two-year, $9.1 million project.
"From a community standpoint, the MDC dropped the ball in not letting us know it would turn into such a boondoggle," says Phil Carver, president of the Pope's Hill Neighborhood Association. "Once they started it, they realized they'd have to replace every bit of steel. And we should have been much more aware of that."
Dave Lenhardt, a project manager for the Metropolitan District Commission, the state agency that controls the boulevard and the bridge, told members of the Pope's Hill group that all construction should be finished by September.
Felix Browne, spokesperson for the state's Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, confirmed this week that work on the bridge is expected to be complete by "September 1, 2003."
"Give or take, in the next two weeks, the detour will be moved to the middle two lanes of the bridge," Browne told the Reporter. "We're looking for roadway work to be complete by the middle of July. There may need to be one more nighttime closing of the roadway.
After completion of roadway work, Browne says that "there would only be lane closings during off peak time."
The drawbridge, named for the late Dorchester state senator John J. Beades, crosses the channel between Dorchester Bay and Savin Hill Bay. The original structure was built in 1928 and has been its current six-lane form since the late 50s. Over the last decade, the Beades Bridge has been in a nearly perpetual state of dysfunction as workers try to keep the aging structure intact and safe.
In 1998, an MDC report called on the total replacement of the Beades Bridge, saying that the "bridge has deteriorated to such a degree that rehabilitation is not practical" and noting that the bridge was only intended to last for about 50 years. The replacement plan, part of a larger $35 million plan to restore Morrissey boulevard, was shelved by state officials who said it was too expensive. Instead, the MDC began a series of piecemeal fixes to the Beades Bridge. The agency spent $1.3 million spent between 1995 and 1999 to keep it operational until the more comprehensive renovation started in the spring of 2001. Since then, work has prompted a series of lane restrictions that have exacerbated the boulevard's already difficult traffic conditions.
After taking the bridge apart in 2001, engineers noticed "significant unforeseen problems in alignment, deteriorated materials, and excessive wear." Fixing all the problems requires new, unique bridge parts that had to be special-ordered.
Still, Carver says that the community has been patient long enough with the construction delays and the resultant bumper-to-bumper traffic jams.
"It's now to the point that its comical," says Carver. "Two years for a bridge? There's no reason for it. After two years, it's enough."