Neponset traffic watch: snarls ahead

The three lanes of northbound and southbound traffic will be reduced to three lanes northbound and one lane southbound during morning commutes. Otherwise, three lanes will become two in each direction.The three lanes of northbound and southbound traffic will be reduced to three lanes northbound and one lane southbound during morning commutes. Otherwise, three lanes will become two in each direction.

Dorchester motorists beware: Traffic around the Neponset River Bridge, which state officials says is used by some 70,700 vehicles every day, is about to get even more congested, especially in the morning.

Construction work begins next Monday on the 40-year-old span that connects Dorchester and Quincy. The $35 million project, part of a statewide bridge repair program, is expected to last three years – until late 2012.

“Gallivan Boulevard, it’s backed up now in the morning,” sometimes as far as the St. Brendan’s Parish neighborhood, says Mary McCarthy, president of the Port Norfolk Civic Association. “I can just imagine if they’ve got this going, it’s going to be even worse.”

The three lanes of northbound and southbound traffic will be reduced to three lanes northbound and one lane southbound during morning commutes, the department says. During other travel times, travel will be reduced to two lanes in each direction.

State transportation officials are urging residents to use public transportation, such as the MBTA, the Greenbush commuter rail line, and harbor ferries.

The project is expected to fix potholes on the bridge and replace its concrete deck, expansion joints, sidewalks, and lighting system. The project will also add handicapped accessible sidewalks and replace the stairs on the Quincy side.

State Rep. Martin Walsh, whose district includes the Dorchester side of the bridge, said he expects traffic to be a “little hectic the first few weeks,” but the lane changes will then become “second nature” to drivers. “The bridge is not in good shape,” he said. “We’ve got to fix our roads and bridges.”

McCarthy said she was worried about the impact of the congestion on the neighborhood. “People are going to cut through our neighborhood to get around some of the traffic congestion.”

Of the transportation department, she said, “I don’t want to pick on them. I know they’ve worked a long time to get this going. But I do have some concerns here. There’s definitely going to be some backups. People already cut through Port Norfolk when it backs up on the expressway.”

But she and other neighborhood residents say they realize the bridge must get fixed.

“It’s one of those things that has to get done,” said Phil Carver, president of the Pope’s Hill Neighborhood Association. “We’d rather have the inconvenience than have something bad happen. Congestion follows any road and bridge project.”

The Framingham-based J.F. White construction company is handling the re-construction, funds for which were included in a $3 billion transportation borrowing bill. The company worked on the rehabilitation of the Tobin Bridge and also handled the first phase of work on the Neponset span, which involved reconstructing the concrete support piers.

Information on the project is available at mass.gov/massdot/neponset.