State plans quick turn-around on fix for Morton Street bridge

It will be loud, it will be inconvenient, but it hopefully will only last for 10 days.

That was MassDOT Municipal Liaison John Romano’s description of the $6.3 million replacement of the Morton Street Bridge at a community meeting at the Economy Plumbing training room in Mattapan on Monday.

Demolition of the existing bridge will take place on August 8, 2014, and the project will be completed on August 17, according to Romano.

“The mitigation is we’re doing this in 10 days versus three years,” Romano said. “There would be lanes missing for three years out there along with noise and dust and traffic.”

August 8 is a Friday, and demolition of the bridge will end after the last train has gone by the Morton Street station below the bridge.

The station is linked to the Fairmount Line of the MBTA Commuter Rail, which does not run on the weekends, so service should not be interrupted. Work that would block the track will be completed by Monday morning, according to Romano.

About 50 people attended the meeting, including state Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry and state representatives Daniel Cullinane and Russell Holmes.

“Yes it is going to be a pain; yes it is going to be inconvenient, but John Romano is going to be listening,” Forry said. “I think it’s awesome we can get this done in 10 days.”

Romano said the way that the job could be completed in four days is that the bridge will be constructed next to the road and then rolled into place using a flattop with wheels called a self-propelled modular transporter.

Until close to when construction will begin, vehicle traffic and pedestrian traffic on the north side of the bridge will be unaffected, Romano said.

The proposed traffic detour would bring traffic north on Washington Street and Blue Hill Avenue up to Talbot Avenue to avoid the bridge, but resident Barbara Crichlow pointed out that there is no left turn allowed from Morton Street onto Blue Hill Avenue traveling east.

“Is that really Blue Hill Avenue?” Holmes asked. “How did the state approve that? That is the most basic thing.”

Romano said the detour would likely change before construction took place.

Residents also brought concerns involving communication, noise, and jobs for local residents.
Donna Lashus, a Fairmount Street resident, said she just heard about the meeting that day, and as a result arrived 30 minutes late.

“This impacts buses I use and how I’m going to get around; I don’t want to know the day before,” Lashus said.

Rosie White said she and her 82-year-old mother were already taken by surprise by nighttime noise the contractor made while preparing the work site.

“You got off to a terrible start with the process of notifying people,” said local business owner Brian Browne. “If we’re going to move forward like this, we’re in bad shape already.”

Romano said notice was given both for the meeting and for the site work. Notifications will be placed on variable message LED signs in the neighborhood, and meetings will be advertised in newspapers, social media, and to an email list, which will include business owners, residents, and elected officials.

“We don’t go door-to-door and put fliers out; I use electronic mail the best I can,” Romano said.
Clayton Turnbull suggested creating a website for the project where updates can be posted, and Romano said he would look into that possibility.

Chris Keefe, project supervisor for contractor MIG, which is in charge of the project, said the project would be noisy 24/7 for the duration of the project. Demolition of the existing bridge, which will take place the night of Friday, Aug. 8, would be particularly noisy, he said.

Browne asked if the contractor would hire minority workers, and added that there were many local residents in the Dorchester and Mattapan communities who could use the work.

Keefe said the workers he would be hiring for had to be union workers, and that he would be working with Laborers Local 223. He added that there was a minimum number of women and minorities he had to hire by law.

“I can’t take someone knocking on the door and put them to work if they aren’t union,” Keefe said. “Even if they are union, there’s rules of the game, and I have to play by the rules. I can appreciate people here need work, but I have to keep it union.”

Romano said there would be updates and further meetings before construction is set to begin.