Chelsea Bridge Projected to Open in April

The new Chelsea Street Bridge. The project to finish the bridge and get traffic moving from East Boston to Chelsea may be delayed again.

A few unexpected snags back in September pushed back the reopening of the Chelsea Bridge to vehicles to March according to MassDOT Project Manager Frank DePaola.

Now, according to sources, the project to replace the aging Chelsea Street drawbridge bridge with a new vertical-lift bridge may not be ready until late April—a development that is sure to anger residents already upset over the bridge closure.

The bridge was slated to be completed in the spring but traffic was to begin flowing back over the bridge that connects Chelsea to East Boston by December 2011.

Back in November, DePaola, said the project was still on schedule for overall completion in April, but getting the trusses across and the deck across were delayed a bit with the turn of the weather. He said at the time that traffic flowing back over the bridge would be back online by March.

However, at a recent community meeting residents were not too happy to learn that the project would be delayed until April.

Community liaison for the project, John Vitagliano, explained that many factors contributed to the delay. One major factor is the fact that many of the oil companies along the creek have been using smaller barges to ship oil down the creek instead of larger tankers, which requires for more bridge opening and disruption to the construction schedule.

“This has cut out work by as much as 40 percent on some days,” explained Vitagliano.

Now, sources close to the project are saying that it looks as though a March completion date would be unrealistic and late April is most likely the date cars will begin driving back over the bridge.

Resident said they are tired of having to put up with the daily gridlock caused by the bridge’s extended closure that looks like will ultimately be four months behind schedule.

Crews finished positioning the 600-ton trusses between the two giant skyscraper-like hoisting in November. That process involved pushing the trusses into place four-feet at a time. After each four-foot push, crews had to stop and check the alignment. Each four-foot positioning process took about one hour. During that time the channel was closed to marine traffic. It re-opened to marine traffic later that month.

In the end the project will address long-standing issues caused by the narrow passageway used by oil tankers that resulted in accidents.  Since 1972, there have been 133 incidents in which ships, tugs or barges have struck the bridge. The new bridge has an environmental as well as a safety component, as the reduced potential for collisions will diminish the threat of oil spills.  In June 2000, a tanker collision spilled 50,000 gallons of fuel oil, closing the waterway and delaying aviation fuel deliveries for three days.

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