After a packed meeting last Wednesday, Jan. 24, project managers for the state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) said they are reconsidering a recommendation to eliminate the 5th Street onramp as part of the overall three-year Chelsea Viaduct Rehabilitation project.
Joseph Pavao, project manager, said a consultant for MassDOT told them it was believed the onramp could be eliminated. It was believed that the Everett Street ramp and Cottage Street ramp could absorb the traffic.
However, Pavao said they have heard loud and clear from the community that it might not be popular.
“As of right now, it’s still under consideration,” he said. “We have certainly heard the concerns of the local community. We certainly heard it loud and clear at the meeting last week…After an internal study, we thought we could handle any traffic from the closure with the ramps at Cottage Street and Everett Avenue. However, based on community feedback and elected officials, we are reconsidering that and seeing if it’s a prudent thing to do on this project.”
He did say they would definitely be closing the 5th Street onramp at least temporarily for about three or four months in 2020 during the repairs to the superstructure of the Viaduct. Beyond that, though, they are reconsidering the original plan to fully discontinue it.
That reconsideration came chiefly from Councilor Roy Avellaneda and other elected officials and business leaders that sounded off late last year when it was first reported that the ramp might close.
Concerns about traffic coming down Broadway and further clogging Everett Avenue were chief among the comments.
Pavao said they have met with City Manager Tom Ambrosino recently about a mitigation package that was presented to MassDOT late last year. He also said that he hopes to be on the agenda of the next Chelsea City Council meeting to present an official mitigation plan for the project.
The project is now at 25 percent design, and they are hoping to advance it to a final design very soon. He said they hope to have it advertised to bidders this spring.
“We want to advertise this for bids in late March or early April,” he said.
The project includes fixing about 260,000 sq. ft. of structurally deficient decking and superstructure. It doesn’t mean those portions of the viaduct are unsafe, but they certainly need to be repaired.
The project also includes work on the structure below the bridge, improving lighting, improving drainage and making parking lot improvements under the bridge.
They hope to have a contractor on board soon and potentially start in October 2018. The majority of the work will begin in 2019, and that will be on the underneath of the bridge and won’t impact Rt. 1 traffic.
In 2020, that’s when the superstructure work will begin and that will be very cumbersome for traffic.
“That’s when we’ll have permanent lane reductions to two lanes in both directions,” he said.
He said they will use accelerated bridge repair techniques, and they will work 12 weekends (55 hours each weekend) during the project.
It is slated to end in early 2021 with paving and small items.