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Posted by:  John McQueen, advocate and member, Regional Transportation Advisory Council/RTAC

As an advocate and a concerned citizen, I am going to put myself out on a limb regarding prospects for the massive “93Fast14” project which MassDOT is in the process of beginning now, and which has been promised to be completed before Labor Day 2011. 

Having attended the project’s public hearing in Medford on April 14, this is to strongly express my confidence in the MassDOT/J.F. White-Kiewit team to successfully complete the awesome task of replacing the structurally-deficient superstructures of fourteen bridges on-time and on-budget.  Further, I am convinced that the completed project will represent a shining example of “best practices” of which the rest of the country can be envious. 

The enlightened construction plans and methods of “93Fast14” are emblematic of the “Big Dig” stigma-breaking changes that MassDOT is making overall in the agency’s culture, and in its competent approach to infrastructure stewardship. 

Showcase Of Reform
Refreshingly, “93Fast14” of the Accelerated Bridge Program appears to showcase many of the long-sought reforms to improve the way in which public agencies “do business” with and for the common good, and to finally, aggressively seek ways to stretch taxpayer monies. 

In the past, replacing 14 bridges to have a new 75-year lifetime would have caused the neighborhoods to endure up to 4 years of inconvenient traffic detours/snarls as well as unhealthy congestion impacts, noise, and lost quality of life.  Plus, old methods would have entailed tens of millions of additional dollars of precious public funds. 

In stark yet welcomed contrast to traditional methods, the tremendous scale and complexity of “93Fast14” is an ambitious undertaking and will likely stand as a near-unbelievable achievement, completing an interstate highway 14-bridge replacement project in less than 6 months, with the major impacts contained to weekends in June, July, and August.
Neighborhood Coordination & Innovation
The way in which “93Fast14” is being handled has productively employed lessons to avoid “Big Dig” missteps and clearly promises to benefit the Commonwealth:

-Proactive outreach has coordinated state-municipal collaboration, from which MassDOT created extensive anticipatory systems to mitigate construction impacts from the weekend-only (excluding July 4th) round the clock work, including traffic management plans, minimizing unavoidable noise, and a comprehensive net of information/alerts that will enable the traveling public to adapt their routes to reduce disruption to local residents, commuters, businesses, and tourists.

-Proactive time-shrinking and cost reduction in construction are planned from use of design-build project delivery and from utilizing innovations such as pre-cast/to-size superstructure modules combined with the revolutionary heavy-lift techniques, as proven on the Route 2 Phillipston Bridge project in October 2010.  

Admirably, “93Fast14” appears to reflect the progressive core values of the new MassDOT and its return to embracing Yankee Ingenuity to “do more, faster, for less money” than by standard traditional procedures and get it all done in concert with the public to set appropriate expectations and limit frustrations caused by construction. 

Consequently, on Labor Day, I feel assured that we will all say to ourselves that the 14 safer bridges were well worth the inconveniences experienced and that MassDOT kept its promises.

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