Posted by Shoukry Elnahal, MassDOT Deputy Chief Engineer for Bridges & Tunnels
Over the last few days, MassDOT and the Accelerated Bridge Program have received national attention and praise for using innovation to accelerate construction, improve safety and minimize construction-related congestion on I-93 and local roads during the replacement of fourteen bridges in Medford, a project known as the 93Fast14. Without the innovations that the Accelerated Bridge Program is using— Design-Build, Prefabricated Modular Units, and rapid-setting concrete— this project would take at least four years to complete and would require lengthy lane closures.
Last year’s potholes on I-93 demonstrated that lane closures during peak travel hours are simply not an option for this project. The Accelerated Bridge Program’s project development team and Highway Division leaders carefully planned the project so that much of the work could occur off-site, eliminating the need for several weeks of lane closures. Instead, each weekend MassDOT is demolishing and replacing one or two bridges.
Replacing a bridge or two in a weekend is a remarkable achievement, and there’s a good reason why this project has been referred to as ‘the most ambitious in the country’. Thanks to the coordination of managers and the dedicated work of each man and woman on site, the 93 Fast 14 bridges have been reopened hours ahead of schedule each weekend.
This week, the team was honored with a visit from Governor Patrick. This past weekend, the team hosted over 160 transportation leaders from as far away as Oregon, California and Puerto Rico. These leaders came to MassDOT to learn from this incredible project. Federal Highway Administrator Mendez visited the Salem Street Bridges, and was ‘thoroughly impressed’.
In his Fast Lane blog, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, called the project ‘an exciting demonstration of American innovation’. The project has also received favorable reviews from residents who have visited the site. Although the project is not without noisy weekends and short-term traffic slow-downs, it is wonderful to see the awe on onlookers’ faces as the new bridge is assembled right before their eyes. It is excellent to know that this project eliminates years of crippling traffic congestion, avoids the work zone hazards of staged construction and will result in long-lasting improvements in important infrastructure for all.