The long-awaited overhaul to Haverhill's Basiliere Bridge isn't expected until 2024 and city councilors are becoming worried about the impact the deteriorating span could have on residents if work does not happen sooner.
As repairs to a section of collapsed sewer line near the Bradford side of the bridge continue, councilors said four more years is too long to wait for the larger reconstruction project. Councilor Joseph Bevilacqua said he put a bridge discussion item on the agenda for last week's council meeting after he saw the sinkhole develop “literally overnight.”
“(The sinkhole is) an early warning call that the bridge is deteriorating and we have to have prompt attention paid,” he said, adding that the bridge could "have a devastating impact on public safety."
In an effort to be proactive, Bevilacqua suggested sending a letter to Haverhill's state and federal delegations, along with the state Department of Transportation and city engineering and public works departments, in the hopes they can offer suggestions on how to make repairs happen sooner.
As of now, the project, considered a “full replacement,” is “fully funded” scheduled to begin in 2024, Council President Melinda Barrett said. Construction is expected to take place in phases due to the heavy traffic volume on the bridge.
Realizing that state-funded projects take time, Councilor Tim Jordan noted that the city is taking a gamble by delaying repairs.
“Concrete's falling apart everywhere,” he said, adding that it is dangerous for fire trucks to travel the span. “I'm amazed that it's in such bad shape ... and we're rolling the dice with everyone's safety by pushing it to 2024.”
In December 2018 two weeks of overnight repairs replaced a deteriorated middle section of the bridge, which carries roughly 35,000 vehicles daily from the Bradford section of the city into Haverhill over the Merrimack River along Route 125.
The bridge is the main span over the river in Haverhill.
Massachusetts transportation officials are aware of the poor condition of the state-owned structure. In a June 2009 letter to Mayor James Fiorentini, the agency said the bridge was placed on a 12-month inspection cycle so its condition could be closely monitored until money was in place to fully replace the structure.
Basiliere Bridge was built in 1925 and has been listed by the state as a "structurally deficient bridge" since at least 2009, the mayor said.