The John Greenleaf Whittier Bridge was built in 1951 connecting Newburyport and Amesbury over the Merrimack River. It was named for the poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier. The bridge is a critical regional transportation link for people and commerce. It replaced the Route 1 drawbridge to relieve traffic congestion.
MassDOT's Whittier Bridge/I-95 Improvement Project will bring the Whittier Bridge up to current safety standards. Under the direction of MassDOT, the Design/Build team is replacing the existing through truss bridge with a network tied arch structure. The new bridge cross section will include four travel lanes, a high speed shoulder and a breakdown lane in each direction. Four adjacent bridges are being replaced or reconstructed along a 3.5 mile segment to accommodate a widened Interstate 95 (I-95) from Exit 57 in Newburyport to Exit 59 in Salisbury to provide capacity to meet projected 20-year traffic volumes. In addition to the bridge and highway improvements, a shared use path will facilitate area connections to regional trail systems. Stormwater collection from the bridge and roadway and pretreatment systems will protect water quality in the river and community water supplies.
MassDOT's robust public involvement program during preliminary design included input from the public and the Whittier Working Group (WWG) on key elements, such as the bridge design and aesthetics and the shared use path.
Final design will be completed in packages that will be released for construction upon review and approval by MassDOT. This process allows construction to begin almost immediately on critical elements of the project. The construction will be staged from I-95 rather than from the water using barges as presented in the Base Technical Concept during the procurement process. The Base Technical Concept is the design developed during the preliminary design phase. This avoids the risks associated with barge-mounted cranes, improves construction efficiency and minimizes impacts to the active US Coast Guard channels.
Construction of the new Whittier Bridge will take place in phases. Traffic will be maintained on the existing bridge while the new northbound structure is constructed. All traffic will shift to the new structure for demolition of the entire existing bridge. The new southbound structure will be constructed in its place and southbound traffic will be shifted to it. The shared use path will be constructed along with the bridge and roadway, but it will not open for use until the project is complete in 2016. Graphics of traffic management stages during construction of the Whittier and adjacent bridges and roadway widening can be viewed on the Project Documents page.
MassDOT's environmental permitting program ensures measures are in place to protect the Merrimack River, natural resources, adjacent open space/parkland, public water supplies and threatened and endangered species during and after construction.