What is the intent of the project?
The project will remove several bridges from the Commonwealth's structurally deficient bridge inventory list. The project will also improve safety and add capacity to I-95 by adding a travel lane in each direction and bringing shoulders up to current design standards.
What is the current estimated cost of the project?
The current bridge program cost estimate is $285 million. The construction costs are being funded through the Accelerated Bridge Program, with the Federal Highway Administration funding eighty percent of construction costs, and the Commonwealth funding the remaining costs.
What is the timeline for design and construction of the project?
| ||•||November 2008:||Start Development of Environmental Level Options
| ||•||March 2009:||Start Public Outreach
| ||•||June 2009:||File Environmental Notification Form (ENF)
| ||•||Summer 2011:||Submit Draft EIR/EA
| ||•||Fall 2011:||Public Review of Draft EIR/EA
| ||•||Spring 2012:||File Final EIR
| ||•||Spring 2012:||MEPA/NEPA Approvals
| ||•||Spring 2012:||Commence Selection Process of Qualified Design/Build Teams
| ||•||Spring 2012:||Design Public Hearing
| ||•||Fall 2012:||Issue Design/Build Request for Proposals (RFP) to Qualified Teams
| ||•||Spring 2013:||Selection of Design/Build Team
| ||•||Spring 2013:||Construction Start
| ||•||November 2016:||Construction Complete|
How does MassDOT determine the bridge type to design and build, who makes the final decision, and when?
MassDOT's design consultant is conducting an alternatives evaluation, which will lead to a recommended preferred alternative. The preferred alternative bridge type is the one that has the fewest environmental impacts and meets the goals and objectives of the project. MassDOT Highway Division will ultimately make the decision. We anticipate a decision by fall 2011.
Will MassDOT add a bicycle lane to the bridge to connect existing and proposed local and regional paths in the project area?
MassDOT is carefully evaluating the impacts of the alternatives on existing and proposed bicycle and pedestrian pathways adjacent to the highway and bridge rights-of-way. MassDOT will work with stakeholder groups to ensure that the project does not negatively impact current pathways, or prohibit the communities' plans for implementing future connections.
Does MassDOT anticipate the need to acquire private property for temporary construction use or permanent right-of-way as part of this project?
At this time, MassDOT does not anticipate any acquisitions for permanent right-of-way as part of this project. Temporary construction use easements may be necessary. Whenever possible, private property will not be affected. If it is necessary to acquire private property for temporary construction use, the owner will be contacted directly by MassDOT.
What is the process for addressing anticipated environmental and historical impacts of the project?
MassDOT has highly qualified environmental and cultural resource professionals on staff who are working closely with the consultant design team to identify impacts and develop plans to avoid, minimize or mitigate them. The project team is coordinating with the Massachusetts Historical Commission and local historical commissions to identify cultural and historical resources in the project area as part of the review process for Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
At present, MassDOT is working with the US Coast Guard on issues related to navigation channels in the Merrimack River during and post-construction. Any impacts to threatened or endangered species or their habitat will be mitigated by restricting construction in the Merrimack River during certain times of year or avoiding land-based habitat. Wetlands will be avoided where possible, but if impacts are unavoidable they will be minimized and the resource replicated elsewhere.
Will the Whittier construction schedule be coordinated with other projects, such as rehabilitation of the Hines Bridge and construction of the Route 110 improvements in Amesbury?
Construction schedules of other MassDOT projects in the area, such as the Hines Bridge, will be coordinated with this project to avoid or minimize local and regional traffic impacts. Hines Bridge construction is scheduled to be complete before work on the Whittier Bridge begins.
What are the anticipated traffic impacts to local roads?
MassDOT will develop traffic mitigation plans and work with local officials for anticipated impacts to local roads resulting from the construction of the bridges and the highway widening. MassDOT will keep the same number of travel lanes open that currently exist on the bridge. There will be exceptions for lane shifts and short duration work zones that can be accommodated during off-peak traffic hours, where lane reductions may be implemented.
How are my comments that I submit to MassDOT used?
MassDOT carefully considers all comments received through the MEPA/NEPA process and incorporates them where feasible. The public comment section of the EIR/EA will list all comments received and responses.
How does MassDOT plan to involve the public?
MassDOT is committed to involving the public and has implemented a number of outreach strategies to inform stakeholders and gather input including developing a project website (at www.mass.gov/massdot/whittierbridge
), where meeting notices and project information and updates are posted, and scheduling quarterly public meetings. The quarterly meetings are in addition to the outreach conducted as part of the environmental regulatory review process. Meetings are rotated through the three communities of Amesbury, Newburyport and Salisbury. MassDOT and its consultant team also meet with individual stakeholder groups, as requested. Updates and meeting notices are distributed to the project email and US Mail lists and to local and regional media outlets.