GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

June 21, 2013

Study finds Blynman bridge issues

By Marjorie Nesin
Staff Writer

---- — Every so often. a slew of idling vehicles line up at Stacy Boulevard and curves back toward Tally’s service station, usually signifying that the Blynman Avenue bridge is stuck, open or partially closed, again.

That bridge is one of four in Gloucester classified as “structurally deficient,” according to a new study by the U.S. Department of Transportation. But, despite its classification, the bridge has yet to claim a spot on the state transportation department’s to do list, according to a spokesman.

“That’s something that will be fixed when it becomes necessary and when funding becomes available,” spokesman Michael Verseckes said Thursday.

Around 14,700 vehicles buzz or rumble over the 107-year-old drawbridge on the average traffic day. The bridge’s rating of a 4 out of 10 in two of three bridge stability categories, explain the issue. A rating of four or lower in any one of the three categories — with 10 as the highest — substructure, superstructure or deck, earns the deficient label. While Blynman’s deck rated a six on the scale of 10, the substructure that connects to the ground and the superstructure between that and the bridge’s deck earned 4s as well.

A bridge in “good” condition receives a state inspection biannually, but structurally deficient bridges like the Blynman get checked out annually. Experts last examined the Blynman Avenue bridge in December, officials said.

More rickety bridges double up on examinations and experts look them over semi-annually.

The state has cut Massachusetts’ number of “structurally deficient” bridges from 543 in 2008 to the current 436. The state’s transportation department aims to repair, rehabilitate or rebuild 100 more bridges by 2017.

“What we do have is a pretty aggressive program to address structurally deficient bridges,” Verseckes said.

Along with the state funds for bridge repair, Massachusetts also boasts an accelerated bridge program, but none of Gloucester’s bridges have made the cut to qualify for the program that funds bridges based on factors like the structural soundness and amount of traffic.

Still, the state is repairing the Andrew A. Piatt Bridge, the Route 128 bridge that connects Gloucester to almost every elsewhere, through traditional bridge repair funding and to the tune of more than $26 million.

For now, the Andrew A. Piatt Bridge falls into the “structurally deficient” category, but the Department of Transportation spokesman said the construction underway should bump it up and out of the deficient category when complete.

The bridge’s superstructure, the part immediately below the deck, received the 4 rating that had brought state attention to the busy structure. With the bridge reaching an age of almost 65, and holding heavy traffic, the state expects these issues, Verseckes said.

“Over a period of time any bridge will suffer deterioration just because of factors like age, use, weather,” Verseckes said.

Two other small bridges in Gloucester also earned the “structurally deficient” label, one on Washington Street above Annisquam and the other the small bridge on the Route 128 Extension that crosses the commuter rail tracks just south or west of Blackburn Circle.

Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at mnesin@gloucestertimes.com.